The idea of engaging in extreme adventures such as Cebu canyoneering seems to be fun and exciting. After all, who wouldn’t be excited at seeing breathtaking scenes, experiencing adrenaline-pumping activities, or sharing death-defying experiences with friends? However, based on our experiences, many people find out the hard and painful way that the world of adventure is not as easy as described in blogs or seen in photos and videos.
After their first fall off a high rock wall, some become traumatized by that heart-stopping moment. Many who are used to a pampered life may find trekking and camping in the wilderness a seemingly never-ending nightmare. A minor yet panic-inducing episode of a knocked-off regulator at 30 feet underwater may trigger a panic attack for a diver on his or her first DSD session. Yet, all these challenges, difficulties, and misfortunes are all part of adventuring.
For us, the key to a positive and lasting impression of the world of adventure is a happy, safe, easy, and enjoyable first experience. By having a pleasant experience during his or her first adventure, one will definitely be looking forward for more.
That was what we had in mind when we organized and invited a few friends to another canyoneering event last April 12, 2014. Last time we had a canyoneering adventure, we went upstream, fighting the current and the lay of the Matutinao River. This time, we opted to go downstream, from Kanlaob, Alegria to Kawasan Falls in Barangay Matutinao, Badian. Going downstream is perfect for beginners in the sport of canyoneering as it is easier, safer, and requires relatively less effort than upstream canyoneering.
In addition, April 12 was also our 23rd monthsary! We celebrated our monthsary the best way we know—having a high dose of adventure!
Note: We have already covered and posted photos of sceneries of Matutinao River during our upstream adventure. Thus, don’t be surprised if there are fewer photos here. However, check out our videos in this blog post!
As usual, we met at the Cebu South Bus Terminal at around 4AM. By 8AM, we arrived at Moalboal town center, had a delicious breakfast (an adventure should start with a great meal), left our stuff at Sir Ya Man’s place, and rode a jeep to Alegria.
Before proceeding to Alegria, however, we stopped by Kawasan Falls to rent some life jackets for team members who don’t have life jackets of their own.
From the highway, we took a 20-minute habal-habal ride to Barangay Kanlaob where the jump-off area is located. Riding a habal-habal is an adventure in itself, and such an adventure should be expected if you wish to travel in the Philippines.
The barangay officials have started to take notice the increase of people trying out canyoneering adventures. We believe that’s the reason they are starting to collect P10 per person who enters the jump-off point. That’s okay as long as the P10 is spent for maintenance or for the livelihood of those who live there.
Sir Ya Man, Halourd, and Choy briefed the adventurers of the do’s and don’ts of canyoneering. After a short prayer, we were on our way.
Fifteen minutes later, we entered the upper part of Matutinao River. The cool water splashing on our feet and legs was a welcome respite from the oppressive summer heat.
Check out that sparkling water! Doesn’t it look so refreshing that you just want to dive in it? Well, that was exactly what we got!
The first big challenge was to jump off a strong, fast-flowing 20-foot high waterfall and landing on a deep pool of cold river-fed water! There was no other way to enter the canyon but by high diving. Well, truthfully, there is another way, but it’s not as exciting as this.
We felt that the excitement of leaping off a waterfall can’t be captured by a photo. So we decided to take a video of some of our team-mates. For many, it was an exhilarating experience.
For others, it was a test that required every ounce of courage and willpower. One thing was sure, though, everyone had a lot of fun!
The photo below shows the entirety of the first waterfall that we just jumped off of. It may not look high, but believe us, it is higher than you think. Once you’re up there, you’ll begin to develop jelly legs.
Another mighty waterfall follows after the pool where we jumped into. Safely going down this waterfall requires a safety line, which was set up by Sir Ya Man.
One by one, the team made their way down the waterfall. Constantly rushing water did not allow algae to grow on the rock, making it relatively safe to step on. However, we took no chances, and the team was instructed to hold on to the safety line.
From the vantage point of the photo below, you can see how strong the flow of the waterfall is. To go down the last few meters, we had to either hold on to tiny, slippery handholds or inch downward on all fours on slippery rock.
The waterfall flows into a beautiful, sparkling clean lagoon, carefully tucked in a lush jungle. In this part of Cebu, it’s the epitome of untouched paradise.
That’s the rushing waterfall where we came from. It’s very beautiful, isn’t it? The guides call this area The Dead End because this is the end of the canyoneering course if one goes upstream.
