The Rivers & Oceans Team
Our Core Values
SHARE our passion, our knowledge, our stories, our abundance. CREATE a healthy, playful, supportive environment in which to grow. INSPIRE ourselves and others to answer the call of adventure. TRAILBLAZE, try something new, be bold, have the courage to make mistakes. EXPRESS openly, honestly, considerately, simply. GO with purpose, do what needs to be done, keep it light. LEAD, engage, empower. EMBRACE this moment, challenges, opportunities, change. RESPECT ourselves, each other, our clients, our outfitters, our environment. CARE, be a friend, encourage, make a difference.
Robby Pitagora – CEO
Operating customized trips with some of the best crews in the industry for over 35 years has made Robby an expert on river adventures. Having rafted over 50 rivers from the Alsek in Alaska to the Zambezi in Zambia, his favorite river is close to home: Grand Canyon’s Colorado River. Robby believes that every trip can be an opportunity to inspire people and build a direct connection with nature.
Why I love my work – Coming in each day and seeing all my motivated, happy colleagues. They all take such joy in helping people find adventures. What I offer is a great attitude and decades of experience in the adventure travel industry.
What travel has taught me – Every step can be an adventure. Meeting new people, going to new places and learning about different cultures is rich and rewarding. The more I learn the more I realize how much I don’t know. It is humbling, eye-opening and exciting all at the same time.
How I am a friend to the environment – When I shop, I consider the resources it took to make the product or service I am buying and who I am buying it from. Are they helping to create sustainable economic situations that help people and our natural environment? We vote everyday with our wallets and how we spend our money. We can make a huge difference for this planet if we make good decisions on how we spend our resources.
Jennifer Outland – Vice President
Although born in the Arizona desert, Jennifer could swim before she could walk; her love of water has been present ever since. Living on the Big Island of Hawaii for four years was her initiation into the big blue sea, which gave her a deep respect and love for the ocean. She’s had many adventures at sea from French Polynesia to Panama, to Antarctica and the Arctic. Jennifer believes fully in the power of nature to bring us home to our essence.
Why I love my work – Partnering with outfitters who are doing amazing things out in nature and connecting clients to these great experiences. It’s a win-win. I offer our clients an abundance of travel experience, a knack for matching people to trips, and a love of adventure that inspires others to get out there.
What travel has taught me – I have learned that the world is a friendly place. Our earth is a magical place full of wonder.
How I am a friend to the environment – I believe it’s the little things that add up to make a big difference. A few things I do to minimize my impact are: taking my own bags to the grocery store, using cloth napkins at home, using environmentally friendly cleaning products, hanging my laundry to dry rather than using the gas-powered dryer, recycling, and traveling with a water bottle so I can refill rather than having to buy plastic bottles. Being mindful of our individual impact is key to making a difference.
Megan Prescott – Operations Manager
Megan’s river trip experience began early when her parents brought her on her first trip at 18 months old. Growing up with a river guide father meant that Megan has had many amazing experiences on the rivers of the American west, including Desolation Canyon, the Main Salmon, and of course the Grand Canyon’s Colorado River. While she doesn’t have a favorite river (she thinks they are all unique), her favorite part of a river trip is becoming part of a tribe.
Why I love my work – I enjoy getting to know wonderful new people, clients and outfitters. It’s greatly rewarding to connect with those who are willing to take a giant leap of faith outside of their comfort zones into the unknown! I offer my clients a shared enthusiasm for daring to take on an adventure, and compassion for when they need some reassurance and motivation to take the leap into a fantastic and rewarding experience!
What travel has taught me – I have learned that the adventure begins before we even leave our doorsteps and, to quote Katherine Hepburn in A Philadelphia Story, “the time to make your mind up about people is never.”
How I am a friend to the environment – I practice “leave no trace” principles everywhere I go whether it is in a remote wilderness, National Parks, neighborhoods, and even around town. I take nothing, but pictures and do my best to leave nothing but footprints. “Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.” -Terry Tempest Williams
Geoff Gourley – Design & Technology Director
Growing up on Martha’s Vineyard Island body surfing, sailing, and snorkeling led to Geoff’s comfort in big, cold water, a necessary attribute for river guiding in the Grand Canyon! In addition to guiding, Geoff is also a photographer who has worked as a location scout and manager for the film industry and has traveled all over the world. Geoff believes adventures in the outdoors help us experience nature through personal discovery, making us natural advocates for the environment.
Why I love my work – There is no ceiling, and the opportunities are limitless! My co-workers are really fine individuals dedicated to excellence. I offer my clients the expertise I acquired over 25 years of Grand Canyon river guiding experience. With that comes a responsibility to pass on the love for the place so that others may also grow to love it enough to protect it.
What travel has taught me – You must be flexible and expect the unexpected. Travel first, read about it second.
How I am a friend to the environment – When guiding in Grand Canyon, I enjoy leading participants on true adventures. Testing limits in unfamiliar settings makes for a more profound and meaningful experience. I get to watch people fall in love with Grand Canyon and internalize it through their own personal adventure and discovery. My secret agenda is that they will then become supporters of the place and want to share it with others and ultimately become active in its preservation and protection.
