We were planning to hire a car or RV and visit the world famous Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce National Parks but in the end decided to take this tour of Zion and Bryce and a separate tour of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. We are so glad that we did as I estimate it would have taken three and probably four days to cover what we covered in a comprehensive one day tour of Zion and Bryce without even including the Grand Canyon.
While the Grand Canyon is the most famous of the three (they are in fact all part of one geological system despite being so different from each other) Zion and Bryce are also "must sees" for any nature lover.
We are from New Zealand and so are blessed with spectacular displays of nature as well as having traveled extensively around the world but Zion and Bryce are truly world class national parks that should not be missed or passed over thinking that seeing the Grand Canyon you will have covered off Zion and Bryce as well.
The tour of Zion and Bryce with James of Adventure Photo Tours was professional in all respects. It is a very long day - we were picked up at 0540 and back at the hotel at 8pm however the tour is organised to get a complete experience of the highlights of both of these spectaluar national parks. It became very clear very quickly that if we had tried to do this on our own that while we could have we would have spent a lot of time driving, navigating, finding the best spots, aksing questions of rangers etc rather than having a professional take us directly to the best spots, provide an informative narration and drive us as well while we relaxed and admired the wonderful views.
James our tour guide is also a professional wildlife / landscape photographer so he knew exactly where to go and also was very happy to take photos for you if you wanted. We were so lucky with the weather as it was a brilliant fine day however we saw very little wild life although they were around as you could see foot prints in the snow at different places.
It would be difficult to imagine how they could have fitted anything else into the day. Obviously to cover such a large amount of ground the stops needed to be short i.e. between five minutes at the shortest and 40 minutes at the longest but they were enough to experience the wonders of each stop. James said that they made many more stops than the large group tours. We were 7 passengers on an 11 passenger bus. If one wanted to go back for a longer visit you would know exactly where to go.
Take plenty of cameras etc. I used my i-phone which only just completed the trip as the charge ran out and I had not brought my charger.
For the non-Americans where tipping is not customary (especially our fellow New Zealanders and Australians who feel that tipping is actually demeaning to both parties) we tipped James for doing a great job. He was professional in every respect and "when in Rome do as the Romans do". The guidelines are 10-15% of the tour price which I know is shocking to Kiwis and Aussies but it is really just a different way of doing things and whereas we would include it in the ticket price the Americans don't and the tip goes directly to the tour guide for his / her role in the tour. You just have to factor it into your decision to book a tour in USA. They have a whole service culture based on tipping and they are not going to change it for us so get with the programme while in USA.
There were plenty of water on board and stops for going to the rest room etc. All in all a professional operation. Some suggestions;
1. the tour bus was very comfortable with wide windows however if there were windows in the roof it would be great when going through Zion where the mountains tower above you and you can not see them from the road while driving
2. I appreciate it would be very expensive but with planes now having individual screens and entertainment systems this would be something to look at in the future. We watched "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" on the way back to Las Vegas. I had not seen it since it came out and it emphasized how far the movie industry has come since then. Our 16 year old summed it up "what a boring movie". Embrassing for Mum and Dad as we had to confess it was a huge hit at the time. It was probably an appropriate choice as apparently the characters the movie was based on lived and robbed in the area and it was also filmed there.
3. We are vegan and felt that the company could make a bit better effort to cater to different dietary preferences. This also applied to stopping at McDonalds and Wendys where there was nothing we could eat (or anyone else should eat for that matter!) We did take a full set of provisions as very few operators cater for non-standard dietary preferences.
Other than that I am happy to recommend our tour guide James and Adventure Photo Tours tour of Zion and Bryce National Parks on the basis of our fantastic experience.