Summer officially started in the Philippines just a couple of days ago. Or, at least, that’s what has been declared by the country’s weather bureau. But with how the climate and weather have been unpredictable lately (*insert Jaws theme here* climate change, anyone?) that pronouncement is irrelevant. See, when it gets real hot and warm, it’s summer. When it pours in the afternoon, the rainy days are here. But don’t let that burst your bubble. Continue to make fun plans. And go wild. Like how we did on this “time out of time” during our Davao visit not too long ago.
I have absolutely nothing about taking guided tours, or doing tourist-y activities with guides at the helm, especially when there is truly a need for it. After all, you can only DIY so much.
But there is nothing worse than having a guide who makes it clear that he is only doing this for your money, or because you paid him/her. Otherwise, s/he won’t even give you the time of day.
For me, personally, the best guide is one who clearly loves and enjoys what s/he is doing, and will not make you feel as if s/he is going through the motions and actually obligated, or even forced, to help you along. By the end of the tour/activity, you’d forget all about the fact that you paid for the experience, because it just felt like you spent time with friends.
We had a free day during our trip to Davao, and even prior to the trip, we looked up ways to spend that time, and our searches online led us to Davao Wildwater Adventure.
We made all the arrangements over the phone and, on the day itself, headed all excited and giddy to their offices, which was located at the vicinity Davao Crocodile Park. There, we registered, sat down for some film viewing and orientation, stored our stuff, and got our gear.
By the way, this is also where we met our raft guides. Our boat had Sir “Boyong” as the raft guide. More on that later.
There were two other groups on that day’s schedule, families on a bonding trip from somewhere in the greater Manila area, if I remember correctly. After the briefing, we got on the vehicles that will shuttle us from the Crocodile Park to the Rafting Area in Tamugan.
And so we begin…
It takes about an hour to get to the jump-off point, or “Put In area” as they called it. There we had another last-minute briefing, got suited up, and yes, naturally, took photos.
By the way, a disclaimer: all photos here are taken by the guys-on-kayak of Davao Wildwater Adventure (it’s part of the package you’ll pay for).
We are a group of 8, and a single raft can only take 7 grownups. Also, they have a policy of putting in a minimum of 5 people per raft, but in our case, they just divided us into two boats, so 4 per boat.
Out of the 8 of us, only Peds and I had prior experience in white water rafting (I talked about that previously in this CDO post), but nerves were still aplenty, as our companions had an attack of the heebiee jeebies.
Major propz to Davao Wildwater Adventure for their briefing. Before we started, they showed a demo on what to do if someone goes overboard while rafting, making it clear that you’ll be adapting a “buddy system” with another paddler, and that you’ll be helping each other out.
Unfortunately for me, that buddy was Pedz, who was significantly longer than me. Which meant that on those couple of times he fell into the water and I had to heave and yank him back up on the boat… well, let’s just say it wasn’t easy. Haha!
There will only be one raft guide with you on the boat, and he’ll be too busy steering and maneuvering it, so you’d have to look out for each other and not make him your lifeguard. XDD
From that point, it finally sank in that these guys are serious about making us experience the whole deal. And that hyped us even more.\
Meet Sir Boyong, everyone. Or just “Boyong”. Quite possibly the craziest adventure guide, BAR NONE, that we ever had.
But don’t get me wrong. It’s the good type of crazy. The great type. The best type.
After some on-the-water practice of pulling up companions from the water into the boat, we finally pushed off at a few minutes past 11 am.
It felt strange being in a raft with only 5 people in it. In my other couple of white water rafting experiences, there were always more than 4 people in the raft, so there was a bit of “comfort” to be had from the proximity with other paddlers.
Somehow, this time, it felt like the raft was too big. And they made us sit on the sides of the raft, and not on the actual seats. Presumably to allow us to paddle more effectively if we leaned a bit closer outward.
It took a bit of getting used to, but we had a fun raft guide to guide us along. Or egg us and nag at us endlessly, depending on how you look at it, haha!
But we can give as good as we get, because early on during the wild ride, a bickering fest began in our boat. After all, we have had good training from our bosses and supervisors at work.
I don’t know why I never really heard a lot about Davao River being an excellent place for white water rafting. Usually, I hear about Cagayan de Oro River, but not too much about this one. Maybe I wasn’t looking into the right places, or I just didn’t look too hard?
Anyways, Davao River is a beauty. Yes, even the rapids. Especially the rapids.
