During our research of what to see and do in the Philippines, we spoke with our friends Liz and Nate who had just been there, and they mentioned “canyoning” in Moalboal as one of the highlights. We had not heard of this thrilling activity prior to visiting Southeast Asia, but after hearing about their adventures and seeing one GoPro video online, it moved way up my list. Whitney is of course up for just about anything, so Moalboal became our next stop.
So after swimming with the enormous whale sharks in Donsol, we packed our bags for the short flight to Cebu City. We arrived in the overcrowded Cebu City late in the evening and the real adventure began.
Whitney grabbed a quick bite to go from a food vendor at the airport while I waited in the long slow taxi line nearby. Soon it was our turn and we loaded into the taxi heading over to the bus station hoping we didn’t miss the last bus out of town. Arriving at the station, we felt completely lost and ended up wandering through the lot anxiously asking anyone who might understand us which bus to catch. We finally found our ride and were thankfully able to catch the very last bus of the night heading in the right direction. However, since it was the last one of the night and a “local bus,” we found the bus driver squeezing in as many people as possible. Lucky to simply make the bus, we gladly piled our backpacks into the growing stack in the aisle then climbed over the baggage and into a couple tiny bus seats near the front. From there we were off on our slow trip across the island of Cebu stopping every so often for the locals heading home.
Eventually though, we made it to the more isolated town of Moalboal and checked into our hotel, Pescadores Seaview Suites.
The next morning, we got up early and made our way over to a small adventure desk and got our names on the list for a canyoning trip later that morning.
After just long enough to have a quick breakfast and coffee, we met our canyoning group and boarded our van heading over to the Kawasan River Canyon. Once we arrived at our destination, we got a quick intro into canyoning which was mostly a safety briefing. Then we secured our lifejackets and helmets and started our hike.
We soon set off down a muddy trail for about 10 minutes or so until the trail led directly into the river. Flanked by the steep canyon cliffs our trail was now the Kawason River. Over small rapids and ledges, leaping from cliffs when necessary we spent the next few hours traveling downstream. The best way to describe the adventure is with the photos so here goes (Eventually I’ll get my own GoPro footage edited, until then we’ve got some pictures):
We finished our journey at the picturesque Kawason Falls. Here, crowds line the edges, indulging in food and drinks with a few tourists taking the log rafts across the gorgeous waterpool for the perfect pictures. We simply took a few of our own pictures and headed all the way downstream to the ocean shore for a waterside barbeque. It was such a great adventure that we will certainly keep canyoning on our list for future adventures.
The next day, Whitney planned out at visit to Osmena Peak for one of the most beautiful views on the island. We rented a scooter from a local (I think it was like $5 a day) and set off on the long drive. Beforehand, I had sort of narrowed down the directions using google maps to be sure we set off in the right direction. Heading south from Moalboal, I made a left turn on a small road heading up the ridge. As we passed by many homes, the locals looked as confused as we were for being there. Next thing I knew, the road turned to gravel and rocks. Whitney and I pushed along for as long as we could until the gravel became more and more unsteady until I nearly lost control of the scooter. Nauseous from the bumpy road, we agreed to turn around and try another route the following day.
Having spent only the first half of the day “attempting” to reach Osmena Peak, I was still looking for something to do. While Whitney nursed a little motion sickness from the bumpy gravel road resting by the pool, I took the opportunity to strap on the hotel’s free snorkel gear and headed off shore right behind our hotel. It was a little tricky at first getting out past the first 40 meters of very shallow rocky and sea urchin covered waters, but eventually the reef began to drop off to deeper waters. Having no particular expectations for snorkeling I was quite surprised at all I could see and here are the pictures to prove it. Of course, once I got back to shore out of breath from gingerly tiptoeing between the same sea urchins near the shallow water, I talked Whitney into joining me snorkeling and just about the time we got to the deeper water, the tide was coming in with a wave of tiny stinging jellyfish. This cut the snorkeling short and brought an end to the days activities. It was showers, dinner, and bed after that.
The next day, we attempted Round 2 of Osmena Peak. This time, we reviewed the more proven route to the peak and were on paved roads all the way; the only problem was that for a large part of the trip it was only one lane with areas of gravel on either side. I have to tell you, after having nearly lost control on the gravel on the prior trip I was already on edge. Driving a scooter with one person is hard enough, but with your loved one on the back, the fear is quite amped up.
This all came to a head when we were coming around a blind curve on the windy mountain road as I saw a small dump truck heading straight for me. Instinctively I veered to the right which happened to be on some rough rocky edge of the road. After a couple bounces on the rocks, the scooter slid out from us and we both flew forward and into a concrete drainage ditch on the roadside.
It was almost enough to knock the breath out of me when I landed flat on my stomach in the ditch. At the same time, Whitney landed exactly on top of me. Truthfully, I was happy to cushion her fall.
A lovely Filipino family rushed out from their home to see that we were ok…it was actually only the 5 children and they simply stared at us as we gathered ourselves. I brushed off the dirt and debris, while Whitney was spotless (thank God). Using a cloth from our bag I reattached the muffler, pried the bent pedals back into place, cranked it back up and continued on gripping the handles as we barely went over 10miles an hour for the remainder of the trip.
Finally, we arrived at the parking lot for the peak. A young boy met us at our bike and offered to watch over it. Still in shock after our brush with death, I just nodded and headed up the trail. It was about a 20minute hike to the top and we were some of the very few, if not the only, international tourists visiting that day. It was definitely a domestic tourist destination and once at the top we could see why. Along the way, Whitney consoled me long enough that I eventually felt relaxed enough to enjoy the gorgeous views from the top of Osmena Peak. Looking out across in all directions, it was well worth the frightening drive up.
We tipped our little “bike watcher” and climbed back on to slowly make our 2hr drive back to Moalboal accident free for our final night in town.
Moalboal has a handful of other things to do such as diving, snorkeling, and a few beaches to see, but most of these activities can’t really compete with other places in the Phillipines. We did however love the canyoning and the top of Osmena Peak made for some incredible views. It seems like all the canyoning groups are similar, so you can’t really go wrong with any of them. As for the peak, just make sure you’re on the right road and of course very comfortable with the narrow mountain roads if you’re making this trip on a scooter!
For now, it’s back on a local bus for our trip to Oslob for a much needed beach day on Sumilon Island.