Confession: I’m scared of heights. I may have all those Instagram posts where I’m perching on a mountain peak, rappelling down a cliff, and crossing a hanging bridge, but it took a lot of screaming and soliloquies before I actually did it. I fight my fear of heights by going on all those adventures.
When I organized my recent Cebu backpacking trip, canyoneering in Badian (also known as Kawasan canyoneering) was on my priority list. I mentally prepared myself by watching travel videos like this:
But no amount of research could prepare me for the 40-foot waterfall jump at the end of the course. If you found this blog post because you are having second thoughts on pursuing this adventure, you’ve come to the right place. If a panicky, scaredy-cat like me can survive Badian canyoneering with only one small scar (from sliding down a rock the wrong way), then you, too, will make it! Here are tips to help you get ready:
1. The standard price is ₱1,500 per person if you’re already in Moalboal.
You will find different package rates online (some are exorbitant), but I found the most reasonable rate of ₱1,500 per person from Kawasan Canyoneering. The rate includes:
a.) Free pickup and drop-off from your hotel in Moalboal. If you’re coming from elsewhere like Cebu City, they will just give you directions to Moalboal and you need to find your own ride. Other organizers offer a van service from wherever you are for an additional fee.
b.) Entrance fee and environmental fee
c.) Rental of safety gear (helmet and life vest with pocket)
d.) Bottled water and a small snack (which fit snugly in the vest pocket)
e.) Post-adventure meal. Ours was fried chicken with rice and a small bottle of soda.
f.) Official guides. The kuyas will guide you throughout the adventure and will serve as your lifeguards. They will also store your gadgets in their waterproof dry bag. Some will even oblige to be your personal photographers, so don’t forget to tip them after.
2. You are safe as long as you listen to the official guides.
Listen to the briefing before the trip. Pay attention to the do’s and don’ts during the adventure. The guides will tell you where it’s safe to jump and how to jump properly to avoid injury. In the event that you slip and/or get washed away (which happened to someone in our group), they will easily rescue you. You will sign a waiver before you start, but don’t let that intimidate you.
3. What should you wear?
Wear any comfortable but snug swimming attire because you will be drenched throughout the adventure. I wore a bikini under my dry-fit, lightweight leggings and a sleeveless hiking top. I did not want to risk a wardrobe malfunction. Most of the guys in my group wore board shorts. Others wore rash guards. Some girls wore one-piece bathing suits.
For footwear, I wore my Sandugo hiking slippers with firm grip soles. Others wore regular sneakers, while some used aqua shoes. You will be treading through waters and climbing slippery rocks, so use the right footwear.
4. What about your gadgets?
You are allowed to bring as many gadgets as you want, but you will have sole responsibility for whatever damage that may happen to them during the adventure. One guide will bring a dry bag where you may store your phones and gadgets. He will take care of them for you, and you may use them during the breaks on dry areas.
Me, I brought only my iPhone, which I kept dry and safe in my trusty Seaquatix that I wore around my neck. Some had waterproof GoPros to document everything. Some brought their own dry bags, and would just hand them to the kuya before jumping. Sadly, my iPhone couldn’t take clear and crisp photos because the water and outer moisture blurred my plastic Seaquatix cover. Don’t worry, my iPhone was safe and dry throughout.
5. Are there toilets or lockers?
You may go to the loo and leave your items in the cubicles at the restaurant (briefing area). The open cubicles have no padlocks, so I didn’t leave any valuables there, just my backpack of clothes and toiletries. I didn’t bring a big wallet, just a small Ziploc where I placed all my money, ID, tissue, and other small items. I wrapped the Ziploc in another plastic bag and placed it in my life vest pocket.
There’s a second toilet at the guest signing area, where you may take one last bathroom break before the adventure starts. There are no toilets throughout the four-hour adventure in the jungle.
6. How many jumps are there?
According to our guide, there are six main jumps: 2 meters, 6 meters, 7 meters, 12-15 meters, 20 meters, and 30 meters. During my trip, the last two were closed because of several accidents (non-fatal) that occurred before.
7. You don’t have to go on all the jumps and slides.
You will start with the easy slides and jumps. It gets higher as you go further, but you don’t have to go on all of them. There are scaredy-cat routes, where you just walk down the longer section to get to the other side. The guides will help you either way.
There are options for some jumps. For example, in jump #4, there’s the 12-meter cliff and 15-meter cliff to choose from.
One of our guides joked, [loosely translated from Tagalog] “It’s usually the self-proclaimed scaredy-cats that actually complete all the jumps.”
He was right! Some people from my group decided to back out of the final 12-meter jump, but I told myself, “How often would I get to do something like this again? It’s now or never!” So I did it, much to the applause of my team after I finally took the plunge.
8. Is it scary?
For the daredevils in my group, the 15-meter jump was nothing, but I turned pale with fright! All the jumps look so short and easy in those travel videos, but once I was there, standing on the edge and looking down at the water, I realized it was so f*****g high!
I cried, screamed, backed out, bargained, screamed again, and argued with the voices in my head for 30 minutes before doing the tallest jump. But, blimey, I did it! If I can do it, so can you! If not, no pressure, you can always walk away and just be the photographer.
9. Are there add-on fees?
Yes, but they’re optional. For example, in the middle of the adventure, you’ll take a break at the smaller falls where there are man-made swings. You may swing all you want for ₱10/per person. There’s a halfway food spot where locals have barbecue stands and makeshift carinderias. When you get to Kawasan Falls at the end of your adventure, you may rent the picnic shed for ₱300 and buy your own food.
If you spotted those cool Kawasan raft rides in those viral videos, I’m sad to report that they’re temporarily closed. Thanks to political meddling, the locals are forbidden to rent out their rafts to tourists until a final “agreement” with the local government is sorted out. Boo!
10. Why do some people call it Badian canyoneering, while others refer to it as Kawasan canyoneering?
Technically, the canyoneering adventure (where you do all the jumps and slides) is in the jungle of Badian, a municipality of Cebu. The Kawasan Waterfalls is just the final part of this adventure.
11. What is the itinerary?
Typical itinerary is as follows:
9:00 a.m. – Briefing and start of canyoneering. We had our own breakfast prior to the briefing.
1:00 p.m. – End of canyoneering, followed by swimming at Kawasan Falls and a late lunch
Some groups ate their lunch by the falls, but my group went back to the restaurant outside the area. I took too long at the final jump (eep!), so our adventure ended at around 2 p.m. You may hang out at the waterfalls for a few more hours, but my group had to leave because of the scheduled shuttle service back to Moalboal. Had we decided to stay longer at the falls, we would have paid for a separate ride back to our hostel.
12. Is this something I really must do when I’m in Cebu?
Hell yes! Even if you have no plans of doing all the high jumps (but you might change your mind once you’re there), you must experience this unique adventure in the Philippine jungle. Keep this in your Cebu itinerary, especially when you go to Moalboal.