Our Mission: To connect our guests with Alaska through our high quality guides.
How do we do this?
High Quality Guides – We have the most highly trained guides in the area. We are friendly and knowledgeable.
Small Groups – We don’t cram our guests into a giant bus! The largest vehicle we have holds 14 guests and a typical trip with us averages 6 guests. Our minimum to run a tour is only 2 guests so you can be assured your tour won’t cancel even if you are the only couple signed up!
Highest Standards – We are committed to providing an unforgettable experience and superior service for our guests.
Local Operation – We specialize in Haines and Skagway. We are not spread out all over the State.
Eco-tourism Commitment – We’ve been committed to eco-tourism since the 1980’s. Since we live here, we strive to be good community members. We consider the effects of our tours on the local environment.
Sustainability Policy:Read our full Sustainability Policy here:/rainbow-glacier-adventures-sustainability-policy/
Joe brings 30 years of experience with him wherever he works as a guide. Joe specializes in environmental interpretation- telling the story of the land and people, wherever in the world it may be.
Guide and Naturalist
Joe began rafting in 1982 while in college and has seventeen years of experience using rafts to explore remote corners of Alaska and the Arctic. After 12 seasons guiding on the Tatshenshini and Alsek Rivers (see sidebar), Joe began guiding in the Arctic in 1999.
Joe began working on cruise ships in 1986 as a naturalist, historian, expedition leader, zodiac driver and cruise director. Joe enjoys working as a stand-up guide for bus tours visiting Haines and working as a private photography guide and naturalist for special groups.
Professional Photography, Publications, and Training
Joe has over 18 years experience training guides and naturalists throughout Alaska. He especially enjoys start-up projects, where companies need a helping hand getting a new tour or project off the ground.
In 2011, Joe worked as a consultant for Orion Cruises of Australia to design shore excursions for their inaugural visit to Alaska. Ports visited included Metlakatla, Petersburg, Haines, Elfin Cove, Dutch Harbor, Kodiak and Attu.
In February of 2008, Joe was invited by the Alaska State Department of Commerce and Economic Development to participate in an educational DVD program. The purpose of the project was to help entrepreneurs interested in securing a cruise ship contract. The project was filmed in Anchorage. Joe described the growth of Rainbow Glacier Adventures and gave helpful pointers. Joe was the only cruise shore excursion representative invited to participate in this program.
Joe has trained guides and tourism employees in Alaska since 1986. In May, 2004 it was with Icy Straits Point in Hoonah, Alaska. Joe was given one week to transform unemployed loggers, truck drivers, and fishermen into eco-guides on their Bear Watching tour. The training was successful.
In 2001, Joe was hired by Royal Caribbean International to develop an Alaska Enhancement Program to teach the on-board guests about Southeast Alaska. He developed six Powerpoint presentations and a tour resources manual covering the ports of Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Haines, Skagway, and the Hubbard Glacier. He then trained on-board staff in history, natural history, and present-day issues.
In May of 1999 and 2000, Joe traveled throughout Alaska training Princess Tour staff on the basics of Customer Service. Some groups were over two hundred people.
In 2000, Ketchikan Indian Corporation hired Joe to develop their Bald Eagle and Salmon Hatchery tour program and train their guides.
Joe has also trained guides for Chilkat Guides, Chilkat Cruises and Tours, Gold Belt Native Corporation, Alaska Discovery, Gastineau Guiding Company, and Exploration Cruise Lines.
Joe Ordóñez lives with his wife Edie, and daughters, Stella and Sapphire, in their hand-crafted cabin near Haines, Alaska. He graduated from Western Washington University in 1983 with a B.S. in environmental education. Since that time, Joe has combined work and travel to take him to all seven continents. Joe has served aboard expedition vessels as naturalist, historian, zodiac driver, cruise director, and expedition leader. He works as a wilderness guide in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and co-authored the book “The Complete Guide to the Alsek and Tatshenshini Rivers”. Joe owns and operates Rainbow Glacier Adventures in Haines, Alaska.