Bianca Aiken – Adventure Booking Specialist
Bianca set out to become a Grand Canyon river guide right after high school and after just one summer, she was hooked! Over the years, she has traveled to east Africa, spending time on safari exploring the wild and remote African desert wilderness. Bianca believes that adventure helps us to make genuine connections with people and she enjoys igniting a spark of adventure in her clients.
Why I love my work – Being a part of a supportive family that works hard to enrich each other’s lives as well as our clients. I offer 8 years of experience as a commercial raft guide in Grand Canyon, but mainly my enthusiasm and belief in the transformative experience of wild water.
What travel has taught me – I have learned that humility, practiced often, opens us up to profound experiences. I’ve never been able to make, force, or craft magical moments. They only seem to come when I am open, humble, and present.
How I am a friend to the environment – Environmental stewardship is a part of every aspect of my family’s life. My husband and I are always brainstorming new ways to care for our planet. We’ve installed solar panels on our house that generate nearly 90% of our household energy usage; are longtime members of our Community Supported Agriculture program, which supports local, organic small farmers; and purchase our dairy and eggs locally from friends. We also work hard to educate and advocate every chance we get.
Maureen Connolly – Custom Adventures Coordinator
After a life full of travel and adventure all over the world, Maureen found her home in Flagstaff and brings her love of travel, the outdoors, and a passion for sharing to her clients. Maureen’s first Grand Canyon river trip was the moment she felt that her “spiritual-self and intellectual-self found balance” and this is what she likes to impart to people embarking on their own adventures. She loves facilitating group adventures and believes in the power of shared experience.
Why I love my work – I appreciate that a positive culture, work schedule flexibility, and personal empowerment are commonplace at Rivers & Oceans. I provide my clients with a passion for travel, enthusiasm for adventure, and years of experience, along with my sense of humor and professionalism!
What travel has taught me – There is always somewhere else to go!
How I am a friend to the environment – I pick up trash no matter where I am, which is a good habit I taught my children. They would always say, “Mom, why do you always do that?” My response was and still is, “the earth, the planet in which we reside, looks so much nicer without trash.” On a recent visit with my now grown son, we were walking through a parking lot with his children and I watched as he bent down and picked up a piece of trash without missing a beat. Being an example is a powerful thing.
Sammy Pappas – Adventure Booking Specialist
Growing up in Flagstaff, Sam quickly realized that the outdoors creates a sense of spiritual connection. After his first hiking trip in the Grand Canyon at the age of 9, Sam knew he wanted to become a travel guide and has since guided river trips in the Grand Canyon and Belize before returning to his hometown. Adventures out on the water bring Sam a sense of freedom and connection that kindles a love and appreciation for the earth.
Why I love my work – It puts a smile on my face whenever I go into the office where everyone is passionate about their jobs and it shows. It gives our clients the opportunity to speak with someone that genuinely loves what they do. I bring a wealth of knowledge and a true passion for adventure to my clients. I love turning people on to the fantastic wonders that this world has to offer.
What travel has taught me – There are so many beautiful places and people in this world. The education that I have gotten through travel is second to none.
Margot Steffensen – Accounts Manager
A love for water and adventure travel is what Margot says makes her feel most alive. This passion for travel originated during a sailing expedition when she was 15 years old. Her entire family took three months to sail from Maine to the Caribbean. This challenging and unforgettable trip instilled a sense of respect and thrill for water and travel that Margot says has stayed with her ever since.
Why I love my work –I love being a part of a great team that likes to work hard but has fun doing it! I offer a genuine perspective and support for the great outdoors, travel and all-around quality care for our clients. I live a life that aligns with the values of our company by having a love and passion for life and I enjoy sharing that with others!
What travel has taught me – I’ve learned to expect the unexpected; let the journey take you without resistance! This beautiful world is here to be enjoyed, explored and appreciated.
How I am a friend to the environment – The environment and helping save it is a big part of my life and it’s beauty is my religion. I feel it is critical to our welfare and quality of life that we work together, begin saving open spaces and wildlife, and recognize global warming. I am teaching my children that it is all of our duties as humans of the world to protect her now with all we can. It can start with one person.
Dan Turner – Adventure Booking Specialist
No stranger to travel, Dan has lived and traveled extensively and is a fluent speaker in Spanish, French, and Italian. After an immersive trip to Spain, his eyes were opened to the many layers that culture holds and that each layer reveals something surprising and intriguing the more you look. Dan believes that both language and travel help to alter our perspectives, widen our worldviews, and change us for the better.
Why I love my work – The fantastic people I get to work with, both clients and colleagues, make every day fun. The relationships built is why I love working for R&O! I offer a friendly, and understanding demeanor, especially for those new to expedition-style travel. I’m also multi-lingual and happy to communicate in English, Spanish, or French, and try my best in any other language.
What travel has taught me – Travel has taught me that people are people everywhere, and every person is unique. It’s just as rewarding to greet your next-door neighbor with a patient, compassionate attitude as it is somebody from a culture totally foreign to you. Kindness is translated the same across the world!