One Wild Ride…
There were no counting of rapids or drops made. It just seemed like there is always one at every bend of the river. And the raft guides make it a point to bring us right into the middle of those rapids or eddies.
At several points with calmer waters, however, we are made to jump into the water and just frolic around, then go heave-ho back up into the raft again in time for another chasing-and-bobbing-up rapids sesh.
And can we talk about the guides for a minute?
They’re nuts. Certifiable and almost gung-ho nuts. It was clear from the get-go that they are buddies, and they endlessly tease one another, pitting their boat against each other head on.
Nothing too dangerous, though, don’t worry. It is also clear that these guys know their stuff, and they have one priority: to make sure you have fun mixed in with all that thrill.
By the way there were two guys on kayaks with us, and I hate how they make it look so effortless to just glide in and out rapids and drops without seemingly breaking a sweat. They’re the advanced party, it seems, and one takes videos while the other takes still photos.
At one point, they even allowed some of us to get into the kayak with them. Which was a whole different experience, because my only times on a kayak were on calm waters. And if I’m the one holding the oar, that’s how I’d prefer it, thank you very much.
In this case, though, I wasn’t the one holding it, so I could focus on hanging on for dear life as the staff behind me rushed us headlong into the rapids.
Boyong seemed to have this determination to throw at least one of us into the water. His bickering with Marshee even reached the point where he tried to just push her into the water with his hand. All in great fun, though. Our boat was never bereft of laughter, thanks to his antics and his witticisms.
After more than an hour and a half of rowing, we stopped by a clearing to have our lunch, which were packed by DWC. It’s also included in the package. When making the arrangements beforehand, you can inform them about any diet limitations you may have, so they can prepare your meal accordingly.
Say hi to our raft guides. A fun and quite rowdy bunch, if you ask me.
In my short chat with Cameraman-on-Kayak (gaaaah, I forgot his name~!!) when he let me ride with him, he said that being a raft guide is more a hobby for most of them. They actually have other jobs and they only take to the water when there are reservations, and mostly in the weekends.
He and several others (including Boyong) are actually part of Davao City’s Rescue 911 initiative, so they’re basically like us, working in their own local government unit.
You don’t get to experience white water rafting unless you are put in the middle of rushing waters. If that’s what you prefer, stick to boating at the Burnham Lake instead.
Our raft guides made sure to let us get the full experience, and I can only marvel at how they use their entire bodies to control the raft. To be honest, us paddlers are not really doing much. It is them who are running the show. Or the raft.
Oh, and Pedz always had this “wish” to experience falling into the water. Well, on this one, he finally got his wish, and it was even caught on video.
I just felt the raft spin around as we neared a minor drop, and I think the spin was intentional by the raft guide, so that the boat will fall backward. Well, that did happen, and so did we.
All of a sudden, I was thrown on my back, on the other side of the boat…. where Pedz used to be.
And Pedz…. was in the water, being carried down into the river by the strong current.
We knew we shouldn’t laugh, but after the momentary panic at the realization that he fell into the water, his paddle “swimming” way ahead of him, the fits of giggles and laughter just came on.
At some points I was worried for the state of the raft. The way we were going at it, hitting and scraping against the rocks, I was afraid the floor of the raft would burst open or something. But Boyong wasn’t worried, so I supposed we shouldn’t worry, too.
I suggest that you also pay attention to the scenery, because it is so serene and beautiful. In fact, the only disturbance in this tableau are the rapids. And of course the sound of paddlers squealing.
The entire run last for 4 hours, tops. It was such a great day, the weather cooperated and we were just so thankful for that. It did rain later on, but it was when we were already back at the Park and were having our shower before heading back downtown to our accommodations.
There was never a dull moment in this experience, and a huuuuuge part of that is definitely owed to the DWC crew, the guys who clearly loved what they were doing and were determined to get us to love it too.
Well, guess what? They succeeded, and this’ll definitely be one of my most memorable and best water adventures so far.
Also a major thanks to Boyong for being awesome. To this day, my group still remembers his name, when we could not remember the names of other guides that we had in our several similar adventures.
How cute is this? He even took a selfie, and it was included in the two CDs of photos and videos given to us. XDD Thanks for these captures, guys. You both are the best!
If you’re looking to make great and thrilling memories when in Davao City, you should definitely try this. Allot an entire day for it, you won’t regret it.
For more information on their package, visit their Facebook Page. They’re so easy to talk to it was no hardship at all making arrangements with them.
If you wanna go wild, do it with those who make “wild” their serious bizness. Just sayin’.