White Water Rafting at the Cagayan de Oro River

In the City of Golden Friendship, who best to travel with than your best buds?

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Being in the adventure capital of the Philippines, our main agenda in Cagayan de Oro is the White Water Rafting. I’ve been to CDO three times and I have conquered the rapids each time—oh, it never gets old!

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It’s always a different story whenever I ride the rapids.

It was a bright sunny day the first time I tried it with my best friends, Karla and Toyang, in 2011.

While waiting for our pick up, Toyang announced, “Girls, I booked the ADVANCED level!” —Wait, what? We were about to take on the 16 km river stretch with 21 class III-IV rapids with zero experience! Is it safe? Ha! It’s going to be fun! —that did not quite answer the question.

We were picked up in the city proper by the rafting company’s jeepney with inflatable rafts tied on the roof. 30-40 minutes later, we were dropped off the starting point.

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There’s a minimum of 5 pax per raft and fortunately, a couple joined in our raft—all set and ready to go!

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But we weren’t ready.

We forgot one requirement for this ride—SUNBLOCK. With the scorching high noon sun, we already knew our fate.

The white water rafting ride takes about 4 hours to complete in the advanced level and prior to the ride, we were given our life vests, helmets, and paddles and then briefed about the safety precautions and how to manoeuvre the raft.

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Each raft has a trained and certified rafting guide so if you’re worried about safety, honestly, there’s never an assurance but you can definitely exhale a little bit at least!

It is said that the rapids are tamer on a sunny day and wilder during rainy season. I thought it was quite extreme nonetheless to have your raft turn like a teacup ride and slide over rocks as huge as a cow then SPLASH! Repeat that 3 more times—and that’s just one rapid.

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There are calm waters in between rapids and you can jump in certain parts of the river for a refreshing swim! We even climbed a huge rock and did a mini “cliff dive”.

The highlights of the ride go beyond the rapids. Look around, you’re completely wrapped around nature’s arms with trees, mountains, rock formations, and wild animals as your main view.

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Fun Fact!

The river serves as a natural boundary to Cagayan de Oro (left side) and Bukidnon (right side).

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We were taken to a snake wall—a white wall on the cliff’s side, known to be the home of different kinds of snakes. I wouldn’t want one falling on our raft but that wall was pretty cool to see!

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We finished the adventure with perfectly roasted skin, as expected.

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Two years later, we found ourselves riding the rapids again and this time, the rain poured like mad!

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It was the same course and the same level but only with another set of friends and this time, the whole raft was ours.

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Of course we were ready with sunblock this time—only it was the wrong time. We probably needed a raincoat more because the rain was very thick and heavy that every drop felt like a flick on the skin. I guess you can say our screams were a mix of ouches and aaahs!

A rainy river is also a brown river—Brown Water Rafting, ha! The mud-stained water didn’t look very inviting at all but that didn’t stop us from still jumping in.

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And yes! The rapids were more intense indeed. My friend fell off the raft during the rapid and she slid under our raft, sandwiched between the boat and the rocks. Thank God our boatman was on high alert and saved her. She got back on the boat unharmed and everyone’s stress level went back to normal.

A lot of people have had accidents or have died in this ride. As fun as it sounds, it is also a very risky ride and you have to be cautious the whole time. Follow every single safety precaution taught and most importantly, listen to your boatman’s instructions. He will try to keep you safe as much as possible but you need to cooperate.

Last March 2015, we rode the rapids for the third time and it was a very different experience and honestly, a bit of a letdown.

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Toyang booked the EXPERT level, with 23 rapids, and the rafting company sent us to the Advance 2 level starting point because of time issues (they were late)—OK! Well, it should still be fun anyway!

I noticed that we were dropped off on a different starting point and when I asked, our boatman said that the whole route changed because of the unfortunate event of the typhoon Sendong.

The whole ride also got cut down from 4 hours to 2 hours for the same price.

We weren’t brought to the snake wall anymore since they spotted a rattle snake a few hours back so it wasn’t safe to float on that side of the river.

This time, we brought sunblock BUT we forgot to use it (facepalm!). Thankfully, the weather was perfect that we could do without it—oh, the skincare experts will reprimand me for this!

Despite the letdowns of this particular ride, the rapids were still as fun as I remember it to be and having a change of route meant having a change of scenery and nature certainly did not disappoint! 

Then again, whatever your experience is, what makes it special are the people who you spend it with.

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After riding the White Water Rapids, we always head to Toyang’s mountaintop chalet to relax and enjoy the sunset.

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It’s the perfect adventure ender—to watch the mountains and the river with a fresh coconut in hand and with the sky changing color, painting everything in different hues.

The best part of it all is having to share the whole experience with your best buds.

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HERE ARE WHITE WATER RAFTING COMPANIES YOU CAN CONTACT:

KAGAY RAFTING

Contact: (088) 852 1021

Email: dankaamino@yahoo.com

Trip Schedule: 7:30 am and 12:30 noon

RAFTING ADVENTURE PHILIPPINES

Contact: (088) 857 1270

Email: riverguide95@raftingadventurephilippines.com

Trip Schedule: 8:00 am and 12:00 noon

GREAT WHITE WATER TOURS

Contact: (088) 851 7856

Email: cdoraftingandzipline@gmail.com

COURSES AND RATES:

BASIC

Php 700 (~$15.75) w/o meals and Php 900 (~$20.25) with meals

14 rapids, Class I – II

5 pax minimum

ADVANCED

Php 1000 (~$22.50) w/o meals and Php 1200 (~$27) with meals

21 rapids, Class III – IV

5 pax minimum

EXTREME

Php 2,000 (~$45)

18 rapids, Class IV – V

6 pax minimum

TIPS:

SUNBLOCK. Please.

Make sure you have enough friends to fill the raft or try to meet new friends. Some companies make you pay extra for every empty slot.

First timer? Skip the beginner course and start with advanced. The main difference really is the number of rapids that you will take on. Wouldn’t you want a longer and more fun ride?

Best months to go are July-January because of the higher water level caused by rain–the rapids are more fun. If you can’t go on those months, not a problem! They’re open all-year round.

– You can bring your waterproof camera but there’s also a professional photographer following you on a kayak and you can purchase and get the photos and/or videos at the company’s office.

Bring drinking water.

– If you want to take your CDO adventure a notch higher, you can also avail of the Dahilayan Adventure Park’s package where you can ride both the water and the heights.

Want to know more about Dahilayan Adventure Park in Bukidnon? Click here. It’s definitely something you shouldn’t miss while you’re in CDO!