With a deep, cool lagoon and gorgeous canyons whose mossy rock faces feature trailing roots and vines, this is a great place for both root climbing and high diving. Oh, yes, you can actually feel the adrenaline flowing through your system. Check out the video below.
After spending half an hour of diving, swimming, and splashing around the dead end, Sir Ya Man signaled us that it was time to move on so we can reach Kawasan Falls at around 2PM.
After that first heart-stopping jump, everyone realized that they can definitely defy their limits and get over their fear. In fact, they got pretty excited of jumping off waterfalls that line up the canyon although most are not as high as the first one.
Even though the downstream river trekking was considerably easier than upstream trekking, it was still quite a challenge since we had to brace ourselves to avoid being swept off our feet. The rocks were quite slippery, and many parts of the river were obscured by foam or sediment.
As always, we felt mesmerized by the immensity of the moss-covered stalactites that hang precariously up the canyon. The photo below gives you a better idea of just how massive these stalactites are; check out the scale of the girls versus the rock formations.
Swimming in the greenish lagoons of Matutinao River is always a relaxing experience. During this adventure, we were reintroduced to Mother Nature’s balm that never fails to completely wash your stress, soreness, and exhaustion away.
Not all segments of a downstream canyoneering adventure involve diving and swimming. We also had to scramble down and under massive boulders or walk across slippery petrified logs.
An hour after we exited The Dead End lagoon, we reached the Cafeteria, the “official” resting place in the canyon. As usual, the breeze here was pretty chilly despite the fact that it was midday and the sun shone brightly over the land.
After half an hour of munching on snacks and rehydrating, we were on our way. And what a restart; it was jumping over a short waterfall and swimming in a cool lagoon again!
We reached the massive landslide area.
The team carefully traversed over the huge boulders that the landslide left behind. Although it’s a relatively easy scramble, one has to be careful because a single, careless slip can cause injury. The rocks here are massive and, in some places, razor sharp.
There are also various natural pools that are fed by small waterfalls in many areas of the river. It is really cool and relaxing when you sit down and immerse in the water in any one of these pools.
After a short break, we carefully descended down these series of fast-flowing, cascading waterfalls.
Trekking, swimming, and wading through the canyon left us with a lingering feeling of awe and humility. Mother Nature is just so immense, so beautiful, so powerful, and so terrifying that we felt ashamed that we, humans, even have the audacity to change or even destroy her to suit our needs and wants.
We passed by an old, moss-covered petrified tree along the way. That tree signaled that we were actually near the end of the canyon.
Be careful, and watch your step! Those wet, moss-covered rocks are very slippery. Don’t hesitate to ask for a helping hand.
Going down those slippery rocks, we arrived at one of the most beautiful and exciting parts of the canyon. The water there is quite deep, and the current is quite strong.
Here’s another view of the area. Now, what do deep water, fast-flowing current, and a high rocky platform add up to? A perfect area for high diving, of course!
Check out the video below. Most of us didn’t hesitate to challenge ourselves; we stepped on the ledge, felt our heart beat faster, screamed our lungs out, and just went for it. For us, this was the best and the most fun part of the entire canyoneering adventure.
After having the time of our lives, we just let the current carry us to the end of the canyon where the last leg of the adventure begins, a 45-minute trek across boulders, wooded areas, and muddy trails to Station 3 in Kawasan.
Ouch! Ouch! Those prickly, itchy plants can scratch you up real good. Be sure to wear arm guards or a long-sleeved rash guard to protect your arms, and leggings to protect your legs.
After 3 hours of absolute canyoneering fun, we emerged at Kawasan Falls’ Station 3. You should see the priceless, puzzled looks of the holidaymakers’ faces when they saw us emerge from the forest, equipped with PFDs, life jackets, ropes, and other gear!
Skimboarding at Basdako, Moalboal
Sir Ya Man has been inviting us to try out his other exciting sport: skimboarding. We figured out that it was another opportunity for fun and adventure. Thus, when we planned out and organized this adventure, we decided to include an overnight stay at Basdako in Moalboal so we can try out skimboarding, relax after an exhaustive canyoneering adventure, and just have a great time chatting with fellow adventurers.
After a quick lunch at Sir Ya Man’s place (the pancit that his mother prepared was awesome!), we headed out to Basdako.
Considering that it was a weekend, there were already plenty of beachgoers there. Some set up beach tents while others rented rooms and cottages.
