Monique Buensalido tries out some of the most exhilarating experiences in Cagayan de Oro
WHITE WATER RAFTING
It’s no secret that Cagayan De Oro is the go-to place in the country for white water rafting. The mighty Cagayan River offers some of the best and most challenging rapids, with more than 20 rapids ranging from levels I to IV.
While the more adventurous travelers can choose to go through them all, the more hesitant ones can choose the beginners’ course, with 14 rapids to go through.
Our group arrived at the river site, clad in board shorts, rash guards (or at least ready-to-get-wet clothes) and aqua shoes, ready for our first taste (read: the beginner’s course) of white water rafting. As we strapped on our helmets and life vests, our guides started the safety briefing and gave us points on how to paddle properly, what to do in case the raft capsized, and most importantly, when to give each other a paddle high-five.
We loaded our valuables and electronics into the dry bags they provided, climbed onto the rafts, plopped down on our chosen edges, and pushed off. Each raft had a guide seated at the back, who would give us instructions and steer us into (hopefully) the right direction, as well as answer any questions we had. It didn’t take long before the adventures began. We would feel the current growing faster and stronger beneath us, even before we spotted the rushing, gurgling water of the rapids ahead. We would grip the paddles tighter and lock our feet under the cushions of the raft, ready for our instructions. As soon as our guide yelled “Paddle hard!” we would plunge our paddles into the water, slicing them through as quickly as possible, struggling to keep our raft in control as it barreled over the thrashing rapids. It was a little scary, exciting, and exhilarating all at once, and before we realized it, our guide would be triumphantly yelling “High five!” signaling that we had gone through (alive!), and we would all cheer, raise our paddles in the air, and slap them together.
Despite names like “Twister,” “Surprise,” and “The Rodeo,” the rapids in the beginner’s course are pretty manageable and fun, as long as you paddle and sit in the proper form, and listen to your guide. But even when you’re not going through rapids, there’s a lot to take in during the three-hour experience. As your raft floats along the calm, peaceful stretches, you can simply appreciate the view of the surrounding environment, from the impressive boulders and rocks to the lush vegetation all over. There are even points where the rafts will park near a couple of big rocks, so you can climb onto them and jump into the river for a quick swim. Before you know it, the raft will be coming ashore and you’ll have (hopefully, again) successfully maneuvered through 14 rapids. Not bad for a single day in CDO.
Nature lovers, adventurers and thrill-seekers all have something to discover in Mapawa Nature Park, an amazing 2500-hectare environmental haven tucked away in the Malasag mountains, 350 meters above sea level. It’s a picture-perfect slice of nature: mighty and imposing trees, crystal clear rivers and streams, and magnificent waterfalls. At first glance, it seems like an ideal place for peace and quiet, but you can also experience a multitude of heart-thumping, adrenaline rush-inciting activities, from rappelling down a 65-foot waterfall to jumping off a 25-foot cliff.
Dressed in our ready-for-anything gear again (rash guards, board shorts, aqua shoes, life vests, and helmets), we started our River Trek at a 400-year-old Dao tree, so tall that we looked like ants beside it. Even if we lied down on the ground, none of our cameras could capture the tree in its full glory. Then we started following a trail through the thick forest until we emerged at the river, where we came across our first challenge: a short and natural waterfall slide. Each one of us gingerly sat down at the top of the waterfall, lay down, and pinched our noses shut. Once we were ready, our guides would give us a nudge and send us sliding down the rock and into the ice cold river.
Now that we had gotten our first taste (not literally, if we had kept our mouths shut well) of the river, we continued the challenging and exciting trek, navigating through waist-deep water, feeling for the next stone to step on with our feet and climbing over other rocks. We tried our best to be careful, as we didn’t want to slip, and our expert guides were incredibly helpful in telling us where to step, offering us their hands to hold, and even carrying our dry bags for us.
Before long, we reached a 25-foot-high cliff, and as we looked down at the water, our guides told us that lunch was “down there.” Indeed, right beside the river below, the rest of the guides had set up a very sumptuous looking lunch. All we needed to do was jump off. While it took a while for everyone to muster up the nerve, hunger proved to be the best motivation for stepping off and taking the plunge.
But after our delicious lunch, we got the chance for one more feat of bravery—rappelling down a waterfall. Each one of us carefully inched our way over the waterfall until we were hanging over the edge, with nothing but the cable to hang on for safety, then slowly descended—a hard thing to do when everyone tells you “Don’t look down!” But once you get to the bottom, you’ll be missing the adrenaline rush already.