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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Canyoneering from Alegria to Kawasan Falls, Badian

Canyoning (known as canyoneering in the U.S.) is traveling in canyons using a variety of techniques that may include other outdoor activities such as walking, scrambling, climbing, jumping, abseiling (rappelling), and swimming. 
Cebuanos have always took pride how pretty Kawasan Falls is.  Unknown to many, there was an undiscovered river canyon that led to it that runs from Alegria to Badian.   According to our guide, some two years ago, a foreign tourist discovered this eco-tourism spot and introduced the canyoneering activity.   For the past year, it has gained much attention on social media, it has been flocked by more and more local and foreign tourists.  Hold on to your seats and watch the teaser of our adventure down the river canyon of Kanla-ob, Alegria to Matutinao, Badian, Cebu.

Does this video make you giddy and envious?

The last time I did something like this was back in 2008 with EAT Danao, Bohol and has retired from this kind of activity since then.  Even before this made headlines a year ago, I was invited by a friend to join them but I had to decline since I was nursing an injury.  Because of all the attention it has been getting lately, it renewed my interest to do it, scavenged into my shoe rack to look for my decade old trekking sandals.  I had to bring it a shoe repair shop and have it sewn just to be sure it doesn't fall apart.

With all the trouble of finding a good mix of people to join me, I ended up with an odd combination of adventure loving people.  It's definitely great to hold on to old friends yet wonderful to meet new ones.

Book a Guide and Negotiate

With an activity like this, it is important to choose a guide who is experienced and mindful of his and your safety.  Other than the rate, do consider the experience of the guide and guide to participant ratio. We have contacted several guides like:

Lemuel Aspacio of Badian Cebu Canyoneering
+639261120868 / +639089661072 ; instagram:  @BadianCebuCanyoneering
Rate: 1,200 per head with lunch, 1,000 per head with snacks, P850 per head with no meals
Inclusions:  Lifejacket, helmet, entrance fee, exit fee, motorcycle ride to jump off point, drybag, guide
I decided to choose a local guide, I would assume, he is most familiar with the terrain and unpredictability of the water level and current.   He came highly recommended over at instagram by his clients.  From P850, he agreed to P800/head for a group of six.  I purposely specified that he (Lemuel) be our guide however, to our disappointment, when we arrived, he personally declined due to an injury; nevertheless, he sent us two senior guides, Clyde and Melvin and one junior guide to assist us.  I was quite satisfied by the services of the two senior guides who were particularly mindful of our safety for each and every step on that slippery terrain and every drop into the water.
Kawasan Canyoneering
+639186544111 / +63905333262 ; instagram: @kawasancanyoneering 
Rate: 1,200 per head with lunch
I get the impression that Kawasan Canyoneering is an organizer (a mestizo looking one) who commissions local guides (we saw them during our trek, and they have well uniformed gears, if it matters to you) however, I find one the guides, Boni, (although obviously experienced for cliff diving the 100ft Kawasan Falls), a bit reckless and a show-off (IMHO, sorry).  They also come highly recommended in social media.
Eduy Sallin Jr.
Rate: P800 per head, no meals
A seasoned mountaineer who serves as guide and commissions local guide but I could not find any endorsement for his services for this particular activity.

+639390800894 / +639055116622
Rate: P750 per head, no meals 
A local guide, used by a common friend.  He offers his services for as low as P650/head for a group of 10.

It is possible to just walk in at the Kanlaob Canyoneering, Alegria office or at the parking area of Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Church in Matutinao, Badian; you can find guides offering their services.  Unfortunately,  guide services are not yet organized/regulated by local authorities, thus, I don't recommend to pick just any random guide.

How to get there.
P280/kg of tasty carcar lechon
In a private vehicle, we left the city at 6am and arrived around 930am with quick stopover at Carcar Market to buy Lechon for lunch.  We met up with the guide at Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Church parking area (entrance to Kawasan Falls) and had our gears ready there.  From there we drove to Alegria, registered at the office then rode the motorcycle to the jump off point of Kanlaob Canyoneering.

On public bus, go to the South Bus Terminal and get off at Badian or Alegria.

Alegria intersection where you register and
ride the motorcycle up to the jump off point

From there on, it was close to a four hour activity of jump, swim, slide, trek, repeat. The terrain is mostly rocky and slippery at times.  Since you go downstream from Alegria to Badian hence, trekking and swimming is not tiring.  

To survive this, one needs a handful of courage to jump 15-20ft or even 50ft (optional).  If you're too sissy to jump, you may walk down or rapel (in an alternate longer route).  If you don't think you can manage to jump in, think about peer pressure, else forget this activity.  There's more fun in falling into the deep running river.  (Do take note of my tip below on safety.) One thing I realized is, I am fearless no more.  Probably after a bad fall cliff diving at Sohoton Cave, Bucas Grande, the trauma is there.  It took me a few long breaths, a moment of shivering knees and a yell each and every time i look down the cliff preparing for that plunge into the water but it did not stop me from taking that leap over and over again.

Allow me to share some thoughts and tips how to conquer this conyoneering activity:

Be there early. Start by 7 or 8am, as this activity is gaining popularity, more and more people come to experience it.  Apparently there is no governing body to control the (number of) crowd.  One has to queue up on certain jumps and slides.  It takes three hours to finish, maybe four on a weekend.

Be mindful of your safety.  At all times, safety first.  Get an experienced guide and wear proper gear.

never land this way...

hematoma on their legs, taken 3 days later
Be mindful of your posture.  Jumping into the water 15-20 feet high impose risks.  Be mindful of how you jump into the water.  Take a big leap yet remember to land on your feet and your legs straight.  Never land on you butt.  It can be fatal to you and your pride.  3 out of 6 of us suffered hematoma on their hamstring/thighs.  Be warned, but don't let this hold you back.  Bruises heal over time. ;)

Things to bring:

Gear.   Your guide should provide for the helmet and lifevest.  Remove watches, jewelry.  Wear a rashguard, board shorts/leggings, trekking shoes/ strapped sandals comfortable and sturdy enough to withstand slippery and rocky terrain, yet allow you to tread in water.  Don't forget to take with you an underwater camera.  The video above was taken with 3 go pro and 2 canon cameras.

trekking shoes, sandals, aqua shoes will do

Dry Bag.  Your guide may provide one.  Waterproof all your stuff even inside the dry bag.  Ideally, leave all valuables including cellphone.  The guides can bring your bags but they will just throw the dry bag from 20 feet into the water when they jump.  My dried mangoes turned into wet mangoes and my tissue turned into wet tissue. haha!

Food and drinks.  Bring water (500ml is enough) and a little trail food (nuts, crackers, dried fruits)  in case you go hungry.  Lunch will be taken after the activity in the premises of Kawasan Falls.  You can buy lunch there or arrange with your guide or bring food like we did.

After trip cost accounting:

  • P800 per head for canyoneering
  • P50 per head tip for canyoneering
  • P280 per kg of carcar lechon
  • P300 per table for lunch
  • P100 one way motorcycle ride from parking lot to Kawasan Falls or vice versa
  • P100 parking fee
  • fuel for the van

What to expect?

There is no better way to tell the story of canyoneering but to check out the video above and experience it yourself.  Now, forget all my warnings and just do it!

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