Sir Ya Man then showed us how to skim over the waves using a thin board made of waxed plywood. We gotta tell you, he’s a professional skimboarder! Our jaws just dropped when he performed amazing tricks with ease.
Uhmm…how did he do it?
Definitely not like this! We can safely say that skimboarding is not as easy as it looks! Prepare for bruises, scrapes, and humiliation as you slip, fall, and skitter across the surf.
Check out the video below and see how Sir Ya Man rides the board with ease (1st and 3rd clip). Compare that with how I ride the board (2nd and 4th clip).
The sun began to set, and I was still struggling—and unable—to find my balance on the board. It was then when I realized—and acknowledged—that I have rather poor sense of balance and timing. What a bummer!
Okay, the girls had way better luck. Oh well, at least Sweetie is still proud of me. Hehehe! I love you, Sweetie! Just look at that gorgeous, fiery sunset!
Despite the hordes of beachgoers, the place was serene enough so that Apol, Angel, and Jammy decided to practice some yoga moves.
As night came, we set up our tents and ate our dinner. Tip: buy dinner and drinks before coming to Basdako! The food and beverages sold in the resort are ridiculously expensive for their carenderia quality.
A weekend of adventure and fun that starts well also ends well with a little booze (no, we don’t drink); a plethora of chats through the night; great beach music; and, perhaps, a blossoming romance.
Thank you, team (Apol, Angel, Jammy, Kerie, Jennifer, Lovely Ann, Sam, James, and Rico) for participating in our epic monthsary adventure! Thank you, Sir Ya Man, Sir Halourd, and Sir Choy for being excellent guides as always! Downstream canyoneering is definitely a fun, must-try adventure for those who wish to take the road of extreme outdoor activities!
4:00 AM – meet up at Cebu South Bus Terminal
5:00 AM – ETD Cebu South Bus Terminal, going to Moalboal
7:30 AM – stop at Moalboal, breakfast, buy packed lunch
8:00 AM – walk to Sir Ya Man’s house, leave unnecessary stuff, prepare gears
8:30 AM – ride bus/multicab to Alegria, stop by Kawasan Falls to rent life jackets
9:30 AM – arrival at Kanlaob Alegria crossing, ride habal-habal to jump-off
10:00 AM – arrival at Barangay Kanlaob jump-off, briefing, last-minute checks
10:15 AM – start canyoneering adventure
12:00 PM – lunch at “The Cafeteria”
1:00 PM – resume canyoneering adventure
2:30 PM – finish canyoneering adventure, exit at Kawasan Falls in Badian
2:45 PM – ride jeep to Sir Ya Man’s house, late lunch, get gear
3:30 PM – ride jeep or tricycle to Basdako, Moalboal
4:00 PM – arrive at Basdako Moalboal, swimming, skimboarding, set up tents
6:00 PM – dinner
7:00 PM – socials
11:00 PM – lights off
6:00 AM – wake up, break camp
7:00 AM – ride tricycle to Moalboal Town Center
7:30 AM – arrival at Moalboal Town Center, breakfast
8:00 AM – ride bus or V-hire back to Cebu
11:00 AM – arrival CSBT, home sweet home
Budget (per person)*
- P 110 – Non-aircon bus fare from CSBT to Moalboal (P 130 for aircon bus)
- P 30 – Multicab/jeep fare from Moalboal to Kanlaob Crossing, Alegria
- P 40 – habal-habal ride from crossing to Kanlaob jump-off **
- P 10 – entrance fee in Kanlaob
- P 50 – Life jacket rental
- P 10 – exit fee in Kawasan ***
- P 25 – Multicab/jeep fare from Kawasan to Moalboal
- P 30 – tricycle fare from Moalboal Town Center to Basdako
- P 5 – barangay Basdako entrance fee ****
- P 10 – Basdako resort entrance
- P100 – fee for setting up at tent at Basdako Beach *****
- P 30 – tricycle fare from Basdako to Moalboal Town Center
- P 110 – Non-aircon bus fare from Moalboal to CSBT (P 130 for aircon bus, 100 for V-hire)
* We did not include our expenses for meals, snacks, souvenirs, tips, and other fees in this rate sheet as you may have different needs, preferences, itineraries, miscellaneous transportation, and sharing scheme from us. Note that all figures are subject to change without prior notice.
** Be wary of unscrupulous habal-habal drivers who want to take advantage of you as a non-local. They quoted us P40 one way. However, when we reached the jump-off point, locals said that the normal fare is P30.
