How can a person who hates physical activities, cannot swim, and fears height get away with canyoneering? You can’t. Especially when you are with your family and friends, you’ve rode a habal-habal for 10 minutes to the middle of a mountain, and you have trekked for an hour to get to the river. But you can get away with jumping, and still totally enjoy the four-hour canyoneering activity despite your fear of heights and your lack of swimming ability.
Our canyoneering activity came after we had lunch at Cantilado in Oslob after our whaleshark watching. Our tour driver parked underneath a shady tree and we were ushered to a hut to try on shoes for the canyoneering activity. I settled a pair that is more or less snug because I don’t want to repeat the blisters I got while walking the length of Angkor Wat in a brand new pair of slip ons. After deciding on our choices of footwear, we signed a waiver, tried on vests and hats, and we rode at the back of a habal-habal (motorcycle). Honestly, when I told my best friend I would be doing canyoneering, I did not know what to expect.
I did not know that we would be shuttled to a mountain barangay by a motorcycle in a road that will lead you directly to your death if your driver is from hell or if the motorcycle hits a stone in the unpaved road. You are on top of a mountain and there were ravines. Finally, we arrived to a small hut near a community hall and we were given a bottle of water and a piece of Choco Mucho (a packaged chocolate snack). Then, the guide said we would begin. And I did not know begin means begin walking to the river. We walked for a good 45 minutes. The walk was good though, with nice views, views I have seen for the first time that day. But it was not the beginning of the canyoneering activity yet.
Finally, after slowly making our way down a slippery wooden ladder, we heard the waters. And we saw the canyon. Nothing grand like the Grand Canyon in Arizona but I have not seen a canyon before so I had to take everything in. Joel wondered aloud how old could the canyon be. Now, this is the start of the canyoneering activity. The first thing to do would be to jump — about 10 meters high. Joel jumped first, then my nephew, then Ted. And I, I cannot do it. No, I could not do it. And I didn’t do it.
How did I survive the canyoneering activity? The truth is, I enjoyed it. Except that 1. the activity was noisy because there were many people the day, 2. there were food vendors and selling food and eating can dirty the river, 3. the shoes I wore were dragging me because the soles were thin already and I can feel the rocks, 4. the guide, while accommodating and prepared, did not have knowledge on the geography of the canyon and river (which was something I would have wanted to learn more).
So, how did I survive the canyoneering activity despite my fear of heights and my lack of swimming ability? I survived the five-hour activity. I got scared overtime our guide says we need to jump. I do not want to ruin the fun so I had to get creative. Of course there are alternate ways to get off a waterfall or a rock. You can climb down. That is what I did. You don’t really have to swim, you just have to float. If you have panic attacks, do not do it. Just wait for your group somewhere.
We booked a two-day package with Island Trek Tours, paying P5,600 per person for a group of four. The package included whaleshark watching (add P200 per person if you want to swim with the sharks and P500 per camera if you want someone to take your group’s underwater photos); Tumalog Falls; full canyoneering activity; and half-day Moalboal “island hopping,” which included Pescador Island snorkeling, sardine run, and swimming with turtles. The package also included 1 light breakfast and 1 lunch, car transportation from Moalboal to Oslob and vice versa, tricycle transportation from our guesthouse in Moalboal to Moalboal wharf and vice versa.
We stayed at Emok’s Guesthouse, a few meters walk behind Gaisano Moalboal, for three nights. It is family-run and is not a luxury accommodation. It is also in town and far from the beaches of Moalboal. The guesthouse, however, served good and affordable comfort food.