Exploring the hidden beauty of Matutinao River Canyons

  • Monday, July 11, 2016

Right at this very moment, I am still marveling at our photos in canyoneering in Badian, hardly believing I’ve been there and made it! Canyoneering is an extreme outdoor activity which requires a great deal of trekking, climbing, diving and swimming in order to successfully traverse a canyon. At first, I have this impression that canyoneering is just for the tough guys (which I wanted to be! Lol ), but after this trip I realized I’m tougher than I think I am.  Exploring these river canyons was truly an experience I will never forget in my lifetime.

We started our very early as we planned to have a day trip in Kawasan falls on the next town before leaving for Oslob. After a quick breakfast, we rode a tricyle going to the highway to catch a bus going to Badian. The fare is 25 PHP for each person from Panagsama beach to the highway which was about 4 kms distance.

Going to Badian was about 13 kms from the Moalboal town proper and the fare is 20 PHP for a non-aircon bus. On our way to the highway, our tricycle driver suggested we try canyoneering instead of just going to the waterfalls as shown on Drew Arellano’s travel show. Apparently, he has a friend who offers canyoneering activity in Badian. During my research for this trip, I have encountered articles about canyoneering in Matutinao river for several times and seeing those gorgeous photos of the adventure, I knew it should be in my bucket list! But after reading through it, the activity happens to require several number of participants to cut cost. The tour company Planet Action offers canyoneering in Matutinao river, but it’s a bit pricey for 2500 PHP (60 USD) per person for a minimum of 8 participants. Since there are only four of us, I decided to forgo this activity and just promised myself to do another trip to the south intended for this activity alone.  But our driver gave us an offer, so irresistible that even if it was not included in our budget we didn’t have any second thoughts and immediately said yes to it. He then informed his friend in Badian and gave us instructions where to meet our guides. When we arrived at the highway, we decided to hire a tricycle to bring us to Badian instead of waiting for the next bus so that we can start the activity early. We paid 50 PHP each for the 30 minutes tricycle ride from Moalboal town to the entrance of Kawasan falls in Badian where our guides Marvin and Wilson are waiting for us. 

Marvin is the head guide and he has been a guide for more than 10 years. He is also a “tanod” in the barangay that gave us more peace of mind that we are in good hands. The first thing he did was to make us choose what route we wanted to take. There are two ways to go about canyoneering in Matutinao river, you can either do it upstream which traverses Kawasan Falls going against the current up to the rivers of Alegria or downstream that commences from Kanlaob river in Alegria going down to end in Kawasan Falls. We chose the latter since our guide suggested it would be a much easier course since we are going along with the current, not against it.

Before we left, we changed into our swimming attire at the resort of our contact person which was located just across the street and deposited our things there leaving us with our valuables and money stacked in a dry bag I brought. As you know, we are not really prepared for this adventure since our plan was just to have a day trip in Kawasan Falls so we are not properly dressed for this activity. I was even teasing Jofil and Dan, who were in their shorty shorts and flip-flops that they look like they’re about to go on window shopping! Lol :-) so my number one tip in canyoneering, don’t dress-up like them! Lol Actually all of us were not ready for this activity but since we were given the chance to do it at a much lesser cost, we immediately grabbed the opportunity without realizing that we are in for a big adventure! From the Kawasan entry point, we rode a habal-habal or motorcycle together with our guides going to Barangay Kanlaob in Alegria which is the starting point of our adventure. Travel time is about 30 minutes uphill and the ride itself was included in the fee.

After a short prayer, Marvin gave us a brief orientation about our activity and then we started our trek downhill towards the river. 


It was an easy trek across lush forest but the path towards the river is quiet slippery so you need to watch your step. After 30 minutes of walking, we finally arrived at the river near the community. 

It was a busy sunny day for the people around here. Everybody was busy doing their laundry at the river and the kids are playing around and swimming on the shallow parts of the river.


Look at how excited we were to take a dip on the river. This was our first taste of water as we crossed a section of the Kanlaob river.

After crossing the river we descended through a high and steep trail. Our hearts started to pump faster as we caught a glimpse of the majestic canyons with rushing waters in between.

Then we took our first plunge into the ice-cold water. The water was really fast flowing and I can’t really tell how deep it was.

Most of us are not really strong swimmers, but the good thing was we were wearing a floatation device so we managed to stay afloat until we reached the shallow part of the river. 

This was just one of the many challenges of this adventure - swimming in the deep water which was cold and chilly. The low temperatures can often result to cramping so it is best to wear a floatation device most of the time because you can not be so sure of the water and accidents can happen if you're not careful. In fact the entire place was closed for several months because a guide drowned in the river after he was caught in a strong current not wearing a floatation device. We then crossed and waded through the tributaries that flow through the main river which was often times rocky and slippery so you need to put on your footwear intermittently to protect your soles.

