Off to Cebu for a weekend and not sure what you can do? Fret not, there’s lots to be done actually – from an old City tour, to island hopping, to canyoneering!
For today, I’ll be talking about canyoneering which is one of the most fun activities I’ve done! But first, what’s canyoneering?
The really crazy thing here is… my friends had no clue what canyoneering was! Some thought I meant canoeing and just didn’t spell it right, while others thought we were going to a canyon… So to all those who just found out what canyoneering’s all about, you’re welcome. And please, read on to find out more!
One of the most famous places to go canyoneering in Cebu is Kawasan Falls, roughly a 3 hour drive from Cebu City. Some quick reassurances for those who’ve never gone canyoneering before:
1. You don’t need to know how to swim
Everyone’s required to wear a life vest and a helmet, which will do just the trick
2. Only two jumps are mandatory
There’s one at the beginning, and another one in the middle – and they’re totally doable. We had an injured person with us (swollen ankle), and she managed just fine! For daredevils, there are two optional jumps that are waaay higher than the norm, but sooo freakin’ cool
3. The heat’s not that bad
While the total trekking time is ~3 to 4 hours (depending on how slow your group is), you barely feel it since you’re beside the water, and can go in anytime to refresh yourself
What to expect
1. Allot a whole day for this.
The whole thing can last up to ~12 hours (includes travel time from and to Cebu City), depending on the traffic. We left Cebu City at 6am, got to Kawasan Falls at 9am. Finished around 1pm, and got back to Cebu City at 5pm (so traffic!)
2. Start your day early!
As a rule, the earliest group can start the activity at 6am, the latest at 3pm
3. Minimal crowds, phew!
We went on a Saturday during the Sinulog weekend, and we only saw ~2-3 groups with us. Since we were all travelling at different speeds, we basically saw them at one point, then at the end
4. The whole thing starts with a habal-habal ride
Habal-habal is basically a motorcycle taxi that’ll sit three people – the driver + 2 passengers. It’ll last around 20 minutes to the start of the activity, including a stop at Alegria Tourism for registration. I loved this part, and found it super exhilarating! Some parts of the road were uphill/downhill, cemented/rough – and the driver goes at ridiculously high speeds, but feeling the wind whip through your hair and having to do nothing but hold on tight as you watch the beautiful scenery pass you by is nothing short of WOW
5. The first jump is one of the highest
I think the guide told us it was ~18-20 feet, and it can look pretty daunting. I thought this was the scariest mandatory jump tbh, just because it was the very first one and I was worried I’d hit the rocks going down. But, trust your guide – they know what to do.
While most guides say it’s mandatory, it’s actually not. Our guide took our injured party over to a smaller jump, which then allowed her to walk/wade the rest of the way. But I would really urge you to just do the jump – it’s a great way to start off the entire adventure. Here’s a photo of us prepping before the big jump
6. The trick to doing these jumps is to envision where you’re landing
If you’re scared of heights, look down once to target where to go and never look down again. What I do is:
- Stand as close to the edge as possible
- Close my eyes, and envision where I want to land
- Breathe breathe breathe, and remind myself that no one has died at that jump yet (I checked with the guides!)
- Just jump! Tip: Jump with a straight body, meaning no bent knees, no sitting, and no cannonball-ing! Otherwise, you may have to place an ice pack over your sore parts later on
- Scream as loud as possible
The more time you spend at the jumping point staring down at the evil waters, the more fear will conquer you – so just do it! Other tips that work: having a daredevil in the group who’ll go first and reassure everyone that you can come out of this experience alive
7. There’s a fair amount of hiking and rock scrambling, as opposed to jumping
To get from one jump to another, you’ll need to cover some ground. It’s not physically challenging actually, and gives you time to relax and let your body control the adrenaline rush aftermath caused by the jumps
8. There’s a barbeque area right before the second (and last) mandatory jump
If you’re famished, chow down here – they’ve got a good selection of snacks (e.g. hotdogs, barbeque etc) at reasonable prices. Our group had a lunch waiting for us at the end of the entire trek, so we didn’t bother eating here
9. The second (and last) mandatory jump is actually pretty nice
It’s not as high as the first, but you jump from a rock outcropping with a VERY clear view of the water (no branches or jutting rocks in view this time)
10. Near the end, you get two optional high jumps
For the first one: You’ll have to take a slight detour as you need to hike up a bit. I’ll be completely honest, I didn’t think I could do it at first – it’s HIGH (~60 feet, my friends) and I had to be talked through it by my guide. But whew, once you do it, WHAT A RUSH!
For the second one: It’s actually the final jump right before you head to lunch. Pretty high as well (think it was ~50 feet?), but at this point, I’m hungry so all I needed to do was envision the yummy lunch waiting for me and just jumped. Perfect way to cap off this adventure!
11. A sumptuous lunch awaits you at the end of your journey
I have no idea if the food tasted super good because it was cooked well or because I was ridiculously hungry. Either way, the chicken was probably the best damn chicken I’ve had in a looong time!
At the same time (or after lunch), you can enjoy a relaxing massage on a raft, with the waterfall beating down your back but my group was pooped and opted not to do it
Here’s the falls you see right before you arrive at the lunch area. When you see this, you’ll know you’re near!
12. After lunch, you’ll have to walk a bit to get back to the van/waiting areas
You can hire a habal-habal, but our group decided to walk instead (~20 mins walk, ~1.5+ km)
Tips and tricks
1. Hire a guide!
The guides tell you where to jump, land, step, and which areas are safe. This is their job, believe that they know it better than you. Average rate is PHP 1,500 per person and you shouldn’t pay more than that!
Having said that, I would super highly recommend JoePro Adventures. These guys are awesome and so damn professional. They gave us 3 guides for a party of 12, pretty good ratio! Plus I appreciated the fact that their rate included everything, so all I needed to do was go wherever they told me to go and they took care of everything else
Canyoneering rate: PHP 1,500 per person (minimum of 5 people per group)
This rates includes:
- Guide fees
- Entrance fees to Badian and Kawasan
- Habal-habal ride to the starting point
- Life vest / life belt
- Foot wear (absolute life-savers! These shoes grip the rocks and made all the rock scrambling bearable. If it’s not part of your package, I’d advise you to rent – it’ll cost PHP 50)
- Lockers (where I stowed my dry clothing)
- Lunch (chicken, sinigang, lots of rice, and soft drinks)
- 350ml bottled water
- Raft riding after lunch
Van rate: PHP 6,000 for 12pax
I thought this was pretty steep at first, but the alternative would’ve been catching a bus from Cebu to Badian, then doing it again from Badian to Cebu. Agree, DIY would’ve been cheaper – but the convenience of getting picked up straight from the hotel, being able to sleep through the entire ~3 + 3 hours road trip without a care, and being dropped off at the hotel lobby at the end of a long and tiring day made my PHP 500 SUPER worth it!
2. What to bring
- Water proof camera, to capture all the special memories
- Some money, if you plan to buy food at the BBQ area (~100 pesos should be enough – personally, I didn’t bring any)
- Small towel to rub yourself dry + extra clothing to change into after the entire thing (all the clothes you’re wearing will be soaked!)
- Dry bag full of goodies (e.g. chips) if you’re the type who likes to snack while hiking
3. What to wear
- Comfortable clothes – light shirt and leggings (would suggest you wear full-length leggings to minimize scratches)
- Slippers (you can change into the appropriate footwear there). If your package doesn’t include footwear, either rent there or make sure your shoes are grippy and won’t fall off when you jump)
Hope that helps, and gear up for an adventure that you’ll remember for the rest of your life!