Sunday, October 6, 2013

White Water Rafting in Cagayan De Oro


1. What is white water rafting?

White water rafting is paddling on a raft through a river's rapids. There are different type of rapids that one can ride on. They range from Class I rapids which are the easiest to ride (very few waves or obstructions), Class II or III rapids which are somewhat more challenging (medium-sized waves, some maneuvering required to steer away from rocks), to Class IV rapids which are quite difficult to navigate (fast currents, large, powerful waves and narrow passages).



The Cagayan de Oro river is undoubtedly the most popular place for white water rafting, and here you can choose what type or river course you'd want to ride on.


2. Which one is the best white water rafting company in Cagayan de Oro?

According to Milo Dahilan, who is an accredited DOT (Department of Tourism) guide, the best White Water Rafting company in Cagayan De Oro is Bugsay Rafting. 

All of Bugsay's equipment are top-of-the-line and ordered from abroad. Their raft, in fact, have been especially customized for them, in their signature sky-blue color.

Bugsay's river guides were taught by expert foreign river rafters, and their training requires them to navigate -- all by themselves -- the "Extreme" river route. 




This would explain the scars that I saw on their arms. This alarmed me at first, but then they explained that the route we were taking was the Beginners trail -- and that an 80-year old couple had gone on it, and came out fine.

3. What are the different river courses offered by the Bugsay Rafting Company?





The package includes a pick-up from the hotel 



We took the Beginner's course which is 3-hours, with a boodle lunch at the half-way point. You'd think that three-hours is way too long to be floating down a river, battling rapids. But you know what they say, time really does fly when you're having fun. 


Besides, there are long stretches of just enjoying the beautiful scenery. Twice, our boat glided towards fresh spring water spilling on the side of the mountain, and there took a refreshing shower.  There are times too, when you can jump off the raft and float along the river. 


4. What should I wear?

Regular shirts are fine, but a rashguard is recommended. I for one, wore a Nike dry-fit shirt and that worked out fine. Strapped sandals or aqua shoes are recommended, but if you're riding the Beginner's route, a pair of flip-flops should be okay.







There's a small shack selling arm rashguards at the starting point in Sitio Aura, Barangay Mambuaya. They cost Php 50-100 for a pair,

5. What should I bring?

Bring sunblock, but of course put some on in advance. Bring a towel if you want to dry off, but the jeepney ride back to your hotel should dry you out considerably.

Cameras can be placed inside the dry pack provided by the guides -- but they are no use if the boat flips over. In the Beginner's trail there's no flipping involved so our cameras were safe.

6. What should I expect?


Our guide began his briefing with the question "Sino dito 'di marunong lumangoy?" ("Who here doesn't know how to swim?"). 

When two in our group raised their hands, the guide grinned and said "Good luck sa inyo ha?" ("Well good luck to the both of you!")

Of course he was kidding. Everybody had life vests on, and you will float even if you don't want to. 


We were also taught how to hold the paddle, how to paddle, what to do in case someone (or you yourself) falls out of the boat, and other life and death matters. Then he instructed us to just enjoy ourselves. 

Afterwards, he divided us into two groups (around five to six people each). With our helmets and life vests on, and paddles in hand, we got on the raft.

At first, we floated slowly down the Cagayan de Oro. Whenever our guide Arman commanded us to "Paddle! One, two, three!" we obeyed instantly. 




Soon the first rapid was upon us, and as the boat tilted and swayed, there was much splashing of water and shrieks of laughter.  After the excitement died down, we tipped our paddles up in a high five that marked the successful conquering of a rapid.





The thing about white water rafting is that if it's your first time, the natural fear would be that every rapid that you cross might flip your boat over or smash you against the rocks. But this was the beginner's trail and we had very skilled boat guides with us. There was nothing to fear, and soon we were eagerly looking forward  to the next rapids.

At the half-way point of our three-hour river ride, we stopped for a boodle lunch set up by our guides. They flipped a boat over, and  there arranged adobo, liempo (grilled pork belly), shrimp, grilled bangus (milk fish), lots of rice and pineapples.





The food bloggers in our group hastily took photos of our feast. Later on, the Canadian man who had joined our group admitted to us that he had watched this process with amusement, and thought to himself, "Have these people never seen food before?"





All in all, we rode  14 rapids -- some small, some big, some -- but all of them invigorating. In between these there was the stunning scenery of the rocky river walls and lush vegetation plus the wide open space ahead of us, with its serene mountain views. At certain parts where the water was calm, our guide urged us to jump off the boat and enjoy floating down the ice cold river.







Tips:


-Hold the paddles such that they are out of the boat and near the water. Have a good grip on them too, keeping the T-grip of the paddle covered by your hand the whole time.


-When you jump out of the boat to float on the river during those times the guide says you can, keep your mouth closed. You will first plunge into the water before you life vest pulls you up. One of the members in our group swallowed quite a bit of water because she had not been expecting this.

7. When is the best time to go?

From January to June, the ride is quite hot and the water is low, making the maneuvering a bit more technical. During the rainy months of July to December, the water is higher and the rapids are more challenging.




When we went in September, the temperature was quite hot, and so our guide would periodically dump water on us to  help us cool down. 

Towards the end of our trip, there was a bit of a rainshower which made the ride a bit chilly.

Also, the water was brown during this time (but clean, since this was just soil from the mountain that had been washed down), and it was quite cold.

                                      
8. What about taking photos/videos?

If you have an underwater/waterproof camera then by all means, bring it. But you can probably only take photos during the calm parts of the river. 




In any case, one of the river guide rides on a kayak and positions himself at the various points of interest down the river trail, and he documents your entire white water rafting experience. You can have the CD of your adventure for an extra fee.











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