“Tatalon na ‘yan! Tatalon na ‘yan!”
“One, two, three!”
“You can do it!”
“May flight pa tayo mamaya dalian mo!”
A cacophony of cheers and yells rang in my ear – both from my friends who have all successfully jumped the 15-20ft dive and were now happily floating in the turquoise waters of Kanla-ob River, and from about a dozen strangers behind me, stalled by my pusillanimity. If they thought that this pressuring tactic would work (and for a few hopeful moments, I thought so, too!), they were to be deeply disappointed. I mean, how do you voluntarily bring yourself to jump this height? Where do you find the resolve to demand of your brain cells that they send impulses down your legs to lift themselves up, and then let go? I tried really hard. And I would’ve tried harder and for longer if there weren’t a crowd already forming behind me – all of them eager to kickstart the adventure. I asked our guide if he could just push me, but apparently that wasn’t a safe option at that height. And so, with deep sadness, I asked to be brought to the alternative route – a land-based, slippery descent where my survival hinged on my ability to hold on to protruding roots and vines. By the time I reached the water, all sweaty and quivering, my friends were already giddy from two experiences – that first jump, and a slide through a falls.
It felt good to finally be in the water. Kanla-ob river was an incredible shade of blue, cold and clear. On either side were the canyon walls, and above – a canopy of trees and vines and lianas against the blue skies! I could cry of its beauty!
And then I looked at our guide. Another jump was coming up! I had forgotten there were seven jumps! Seven, when I couldn’t even make it to one! Thank God our guide, Jonel, held my hand through it – literally: we did the jump together!
And that was how we spent the first two to three hours of this adventure – jumping, swimming, walking, and taking photos in between. The last hour was spent trekking to Kawasan Falls.
Kanlaob-Kawasan Canyoneering in Southern Cebu (A Travel Guide)
For those who plan to do this activity, I’ve put together some information that could be helpful, with some that are particularly useful for those who aren’t adrenaline junkies.
1. First, some background
What is a canyon?
A canyon is a deep and narrow valley surrounded by tall cliffs, usually with a river running through it.
Canyoning or Canyoneering?
Short answer: for our purposes, they mean the same thing, except that canyoning is used mostly in Europe and Australia, and canyoneering in the US. It involves one or more of the following: walking, jumping, rappelling, swimming, and hiking.
Is it in Kanla-ob, Compostela, Alegria, Badian, or Kawasan?
All correct. The jump-off point is in Brgy. Compostela in the municipality of Alegria, where the river canyon is called the Kanla-ob River. The activity ends in Kawasan Falls in the municipality of Badian [Southern Cebu].
2. How many jumps are there, and how high?
Officially, seven, ranging from 5 to 30 feet. But you could actually do more, or less.
More – since there are minor jumps that they don’t bother counting (but I count it, I do! hoping that it’s one less from the supposed seven), and there are major ones in Kawasan Falls (second level) that are not part of the count but you could still do if you want more (gasp!).
Less – because some aren’t actually jumps, but sliding through the falls, or you being pushed backwards by your guide. Plus…. (read the next)
3. Can the high jumps be avoided?
I’d really like to say they can’t be avoided, just so you’d summon all the courage possible to make you take the (literal) leap. But for the sake of those like me who aren’t as courageous but would still like to experience canyoning, I’d be honest and say there are ways to get around the high jumps, in particular the first and the last ones. I’d also say that these alternatives are more tiring and take longer, so if you could, just go jump. Especially for the first one – it could spell how the rest of the jumps could go. Once you’ve done the first jump, chances are the succeeding ones are more manageable for you.
4. How much does it cost?
We did it for only Php800 per person inclusive of life vest, helmet, guide fee, environmental fees, dry/aqua bag. An additional Php50 if you want to rent rubber shoes. Others charge Php1,200 to Php1,500 – check the inclusions to see whether the higher rate is justifiable (sometimes lunch and/or a balsa ride in Kawasan Falls is/are included).
However, there is new rule effective March 15, 2016 that puts the price at Php1,500 inclusive of guide fee, environmental and entrance fees, life vest, helmet, footwear, habal-habal – minimum of 5pax. Php1,700 if less than 5pax. It may be bad news for our pockets, but this is good news for the river canyon, as this also comes with the new regulation that limits visitors to 75 a day during weekdays and 150 during weekends and holidays, and will be closed on Mondays to let it recover (unless a holiday falls on a Monday, in which case it will be closed the next day). Make sure to make the necessary arrangements at least a week before.
Expect this to be up to Php2,000 per person if including lunch in Kawasan falls and a balsa ride. Other more organized providers even offer this for Php3-4,000 per person – though sometimes it includes edited video footage of your adventure.
5. Are there food options?
Luckily, yes. There are stalls right where the activity starts (where you wear the vest etc), and then there are barbecue/isaw/hotdog and puso (rice) at the point where you do the last jump (before the start of the hour-long trek). And finally, there are restaurants in the first and second levels of Kawasan Falls. PLEASE EAT BEFORE THE ACTIVITY STARTS. You will need all the energy for this adventure. You might also want to bring energy bars, which you could put in your life vest (comes with a pocket). Also, do some warm up exercises!
6. Could you bring a dry/aqua bag?
Guides usually provide dry bags where you could put your stuff. If you have your own, you could bring it as well, but make sure you are confident with the quality of your dry bag. My friend’s dry bag survived the whole thing, but mine wasn’t so good – some water seeped in and got our stuff wet. Luckily, no damage to our phones (got wet but still worked). So probably best to leave your gadgets.
7. What’s the appropriate footwear?
Recommended are rubber/running/trekking shoes. Not so much aqua shoes, unless you have one of those spiked ones. And definitely not slippers. Remember, this isn’t just swimming. This is trekking on mossed rocks and stones, and slippery terrain.
8. How many hours does it take?
From the first jump to reaching Kawasan Falls (first level), just a little under four hours. But from hotel to hotel – total of 6.5 hours (we stayed in Moalboal, around 30 minutes away from jump-off point in Alegria) – this includes preps like wearing the vest and helmets, lunch and frolicking at Kawasan Falls. You might want to stay longer in Kawasan Falls – all three levels so gorgeous!
9. How early or how late could you do canyoneering?
Earliest at 6AM and latest at 3PM. The earlier, the better of course. You don’t want to still be in the river canyon when it starts getting dark.
10. Which tour operator to get?
I’d recommend our operator Choy (+639102359786). Ask for Jonel as one of the guides – his patience is incredible, and we all felt his genuine concern for us. He was mostly focused on me, being the weakling of the group, but he was also always looking out for the rest of us.
11. How many guides are provided?
This was one of my concerns – I did not think that one guide would suffice even for two or three people. Luckily, they do provide at least two guides (unless you are going solo of course).
12. Is there a left luggage / lockers / place where you could leave your stuff?
Yes, just ask your operator / guide.
13. Is there a place where you could shower?
There is a public restroom with showers near the parking area.
14. How to go to Alegria / Badian
From Cebu City
Take a bus from the Cebu South Bus Terminal going to Badian or Moalboal. Signboard to look for is Bato via Barili. Trip takes 2.5-3 hours.
Take a fast craft from Sibulan / Lilo-an / Santander / Tampi to Bato in Samboan
Then take a Cebu City via Barili bus