P.O. Box 1103
Haines, Alaska 99827
Rainbow Glacier Adventures
Directed a multi-dimensional educational and tour company offering a wide variety of high-quality tours in Haines, Alaska. Special projects included: development and training for the Royal Caribbean International Alaska Enhancement program, film location consulting with Japanese film crews in Southeast Alaska and the Queen Charlotte Islands, interpretive training for Icy Straits Point, Chilkat Cruises, Fort Seward Tours, Ketchikan Indian Corporation and Goldbelt Native Corporation. Presented customer service seminars for Princess Cruises. More recent special projects include designing a shore excursion program for Orion Cruises, development of an Arctic rafting program for Abercrombie and Kent, and a research and writing project about Southeast Alaska for www.alaska.org.
Exploration Cruise Lines, Society Expeditions and Clipper Cruise Lines
Served as on-board lecturer, expedition leader, cruise director, naturalist, and zodiac driver.
- Wilderness Guide
Alaska Discovery, Mountain Travel/Sobek, and Chilkat Guides
Led small group rafting trips in the Alaskan and Yukon wilderness. Destinations include Tatshenshini-Alsek Wilderness, Kluane National Park, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Glacier Bay.
- Training Director
Managed and developed a training program for Chilkat Guides, a local rafting company. Trained guides in interpretive techniques, river safety and communication skills.
Professional Photography, Publications and Training
Joe’s photograph of Chilkoot Lake was selected for the fundraising poster for local radio KHNS.
Joe served as consultant and guide for part of a BBC children’s series entitled “Naomi’s Nightmares of Nature.” The show discussed myths and the natural history of bald eagles and brown bears.
- Incredible Travel Photos
Joe has worked with Oliver Klink and other photographers since November, 2009 to provide support for bald eagle photographers.
- Rocky Mountain School of Photography
In 2009 Joe trained with the New York School of Photography’s Digital Photography course and Rocky Mountain School of Photography Weekend Seminars.
- Wilderness Ventures
Shot brochure photos for Wilderness Ventures 2005 catalogue. Photos included ice climbing on the Davidson Glacier, camping on Mt. Ripinski and work party shots with Alaska Indian Arts.
- Royal Caribbean International
Created Alaska Enhancement Program, an onboard educational lecture series that featured personal and historic photographs with accompanying text. 2001.
- Society Expeditions
Expedition leader and photographer.
Several published brochure photographs, including cover photograph.
- Mountain Travel/ Sobek/Wilderness Travel
Published brochure photographs.
- The Complete Guide to the Tatshenshini River
Co-author and photographer for guidebook. Cover photograph.
- Wada Productions
Expedition photographer, Juneau Ice Field expedition for NHK (Japanese National Public Television) production. Photographs featured in two Japanese magazines.
- The Black Rhino, on the Edge of Extinction
Published photographs of African rhino capture for conservation book.
- Creative Nexus, Inc.
Naturalist, film location consultant and photographer for Japanese film company. Explored the relationship between Alaskan Coastal Natives and the rain forest for NHK (Japanese National Public Television) production.
- Southeast Alaska State Fair
Photography awards include Best of Show, Best Landscape, Best Portrait, Best Wildlife and Best Human Interest.
- KHNS Joe’s photograph of Chilkoot Lake was selected for the 2015 fundraising poster for Haines NPR radio affiliate KHNS
- Western Washington University, Huxley College of Environmental Studies
B.S. in Environmental Education, 1983.
Rainbow Glacier Adventures is founded on the idea of connection. Our mission is to “connect our guests with Alaska through our high-quality guides.” We know that people will care about and want to protect that with which they connect.
One of our founding principles is small-group tours. We feel that small groups help facilitate the connection between guides and guests. With large groups, too much time is spent on group management and waiting around; the chance for guides to connect with guests on an individual basis is reduced.
The company founder, Joe Ordonez, has a B.S. degree in Environmental Education from Western Washington University and has over thirty years experience in the field of ecotourism. Joe continues to take an active role in the hiring and training of RGA guides and actively steers the company forward.
