I have a confession to make. I don’t know how to swim! (Yet)
I am always the eager beaver when it comes to planning our next climb or when camping out on the mountains. It doesn’t matter how early or how far it will be, if it means reaching the summit, I’m game! But when it comes to diving in to deep waters, I get cold feet. It really sucks to be a non-swimmer. Maybe I can muster all the courage and dedication in order to take up swimming lessons soon.
When I found out that we will go canyoneering in South Cebu, I felt a mixture of excitement and hesitation. I saw videos online and found out that we had to jump from cliffs and swim towards another section and I couldn’t help but read more about this epic adventure. The only thing that made me push through is the fact that we had to wear a helmet and a life vest in order to keep afloat. So after another sleepless night with replays in my thought on how to make the jumps, we flew from Manila to Cebu and landed at about 6am.
It was only the two of us who booked for this adventure. We chose a packaged tour which included a 3 and a half hour ride from Mactan Airport to Badian Cebu. It was a weekday so there wasn’t much traffic going to the countryside.
At 11:30 am, we have finally reached our destination which was only a few hundred meters from Kawasan falls.
We were introduced to Lito, our ever energetic and very patient guide. He gave us some tips on how to keep floating, some basic strokes, the right posture when doing the jump, and some rules and regulations to be followed during the trek.
Here we go…
We had to go from the registration area all the way to the Jumpoff via motorcycle. It was a bumpy and scenic ride at the same time. It was just a bit of a pain in the butt because it was the three of us riding on a single scooter including the driver, and it was me who was at the back. The bumpy ride was bearable and it was fun especially when you see the mountainous surroundings.
There will be another registration at the jumpoff followed by a short trek going to the canyons.
The path going to the canyons was well-paved but the slight ascent was easily felt as we moved along. At the end was a winding stairway going down the rock formations. This was where the area felt a bit cooler and the gushing water could be heard audibly.
The first jump was a bit scary, (not a swimmer here as mentioned above!) but Lito was nice enough to assure us that once we take the jump, we’ll dive safely and will resurface because of the life vest. He strapped our harness and psyched us up to take the first plunge.
Angelie went down first after hesitating for a few seconds, she left out a short scream followed by a huge splash!
Tip: the compounded fear will get you if you over analyze the jump. The Hesitation will hold you back and you’ll get stuck there with spaghetti legs. When our guide counted to three, I just went at it and took the biggest (well, it was only about 10 feet but like I said, deep waters? Not a fan.) jump so far.
Then I realized, It wasn’t that bad after all.
After coughing off the water from my nostrils and being drifted away by the gentle current, I clumsily paddled my way to them. Our guide taught me how to do a back stroke which helped a lot.
After a few scrambling along rocks, several small jumps, and deep water crossings, we now had to lie along the flowing water to slide down. It was fun! This was the point where I realized that I had to hold my breath and not shout in order to keep myself from swallowing a hefty amount of water. A valuable lesson learned from the first jump.
The place got me speechless. Not just because of the tiring hike and gnarly dives but also because of its natural beauty. It was the bluest river I have swam to my whole life, and the rock formations just jutted artistically from everywhere.
Our guide explained to us that in spite the surge of tourists from time to time, they keep this paradise free from trash by doing a monthly cleanup drive through the whole place.
Halfway through the adventure, we noticed that there was a faint smell of grilling food nearby. We followed the smell as smoke got a bit thicker. We then found our way to several locals who were selling pork barbecue, hotdogs on sticks, puso (rice wrapped in banana leaves), and cold beverages. It was a sight for sore eyes as we recuperated at this point.
(This also left me wondering: How do they manage to bring all the stuff here?) Our guide told us that they have their own pathways from Alegria and Badian where locals can bring stuff to and from the canyons. I jokingly asked our guide if we could take that route next time.
In front of the barbecue stalls, I was standing on top of a cliff with a 15 foot drop. Our guide told us that the drop was optional and there was an alternative pathway in order to move along. I amazingly watched as tourists, local and foreign, lined up to take the jump, followed by several blasts of water as body meets river.
We moved on to crawl on a creaky bamboo bridge to make another jump and swim across another section of the canyons. Lito told us that it was the last required jump of the whole adventure. The following ones that we’re about to encounter were all optional.
After a few more swims and slides, we made our way to the drier parts and continued to hike to one of the attractions: A picturesque part of the river with its usual clear blue hue with a 30ft cliff! We went up to find out how high it was. There was also a rope swing below to add to its thrills. I wanted to stay longer to this piece of paradise but it was already around 3pm and we haven’t reached Kawasan falls yet.
We continued the trek going down a lagoon, and then moved along to more dry parts. This was where I noticed some houses were built on the sides of the area to serve as homestays to guests. The place became more touristy at this point.
After three hours, we have finally reached Kawasan falls! We noticed that a lot of travellers and tourists were flocked by the falls because of the shops and houses that were built there. My sense of wonder for the place didn’t wear out despite the crowd.
We stayed for a while and took our vests off. I wanted to have a bottle of beer and relax for a bit but time was ticking and we still had to get back to Cebu City. We took more photos and then headed out to another 45 minute hike back to the jumpoff.
It was a tiring but fun day! All fears from the past days were gone in an instant during the first plunge.
There are times that you just have to suck it up and face what’s in front of you or get frozen by hesitation.
Was it exhausting? Yes! was it dangerous? It was but the guide was always there to look after us. Was it worth it? Of course! Will I do it again? Definitely!
I can’t wait to go back to Cebu and climb Osmena Peak as well.
- It takes about four to six hours to complete
- Canyoneering in Badian was just reopened to the public last September, 2016
- A local guide is required to accompany your group although out
- There are two known pathways to Kawasan falls. One is the Alegria route while the other is in Badian.
- It is possible to hike up Osmena Peak then traverse to Kawasan falls
- There are four jumps. Two are required while the other two are optional.
- Canyoneering rates range from 1,300 to 1,500php per person depending on their package. Some tour operators offer a private vehicle pickup from the airport.
- Usually, the rate does not include the ride to the waterfalls which costs 400php a raft, but this is optional.
- We opted for a packaged tour for our Cebu and Bohol trip via Bongga Voyage Travel and Tours based in Marikina. You can reach them from these contact details:
Mobile number: 0927 777 5441
- Complementary per person are a life jacket, a helmet, a bottle of water and a Fudgee Bar that can be sealed securely in the vest’s front pocket
- Sandals or water resistant hiking shoes are a must. It is not advisable to wear slippers
- Dri-fit clothes or rash-guards are recommended
- You can leave your stuff in the registration area. They have designated lockers for visitors
- Bring extra money for snacks. Barbecue is 15 pesos, hotdogs are 10php a piece while puso is also 10php.
- Your stuff will definitely get wet! We left our phones in the jumpoff and brought my action camera instead.
- Pack up on extra Zip lock bags! I used three for my extra batteries. The first layer still got drenched. Luckily, the second and third were still as dry as a bone when we finished
- If it is a hassle, hand your action camera over to the guide. Guides there are good in operating cameras and they pick the best angles
- If you’re a non-swimmer and are having the jitters about canyoneering, do not worry. I used to overthink and analyze the whole thing days prior to the adventure but all of it were gone when I made the first jump. Just trust your guide (and your vest)
- When the guide counts to 3, jump! The more you stand by the cliff, the more scared you will be
- Hydrate- It will be a tiring adventure. All the scrambling, swimming, and hiking will leave you thirsty at some point
- You don’t have to be a good swimmer, I was swept by a gentle current at first but the guide taught me some basic strokes which helped a lot. He can also grab you by the vest if needed