If you are looking for a fast-paced, adrenaline pumping and extreme adventure in the Philippines, you must definitely try white water rafting in Cagayan de Oro (CDO) City, Misamis Oriental. The City of Golden Friendship is known as the white water rafting capital in the entire country. One can never truly traveled in CDO without conquering the wild rapids of its river.
Last week, I set foot to Cagayan de Oro City, the capital of Misamis Oriental in Northern Mindanao. It was my first time in Mindanao, making me easily scratch off one item in my 2017 Travel Bucket List. Like many of my previous travels last year, I flew to one destination with my backpack and its contents as the only certain thing in my trip. Well, that is entirely not true as I had one activity in mind – white water rafting in the Philippines.
After I searched online and read websites and blogs, I got more eager and tiny bit nervous to try out this activity. However, excitement won and after receiving a recommendation to book my white water rafting experience package, my fate was sealed. It is time to push myself to greater limits!
Booking with Kagay White Water Rafting
I booked my whitewater rafting adventure with Kagay Outdoors. I have heard good reviews about this tour provider both from friends who have tried it and even locals. Although it was my first time, I opted to go with mid-course instead of beginners. Since I am already going try it, why not push for more?
In the beginning, my only concern is if they would accept a solo traveler. I read that a boat should be with 6-10 people and I am not sure if I have to pay for the remaining seats since I would be alone. When I talked with them, they told me that there was no problem being in a small group or even traveling alone as they can merge me with other travelers. Communication with them is easy and the staff friendly.
For advanced course/mid-section:
- Class II-IV rapids
- 4 hours actual river run
- minimum of 6 pax
- PHP 1800 per person
- Jeepney transfer to and from your hotel within the city
- Helmets, life vests, and paddles
- Use of SOTAR (state-of-the-art raft)
Source: Kagay’s Website
I was advised by the staff to get ready for pick-up at 07:30 AM, so I decided to be out early to get my breakfast. Exactly on the agreed time, I was waiting at my hotel lobby for the jeepney to arrive, but sadly, the team showed up more than 30 minutes late. I have issues with tardiness and I started to doubt the quality of service Kagay will deliver.
I boarded the jeepney pick-up and we started our journey outside the city. I was joined by a group of 6 travelers from Cebu and one fellow Couchsurfer who I met the day before and agreed to conquer the rapids with me. While inside the vehicle, we read and signed waivers while the others were busy munching their breakfast. It took us almost an hour to get to the jump-off point.
As soon as we arrived in the advanced course jump-off point, everyone immediately prepared his or her rafting outfit and gear. Unlike the others, I was already wearing my rash guard and swimming shorts before leaving my hotel. That was actually a nice foresight as there was only one and not-so-good toilet/changing room there.
Also, if you missed preparing for proper clothes, there was cheap yet appropriate swimwear available for sale in that area.
- Don’t forget to waterproof your things! Use dry bags.
- If you want to wear your eyeglasses or sunglasses, secure them with a string attached to your neck so you won’t lose it.
- Bring water and food.
Next, we started donning our life vests and helmets. There were several secure fastenings in the provided floating devices and I like that. There was only a bit of a challenge looking for a small helmet to fit my head, but I was able to find one in the end. After grabbing one boat paddle, we were all ushered to the riverbank for an orientation.
Our guides gave us a briefing on the history of white water rafting in Cagayan de Oro, which was followed by a series of instructions for us to remember and follow. It was very comprehensive. White water rafting is an extreme sport and can be dangerous, but with proper guidance and delivery, can also be a fun and exhilarating experience.
The licensed and professional guides showed us the safety features of the rafts, what to do in case we fall, how to float properly and how to help retrieving someone who falls off the raft. They also taught us how to hold the oar and paddle the correct way. They instilled in us the importance of following the commands and working as a team.
Now we are ready to conquer 24 rapids!
White Water Rafting in Cagayan de Oro City
When we were in the boat, we practiced paddling and heeding to the commands of our guide. Satisfied with how we performed, he deemed us ready to take our first rapid. On we go!
The experience riding my first rapid was wonderful – I felt moving with the river! I was wearing this amazed and proud face as we passed the first one without any incident.
Follow the commands: Secure your feet. Paddle. Paddle hard. Relax.
Here is even a trailer for my white water rafting experience!
We were having so much fun! The team was able to do some awesome stunts while passing the rapids like standing while holding on to each other, suddenly sitting on the raft, and paddling on opposite directions to give us a twist (my favorite).
There were some shallow rapids, which our guide said are more dangerous as they are too rocky. You wouldn’t want to fall there.
There are areas between rapids where the water is relatively calm, so what would be the best possible thing to do? Jump from the boat and swim! Or more likely, float. It is easy to float and be moved by the river’s current. The water was refreshingly cool and clean. As I lay on my back and let the water moved me, I felt one with the river!
Aside from swimming, we also enjoyed taking in the beautiful scenery of both Bukidnon and Cagayan de Oro. There were green meadows, rich vegetation, and amazing canyons and caves along the way.
While enjoying the ride in one of the white water rapids, we passed this humongous rock protruding the surface. Our raft tilted to one side and I felt everything like moved so slow. I helplessly watched two of my teammates fell off the boat and went in the water. Thankfully, they immediately grabbed the rope handles surrounding the raft and the water immediately calmed afterwards. We were going to help them up when our guide said that we could all jump then as a long stretch of calm water was before us.
Negotiating these wild rapids were so fun, but really required lots of teamwork. Soon, we started to get hungry. Good thing I brought my Oreo cookies! It helped us get motivated and energized to push through. We managed to survive the last four rapids chanting “Cheeseburger” and talking about what to eat for lunch. I was even imagining tasty grilled meat at the end of the river.
After paddling, swimming, laughing and screaming for almost four hours, we arrived at the end of our advanced rafting course journey. We all had the time of our lives! It was a one-of-a-kind experience that everyone should definitely try.
- Get a reservation only from recommended service providers. I have heard good reviews from Kagay, so this is the one I used. However, there are also Great White Rafting and other providers.
- Wear appropriate outfit for rafting. Cotton is definitely a no-no. Leave your jewelry in your hotel.
- It is up to you if you want to go barefooted, but if not, wear a pair of aqua shoes or those slippers with straps. In my experience, it is easier to lock and secure your feet in the raft with bare feet.
- Waterproof your things. Dry bags are my best friend! For your other gadgets, you may leave them in your hotel, the tour office, or at your jeepney.
- Bring water and food. Trust me, all the excitement, paddling, swimming, and screaming will surely make you hungry. During breaks or when you are in the calm waters, munch on your food.
- Don’t forget to wear and reapply sunscreen. I forgot to put some in my face and got burned!
- With Kagay, you can get a copy of your photos and videos in a CD for PHP 500 and PHP 700 with a USB. This is how I got these awesome shots! Kagay has a professional photographer kayaking his way ahead of the rafters to take photos of the action-packed adventure.
White water rafting in Cagayan de Oro City is definitely one for the books. I am really glad that I still pushed through this trip even though a friend balked on me at the last minute. Traveling solo and experiencing loads of fun and adventure with new people are rewards for leaving my comfort zone and trying something new. Surviving the exhilarating , action-packed and extreme ride over 24 rapids is a perfect highlight for this month. Cheers to my awesome end of January 2017!