How it works
Canyoning doesn’t require much. First of all, you need good will and adequate footwear. Running shoes will do the job if you don’t intend to repeat this experience. If you’re planning to take up this hobby, then you’d better equip yourself with a pair of Five Ten canyoneering shoes. A pair of PowerGrab gloves can also come in handy. You will get everything else from your guides. This can, though not necessarily, include quite a list of things, such as a climbing helmet, life vest and waterproof ropes. Diving suit is often part of the necessary equipment, but we didn’t need one considering that the weather in Kawasan was very hot.
The moment when we realized that this was no laughing matter was when they put us in a tent to listen to a lecture about environment protection. Well… we also learned how not to break every bone in our body and what to do if something like this happened and how to aid a friend if he lost consciousness during a jump from a cliff. Ropes aren’t used a lot during this tour. Jumps are performed from the height of 6 to 15 meters. And the poster read: Easy tour!
Our guide was an amazing fellow – one of those people who smile from ear to ear. He was cracking jokes all the time and making fun of everyone who showed even the slightest trace of clumsiness. The professional team is always available and they are the brains behind the whole thing.
We, on the other hand, were absolutely terrified, because we had a friend in our group who proved to be even more amazing than our guide. She took the tour, although she doesn’t know how to swim. She learns. We encouraged and supported her. We took comfort in the fact that this was an easy tour, so this shouldn’t have posed a great problem. It’s OK, though certainly not ideal, for bad swimmers to embark on this ordeal through the jungle. The route is so conceived that eveything that is waiting for us ahead can be evaded.
Before taking the tour, it must be ascertained that you:
- are not under the influence of alcohol or psychoactive drugs
- comply to always wear a life vest and a helmet
- do not suffer from any specific illnesses
- do not suffer from any phobias
We’d like to share one of our observations with you. „Easy“ tours in the Philippines aren’t easy at all. Ropes are rarely, if ever, used. The rocks are good for jumping. The water is deep enough. This may be a serious problem if it’s your first time, because fear can be overwhelming and the guides are more likely to encourage you to jump off the cliff than bother to use climbing ropes and wedges. This is basically what jumping from the second or third floor looks like when you haven’t even jumped from a stool.
How it was for us
“What on earth can happen to us” were my exact words just 2 seconds before I slipped on some root on perfectly level ground and fell (read stomped) on my butt. The guide exploded in laughter.
„Haha hahahaha…look at him…maybe you should go by car to the watefall!„
A prankster. An awesome guy. He was a ton of support throughout the whole tour. After about 15 minutes of walking without slipping, we came to the beginning of our adventure. An abyss was glaring in front of us! It seems that you start with a jump at a height of 10 meters.
„Who’s going first?“
“Well, Ivana, of course. She doesn’t know how to swim.”
Ivana starts climbing down the lianas on the side of the cliff straight to the water. Traitor!
“Go fuck yourselves!” she said without turning around.
I look at Gaga. Gaga looks at me. Mihajlo, the fourth member of the crew, looks at us. We start giving ourselves butterflies in the stomach, but ours just won’t fly. This is one of those moments when it’s perfectly normal to start talking to yourself.
„I’LL GO FIRST!“ I feel like letting out a cry. I never jumped from a height of 2 metres, let alone 10.
„It’s gonna be OK. Just wave with your hands and legs. Jump on your feet.„
„Wave. On my feet. All right.“
I landed on my butt. It felt terrible. It felt as if I had something in the place where it shouldn’t be. The guide’s frantic expression was enough for me to figure out that it all resembled a suicide attempt.
„No, maaaan. Nooo. Don’t do like that again. Please!„
It must be that the others thought the same because everyone who jumped after me had to ask me if I was OK. And I felt just like Tim Roth from Reservoir Dogs.
There’s no time for recovery and idle chat… Our guide goes a long way ahead of us. He jumps from one rock to another yelling „Follow me!“ We drag along behind him as if returning from war.
The location itself is breathtaking. For some, it’s because they’re underwater (it’s not Ivana), for the others it’s because the nature is absolutely fabulous. While we made our way through, we could see and hear monkeys in the canopies. There were millipedes and centipedes in the water. There were no water snakes, or luckily for us, we didn’t see them.
Just a kilometer from the Kawasan Falls there’s the spot. It’s the highest jumping spot at a height of 15 meters. Before we reached this place we’d already made 4 or 5 jumps. Some give up, absolutely traumatized, while others recklessly carry on. We were in the second group. Jumping with a helmet from this height is not allowed. The impact force can be very strong and it is therefore not advisable to have something strapped to your chin.
Ok, I’ll go first!”
I come closer to the edge threading the roots with my heels. Every root, well-trodden from numerous jumps, resembles a small stair. Slippery. I crawl down and after making seven steps I’m there. A nice view, indeed! The first rule you should abide by when you’re stepping out of your comfort zone is not to wait. Thinking will do you no good. Just make up your mind and do it. Sticking to this rule, I straighten myself, but the fucking roots get into my vest, and suddenly I lose balance and start to fall.
It’s amazing how one second can last so fucking long! When this momentous second elapsed, our guide’s skilful hand grabbed my vest. It’s difficult to forget that strange sudden twitch of the body when someone grabs you. The butterflies in the stomach turned into monsters.
Finally, we followed the good old rule when jumping – wave your hands and legs and only jump on your feet. If it hadn’t been like this, some of us would probably have developed fear of heights. However, for some of us, this experience has had consequences.
After three hours of making our way through the jungle, going through the caves, swimming and jumping and €40 spent on this adventure, we finally made it. The Kawasan Falls are beautiful, but by no means breathtaking. Just like it so often happens in life, the journey itself is far better than the destination.
More adventures from Philippines: A short guide for swimming with Whale sharks in Oslobu.