*** This was a shocking surprise for us. When we asked the in-charge personnel why we had to pay an exit fee in Badian, they retorted with an absurdly ridiculous reason that we are “using their water” even though rivers are public property. Although we were issued official government receipts, we haven’t seen or heard any official directive from the provincial government that they’re authorized to extract P10 from canyoneers who start in Alegria. Additionally, we’re not sure if this practice is implemented if we go upstream (i.e. starting in Kawasan and ending in Kanlaob, Alegria)
**** We are not sure if paying a fee to enter the barangay of Basdako is legal. But at Basdako’s border, tanods have set up a checkpoint to make sure all who pass through Basdako pay the P5.
***** This was also a shocking surprise for us because there was no notice of such a fee at the beach entrance. We didn’t know that setting up a tent is as expensive as staying in a cottage. We are not sure if collecting a “tent fee” here is legal. Be wary of people who ask payment from you; they don’t wear uniforms. Always ask for an official receipt or a copy of an official directive.
At present, we are trying to check on the legality of these fees.
1. If you want to experience a convenient and hassle-free canyoneering adventure, contact Travel Cebu.
2. Always check the weather a few days before your canyoneering activity. Never attempt to push on with your canyoneering adventure during bad weather! Even the slightest rain can generate flashfloods and extremely strong water currents that are life-threatening.
4. For safety, limit the number of participants in your team. Ideally, for beginners, there should only be 5 participants, 1 guide, and 1 sweeper in a group. 10 people in a group is the recommended absolute maximum. In this adventure, we surpassed our the absolute maximum. However, we divided the group into 3 sub-groups with a guide and sweeper in each sub-group, making the entire group easily manageable. Also, virtually everyone in our group has a considerable degree of experience in outdoor adventures.
5. Wear a PFD (personal flotation device) or life jacket for safety. Many parts of the river are deep, and there is always a constant danger of drowning. Never underestimate the river even if you’re a strong swimmer and always be on the side of safety. If you don’t have your own personal PFD, rent one in Kawasan Falls for P50.
6. Wear a helmet. You’ll be climbing boulders, swimming under rock outcroppings, and jumping from heights. You need something to protect your head. A skateboarding or open-face motorcycle helmet will do just fine if you don’t have a proper climbing or caving helmet.
7. If this is your first time engaging in a canyoneering activity, we recommend going downstream rather than upstream. Otherwise, if you’re going upstream, you may end up with regrets and frustration after realizing that a lot is required of you. Also, strictly follow your itinerary and schedule. If you lag behind or if you constantly need supervision, then you’ll delay your team, and this becomes risky when darkness sets in.
8. For safety, don’t make high dives without asking your guide’s permission.
9. It is strongly recommended that you know how to swim, even a simple dog paddle. If you don’t know how to swim, it is mandatory that you wear a PFD.
10. For safety, do not stray away from the group. Keep them and yourself in visual range.
11. Take time to double-check your footing and your handholds. Many of the natural features that you’re going to use are slippery and unstable.
10. Use the webbing/rope that the guide provides. It’s there for your own safety and ease of traversing.
12. Do not disturb, handle, capture, or kill wildlife. Doing so violates both Municipal Ordinance 2009-01 and Republic Act 9147 (Wildlife Protection and Protection Act). Remember to practice the Leave No Trace principles. Never throw your garbage anywhere to protect and preserve the pristine beauty of the canyon.
13. Pack light but do bring the following:
- Water (at least a liter)
- Trekking sandals or aqua shoes with an aggressive tread
- Cycling shorts, board shorts
- Snacks (store in waterproof container)
- Packed lunch (store in waterproof container)
- Dry bag (to store your valuables and lunch)
- Extra dry clothes (you’ll leave them at the guide’s house)
- Extra money for emergencies (stored in waterproof container)
- Your guide will provide the technical requirements such as ropes, webbing, and carabiners.
If you wish to pitch a tent in Basdako, bring your tent, sleeping bag, blanket, sweater, and other camping gear.
14. Obviously, you need to waterproof everything. But since you’ll be jumping, swimming, and getting splashed around by strong curtains of water, you need much more than just the usual Ziplock sandwich bag or plastic bag. We recommend putting your valuables, batteries, and money in a Ziplock bag then put that bag inside a watertight box (or something equivalent). You can purchase watertight boxes and cases in outdoor shops like ROX Ayala, Habagat, or Cris Sports.