Hand-in-hand with our small groups are our high-quality guides. How do we define “high quality”? Our guides are not only knowledgeable about the area, they are also great communicators. It is very important to us that our guides impart the information in an engaging fashion. Crucial to our success in this regard is hiring, training and retaining our employees.
The first step is to hire the right guides. The majority of our guides are locals who live in Haines. This provides a basis for imparting information that can only be attained by living in Alaska. Our guides who are not hired locally acquire inside knowledge quickly by joining a team composed of mostly local hires.
The next step is our training program. RGA does not skimp on guide training; we have one of the most in-depth training programs in the business. We meet together each season to cover safety information, review customer service principles, and renew our commitment to high-quality tours and to the local environment.
The third step is retention. By treating guides fairly, rewarding them for a job well done, and providing a nurturing work environment, RGA has maintained one of the highest return rates for any Haines or Skagway tour company.
Once we’ve combined a small group of guests with a high-quality guide, the next step to our success is the actual tour experience. Our mainstay tours of kayaking, rafting, wildlife viewing and photography all share several aspects in common:
- The experience is not “contrived.” We offer authenticity.
- The experience involves immersion in the local environment.
- The experience is educational.
Our rafting and kayaking programs are non-motorized. This not only reduces production of greenhouse gasses, but also allows our guests an opportunity to experience the natural sounds of a pristine environment. On our driving and photography tours, we take time to get out of the vehicles and immerse ourselves in the natural environment. In addition to providing high-quality guides, we believe that our tours should involve the opportunity for Alaska to speak for itself.
RGA considers the environment in all aspects of our business decisions. We keep our vehicles maintained to the highest level possible to reduce any undue emissions. Rather than buy brand-new vehicles regularly, we maintain our fleet in top condition and keep our vehicles for many seasons, thereby reducing consumption. Most of our employee communication takes place online, to reduce the creation of waste paper. Paper waste that we do produce is recycled. The water bottles utilized on our tours are recycled. When possible, we use post-consumer and compostable products.
RGA believes in donating a portion of our profits to environmental causes. On a local level, we help support Lynn Canal Conservation and Haines Friends of Recycling. On a broader level, we are members of Southeast Alaska Conservation Association and the National Audubon Society. This spreads our influence and connection from the local to the regional, national and even international sphere.
We are also active in educating our guests about the potential dangerous consequences of a proposed toxic mine upstream of the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. Joe Ordonez wrote and published a book entitled Where Eagles Gather: The Story of the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. This book highlights the beauty and fragility of the Chilkat ecosystem, and educates readers about the threats proposed by mining. This book is made available to guests on all our tours.
Our guides are sensitive that there are a variety of opinions among our clients regarding conservation, and each guide has their own level of commitment. By working for Rainbow Glacier Adventures, our guides have decided to join a company that is committed to taking a stand towards conservation, sustainability and environmental education.
We respect the views of our guests and create an environment where we can learn from each other. Our guides do not force their values onto their guests; experience has shown that this type of approach does not work. Our guides have done the research that allows them to have in-depth and intelligent conversations with guests who want to know more about environmental issues.
In addition to our environmental commitment, we are also committed to the other key components of sustainability, including social and economic fairness. Our hiring practices and our tours are inclusive. We do not discriminate on our tours or in our hiring on the basis of race, sex, age or sexual orientation. While we do not have wheelchair lifts for our vehicles, we do all we can to make our tours accessible to those with physical challenges.
We believe in paying a fair wage to our employees and charging a fair price for our services. We spread our money throughout the community and utilize local sourcing for most of our goods and services. Our first priority is local hire; only when we have a position that can’t be filled by a local resident do we reach outside of our community.
We are not a budget tour company; our guests understand that small group tours with high-quality, well-trained guides and safe, up-to-date equipment cost more than low-budget tours. Our guests’ expectation levels are high, and we work hard to exceed their expectations.
We strive to provide opportunities for guests to immerse themselves in the Alaskan experience. The RGA concept is, above all, about connection. It is our firm belief that those who connect with the beauty and fragility of Alaska and have an understanding of the issues at stake will be more likely to care about the area and want to protect it.