How I am a friend to the environment – I look for ways I can conserve resources and minimize my impact in my day to day routine. It’s usually as simple as turning off the lights, and skipping the extra forks and napkins when I bring home dinner. Whenever feasible, I walk instead of drive, and buy foods that may take a bit more preparation, but skip on a lot of packaging because of it.
Francesca Bob – Adventure Booking Specialist
An adventurer at heart, Francesca takes every opportunity she can to live a life full of travel and exploration. A solo backpacking trip in southeast Asia showed her how strangers can become friends, challenged her to step out of her comfort zone, and left her with a great sense of gratitude for every day comforts and confidence in her capabilities. Francesca believes that water is energy that engages all our senses and that when we partake in water excursions we heal, feel, connect, and cleanse.
Why I love my work – Playing a role in creating a magical lifetime experience for clients and getting to talk about adventure every day. I also love the positive, uplifting work environment of like-minded colleagues who share a similar zest for outdoor exploration and adventure. I offer an enthusiastic, stress free approach to water travel and logistical planning. I love helping clients overcome their doubts and nerves, and start getting them excited for an epic adventure.
What travel has taught me – The earth is vast and ever changing. Despite cultural, environmental & language variances there is still the common thread of love and desire to feel connection that we all share. I have learned to keep an open mind when embarking on new experiences and always try the recommended cuisine.
How I am a friend to the environment – Recycling is a must in my home. Whenever I go on a hike or simple stroll through the neighborhood I always keep a plastic bag on hand to scoop up any trash that I come across. I have instilled this practice with my 6 year old son who now lends an eager hand in keeping our beautiful earth clean. We like to partake in community clean ups around town and nearby parks.
Kimberly Proa – Operations & Development Coordinator
Kimberly grew up near the ocean in south Florida and her childhood was spent exploring, forever shaping her love of nature. Living close to the Grand Canyon now provides many opportunities for backyard adventures, such as hiking and river trips. With her unending curiosity and spirit of exploration, Kimberly believes that journeys close to home and those farther away allow us to look at the world with an open mind and a different perspective.
Why I love my work – Working with a wonderful group of co-workers while being able to connect people to outdoor adventures that promote a sense of community and environmental stewardship. I offer my sense of wonder and curiosity. I love researching trips and discovering the small elements that help make a trip or place special and unique.
What travel has taught me – The best discoveries are usually the ones that we cannot predict. Keeping an open mind, an open heart, and a flexible itinerary has taken me on many unexpected journeys and this is what I hope for people booking one of our trips.
How I am a friend to the environment – I love talking to people about the environment. I believe that education and making connections with people is one of the best ways to spread ideas about environmentally friendly practices. I participate in public outreach and discuss the larger picture with my friends and my daughter to help change people’s ideas about issues and impacts to the environment. Education combined with small but conscientious daily practices will lead to large cultural changes.
Michelle Pappas – Adventure Booking Specialist
Water has always been a way to connect with family and friends for Michelle. Her childhood in Arkansas was spent water skiing, swimming, canoeing, and boating with her family. Later, she met her husband, Sam, on a river rafting trip through the Grand Canyon. Her most memorable adventure was a month long stay in Belize learning how to scuba dive and snorkel, leaving her with a deep connection to the ocean and the friends she met along the way.
Why I love my work – I love helping make people’s travel dreams come true! I offer knowledgeable advice and direction, so that the client can get the most out of their adventure. I ensure they are paired with a trip and outfitter that best suits their unique requests and desires.
What travel has taught me – You must have patience and a sense of adventure to enjoy the ride of travel!
Julia Lesniak – Marketing Coordinator
Growing up in the city of Phoenix, Julia felt detached from the outdoors. After moving to Northern Arizona, she began to explore the natural beauty of Arizona and over the past nine years, her thirst to climb mountains and jump into oceans has only grown. Sand sledding in New Mexico, snorkeling in Hawaii, exploring in Big Sur, kayaking in Utah – Julia has done it! Northern Arizona will always hold a special place in her heart as the first place where she was able to let go of fear of the unknown.
Why I love my work – Being able to work and collaborate with extremely unique and thoughtful individuals who help connect others to life changing experiences. I love being able to contribute to a company that values their team and the individuality and creativity each person brings.
What travel has taught me – The more you explore, the bigger your thirst for adventure becomes.
How I am a friend to the environment – I want to respect what nature has to offer and believe even the smallest efforts can make a huge difference – I walk as much as possible, pick up trash whenever I see it and always leave no trace when hiking or camping.
“Ok folks, you’re going to want to hold on tight. This one is a big one. It’s called House Rock and today it’s looking like a 6,” our guide, Shavonne, bellowed from the rear of the boat. Christie and I immediately glanced at each other in excitement as our eyes...read more
BEARS EARS NATIONAL MONUMENT Send the Department of Interior your comments about the National Monuments May 15, 2017 Hello Fellow Adventurers, For the next month, you can comment on the executive order to remove the status of many of our National Monuments -...read more
The Beginning Geoff’s solo Grand Canyon journey, began in 1995. This is when he was first placed on the waitlist for a private, non-commercial river trip on the Colorado River. People at the bottom of the waitlist were waiting years as demand for these permits...read more