One of the things I was most excited to do in the Philippines was canyoneering.
I’d read tons of blog posts about the gorgeous blue water of Baidan, the magnificent cliffsides, and the adrenaline-filled adventure jumping from pool to pool and off rocky cliffs into the waters below. It was one of my top to-dos for Moalboal, Cebu, and I even called off visiting the thresher sharks in Malapascua or Siquijor Island in order to fit it into my itinerary.
But the blog posts I’ve read don’t give an accurate reflection of what the day is like.
Yes, they say you’ll be tired – and yes, they tell you (accurately!) how beautiful it is. But what they don’t tell you is just how much of the day is spent walking.
Read on to get the real picture of what canyoneering is like…
I started the day pretty early in Moalboal. My hotel had a connection to Planet Action Adventure, an adventure sports tour company, and in the interests of time (and tiredness!) I booked with them as the easiest option. They were perfectly fine as a company – I’ve read that the tour is prescribed so there isn’t a lot of variation between companies. Planet Action Adventure charged 2200 pesos, which seemed about average (as far as I understand, prices have recently gone up for canyoneering at Baidan given the popularity of Kawasan Falls, the Insta-famous waterfall at the end). This included transport, guides, and dinner (and beer!) at the end.
We gathered as a group at around 9AM, then began the very long drive to Baidan. I was always under the impression that Baidan was close to Moalboal, but it was about an hour and a half away in a jeepney. Riding in a jeepney is an essential Philippines experience – but they aren’t comfy! There was a stop about half an hour in for people to get a drink or go to the loo, but otherwise we cracked on to Baidan.
We arrived at mid-morning, were given another chance to go to the loo and had a very brief safety briefing, and were given our lifejackets and helmets, before setting off on the forty minute hike to Baidan itself.
The hike was very beautiful, but by this time we’d been travelling for about two and half hours, so we were all excited to actually crack on with the adventure.
People are right when they say Baidan is packed.
There were tons of other tour groups when we arrived at the rocky entrance to Baidan. The trail basically turns into a very steep downwards hill through the jungle, before you get a view of the absolutely stunning blue water below.
We had to wait about twenty minutes in a queue to get in – and then the action started. You kick off straight away with a ton of slips, slides and backward rolls through the water. It’s absolutely freezing, but by now we were fairly sweaty and so welcomed the cold!
Top tip – make sure you have water shoes!
A couple of people had sandals, but I highly recommend getting water shoes. I was given these Helly Hansen Watermoc shoes* by a relative for Christmas, and they are honestly one of the best gifts I’ve ever been given! They were invaluable everywhere I went in the Philippines, and this was their first proper outing and they did themselves proud. If you’re visiting the Philippines, you’ll almost certainly have to rent a pair at some point – so you might as well get some in advance to save being ripped off.
The first jump is ostensibly a small one of 3m, but it feels HUGE
I was so frightened, but managed to get through it. The first half an hour of the experience is packed full of rushes, swimming through caverns and clambering over rocks.
After that, it slows down considerably.
The majority of the four-or-so hour day is walking – and walking very fast
The landscape is absolutely stunning, but you don’t have any time to appreciate it. There are SO many people, you are being hustled along at serious pace, and so your main concern is making sure you don’t fall over in the slippy mud or lose your group (which I did at one point, as everything is moving unbelievably quickly. When I was rounded up into another group, the guide of that group helped me find my own, and was nice but obviously a bit frustrated).
I’d seriously considered bringing along my phone as I’d heard about just how stunning Baidan is, and I wanted to take photos – but I wouldn’t have been able to use it (and it almost certainly would have been smashed or lost!) as there just isn’t any time to take photos. When researching Baidan, all the blog posts I read apologies for blurry photos and I was determined to get some good shots. But it is almost impossible! All the photos in this post are the few I took that aren’t blurry, despite my efforts, as I had to take them as we were walking along.
One of the gentlemen in my group even commented that he hadn’t expected how much walking there would be. When you read the blog posts, you think it’ll be an action-packed day of swimming and jumping through canyons, seeing various waterfalls and experiencing the beautiful surroundings.
Most of your time is spent walking through trees or over valley beds, very fast, concentrating on not falling over and hurting yourself (I managed to get a gash on my knee which has scarred, and whiplash – though that’s for later…).
As I say, the surroundings are STUNNING. Beautiful blue water and gorgeous trees and rock formations, unbelievable filtered light and the peace of nature. But you really just do not have the time nor mental space to appreciate it properly.
But what about the actual jumping off canyons?
The jumps were fun – but they hurt a lot
My new soapbox is how lifejackets just aren’t designed for women. A lot of the girls I spoke to – particularly those, like myself, who are “top heavy” (ahem), found the jumps incredibly painful. When you land with a crack in the water, the lifejacket – and its hard inner foam, slams straight into your chest and that is super painful.
Even the men, who had less ‘chest’ problems, often complained of sore behinds as they landed with a smack into the water. You have to really know the technique of how to jump – and obviously, you’re not taught this and you’re unlikely to know, so at some point it will probably hurt.
You don’t have to do any of the jumps. In the end, I only chickened out of the last one – the 12m, because the 10m, although I’m so pleased I did it, was just unbelievably painful. Keep an eye out for my vlog of the experience – it’s hilarious watching the footage, as I don’t start screaming in fear ’til halfway down, when I decide, ‘Oh no, this is actually terrifying, why am I doing this!?’
My main fear was hitting submerged rocks in the water. There are a lot of them, and you’ll likely trip over one or two on your way. The guides are very careful to point them out when you’re doing the jumps, telling you exactly where to aim for, but that was really what scared me the most.
In the end, I’m glad I did it – but I wouldn’t do it again
One of the girls in my group summed it up really nicely when she turned to me and said, ‘I just don’t know whether or not I’m enjoying this?’
That basically sums it up. It’s not a sarcastic comment or rhetorical question – a lot of us came away honestly wondering whether or not we’d had a good time. The adrenaline is pumping, the water is so beautiful – and towards the end, there’s a stunning rope swing into a pool which was, honestly, lots of fun (but still a bit frightening!) and the beautiful Kawasan Falls at the end (though, as everyone says, it’s jam-packed with people, food stalls and plastic chairs so the view isn’t as picturesque as it is on Insta).
It was such a different experience, and I am honestly pleased I did it. I’m so proud of myself for doing the jumps – one of my Travel Goals for this year was to push myself out of my comfort zone, and this definitely did that.
But I wouldn’t do it again. If I was doing this itinerary again, I’d get a trike to a nearby beach, or perhaps go diving. Perhaps if there was either less walking, or a chance to enjoy the walk, I’d think differently. But as it was, it was mainly a day of very fast hustling over slippy mud with the occasional jump into a pool which, although adrenaline-filled, wasn’t something I can honestly say was “enjoyable”.
Of course – your mileage may vary! If you’ve canyoneered before and loved it, and have that knowledge going in, you might love this. The landscape was incredible! But I had a different picture in my mind from the action-packed reviews I’d read beforehand. The day is a long, slow one, with a ton of waiting to get to various jumps or through passes. And the landscape I wanted so much to drink in was hustled past me in a flash. Even at the end, I was chastised for stopping to take a single picture of Kawasan Falls, as we had to move on.
Have you canyoneered before? Have you been to Baidan?
Let me know your thoughts!
Don’t forget to Pin the post for later!
* Items marked with an asterisk in this post are affiliate links. If you purchase a product through this link, I will make a small commission – at no extra cost to you! – which helps with the running costs of this blog.