On a recent work trip to Cebu, I decided to add an extra day to do some activities in nature. It had been 4-months since Greenland, and I was in need to get away a little bit. I was debating between swimming with the whale sharks and canyoning. At the end, for myriad of reasons, the latter won out.
I found Cyan Adventures. I asked them to arrange a private trip on my free day (no group tour running on that day). I had to pay for a minimum of two persons anyways, so I dragged an associate with me. Cyan Adventures are focused on safety (just see our additional gears from wet suit, life vest, and butt protector. I was expecting the basic harness and helmet only, to be honest). Two guides accompanied us. Elmer is from Moalboal and Eboy is from Mayabuyoc. They were also very accommodating (as usual I booked very last minute. I also left my sunglasses and extra GoPro battery at the restaurant, and they arranged a drop off at my hotel in Mactan Island at my request). Where they are based in Moalboal is about 3 to 4-hrs from Mactan Island, depending on traffic.
The day we went, the Kawasan canyoning was still closed. A few people have died and the government has been installing/repairing some safety features. So we went to Mayabuyoc canyon and at the end of the journey, we took a dip in the hotspring pools. We had an amazing day and not only canyoning, we got to see the real Philippines as well.
Getting To Mayabuyoc Canyon From Mactan Island
It was a long trip to get to Mayabuyoc. 2.5 hr in the car to Moalboal where got fitted into our gears at the Cyan Adventures office (no traffic from Cebu yet as we were picked up at 5.30am). From Moalboal, we took a jeepney for an hour to the start of the canyon. This is the first time I left the city to see the countryside of Philippines. As typical of any developing countries, infrastructures are under invested and under developed. It was two-lane roads mostly.
We passed the town of Carcar whose specialty is chicharrón (I bought some for gifts). Chicharrón is crispy, fried, pork skin. This is one legacy from the Spanish colonial days.
A couple towns that we passed made me think of the Spanish colonial towns I have been. Although the places are not organized in a square style, like those we see in Central and South America, one can notice the presence of small churches (no Cathedrals in the towns. The churches resembled more chapels and are very simple in design) and markets in every town we passed. Unfortunately, I did not manage to take photos en-route.
This trip I felt like I really saw another side of Philippines. One sight I would never forget is the transportation of pigs on tricycles (motorbikes which have cages installed on the side). We also saw public transportation on the back of pick up trucks, like those we always see in South and Central America.
On the way back, we saw families eating out and spending time together. Traffic was horrendous. All the lechón (roasted pig) restaurants were all full. Jollibee (local fast food chain selling fried chicken) in one of the town was full. Distance to the next town was measured as distance to the next McDonald’s. I supposed these are signs of emerging middle class.
What Is Canyoning? What Exactly Did We Do?
Canyoning piqued my interest because it involves rappeling. Rappeling and abseiling seem to be the basic staples of all adventurers – at least every episode of Running with Bear Grylls seems to have a phase involving rappeling of some kind.
On this trip, we did three rappels over the waterfalls (estimated heights 20m, 12m (the most challenging), and 25m). I thought it would be very scary and I would need some pep talk. The first rappel was surprisingly the easiest. Rappeling with two ropes is very stable, and we have two ropes for the first and third waterfalls. The second rappel was the hardest. We used only one rope and the step-off part was protruding out then in. It was quite difficult to position ourselves in the beginning. At the third rappel, we had to step under an installed chain over two rocks where they secure the ropes. I looked at Eboy and my friend did it. I told Elmer I was scared, but then I stepped off and did it anyway! I totally trusted the skills of the guides and the safety of the rope. It made the experience quite painless.
The other parts of canyoning are free falls and mini hikes. We did three jumps. The first was not the highest (about 6m), but we had to really propel ourselves forward to avoid the narrowing rock walls on both sides. It took me two tries. The first time they advised us to start from squatting position which I was not comfortable. So, on the second try I jumped from standing position. With proper technique it was not painful. It was actually quite fun! The second (3-4m) and third jump (10m) became much easier.
The trekking part at times requires scrambling up rocky parts and sliding down rocks submerged in shallow water.
This activity requires only medium fitness level. I believe this is the beginner level of canyoning.
It was not the man vs. nature kind-of wild like Greenland was, but rappelling and free jumping have been another kind of liberation. Surprisingly I was not that scared, or rather I said I was scared, but I was determined to rappel and jump down anyways. It is always a self-esteem boost when one overcomes one’s fears. Will I do it again? If I am being completely honest to myself, I am not sure! Deep down I highly suspect that I had the beginners’ luck and impulsiveness to tick the bucket list on this trip. I guess we will have to see…