Even this early in the adventure, your eyes will be feast on the beauty of the creation of Mother nature. Along the way we saw unique rock formations, unspoiled streams, mini waterfalls, fresh water lagoons, and dense verdant jungles. And if you’re observant enough, you can chance upon monitor lizard, wild birds, rare insects and more as you tread through the lush jungle. The remoteness of the place made it possible for it to remain undisturbed and able to support flourishing wildlife.


Some areas of the river are shallow, sometimes waist deep, but most of the time it was deep that you needed to swim your way across through it. Crossing the river isn’t an easy task either even if you have your trekking shoes on. You really need to secure your steps because the rocks on the river bed are covered with moss which makes them very slippery so one wrong move and you would end up with bruises and broken bones. In fact, we were too afraid of falling that we just paddled the entire time even if the water was just shallow. As a result, I got some abrasions on the back of my thigh probably due to the friction against the rocks. Ouch!

Few minutes later we arrived at the entrance of the Matutinao River canyon where unique rock formations can be seen on both sides and lush vegetation abounds. The silence of the place was so deafening which gives you this deep feeling of calm and peace.
As you go further, you will pass by this large basin of deep cerulean lagoon of ice cold water. You might want to try to stand on the rock where the fast flowing water streams down, just be careful though because it can be very slippery. Who wouldn’t want to jump into this beautiful lagoon? 

We eagerly gave it a leap and then swim our way across the river. It was a long swim but thanks to our floatation devise all we have to do is just relaxed and let the current bring us to the shallow end of the river.

We also pass by this very unique rock formation which looks like a tunnel just adjacent to the river where we took a short break to catch our breath and rested for a few minutes. The path was mossy and slippery so make sure to watch your step because you might end up sliding all the way down to the river. It will also help if you try to hold on to the wall to assist your balance and keep you from tripping off.

After spending few minutes of resting we continued on our adventure. Adrenaline was high and we are still bursting with energy always anticipating every challenge that lies ahead. True enough, just a few meters away are more waterfalls and lagoons. And here you go! Another beautiful mini stream that empties into a small lagoon. 

Beautiful isn’t it? It looks as if you have your own mini pool in the middle of the jungle. Then we made our way up across a slippery cliff and reached a dive spot. After getting on top, it’s time to do that jump. 

Our lead guide made the first jump to demonstrate to us how to do it properly. 

It’s really amazing how he made it look so easy but by the time it was my turn to stand on the edge of the rock preparing to jump, all of a sudden my legs grew weak and started to tremble. Lol :-) so there I was, stuck- up trying to condition my mind that it will be an easy jump. But my legs did not stop from shaking as I look down on the rushing water below. Our guide shouted from the river, “just jump its only water!” trying to encourage me not to be afraid to make that leap. I asked Ken to go ahead of me but he was also undecided after making his first attempt to jump. On my second attempt, I just closed my eyes for a while and simply did the jump trying to keep my body as straight as possible and just enjoyed the fall. We were warned to keep our body as perpendicular to the rocks as possible because a slight deviation can result to hitting yourself against the rocks.

the free fall was really fast. look at how blurred i am in this photo. ;-)

High diving is really the name of the game here! Warning, do not attempt to make wacky poses while jumping down! We also passed by the area where boulder of rocks interrupts the stream after falling from the cliff during the recent earthquake in the province. 

Then it started to rain. Our guide noticed that the water is already changing its color which according to him was an indication that the water might be rising due to heavy rains on the mountain. He was afraid that we might not make it in time at the area where you need to pass through a small hole to get to the opposite side while the water is still low. So forget those selfies and picture taking! We speed up our pace trying to make it there before the water rises. And we did!

This part turned out to be the toughest challenge of the activity. You need to plunge over a strong current and force yourself through a small hole in order to get to the opposite side. Good thing the water was not that high but it was not an easy dive either since the current was very strong and you have to remain immersed underwater holding your breath for certain time until you get to the opposite side.

There was the danger of getting a head injury if you ascend from the water too quickly because you might bump your head against the solid rocks above you. So our guide positioned himself on top of the hole and waited for us to jump into the water then guided our heads as we submerged to reach the other side of the river.

Here comes the part where we have to be brave. Our aim was to pass through this small hole struggling not to smash our heads against the rocks while also trying our best not to get carried away by the strong current. One by one we plunge over the bottom, forced ourselves towards the small hole and carefully holding our breath to prevent premature rise above the water. Just in time when where about to lose breath we got passed the small hole and then propelled ourselves up to get some air unto the other side of the hole.  

What a relief! All of us made it!

Our guide was ecstatic that we just made it in time. He told us the water will continue to rise due to the rain and we won’t be able make it through the small hole. Another danger of the heavy rain is we could get trapped inside after a landslide. So now that we made it to the safety line we can take our time and get as much selfie as we want. Lol ;-)

We floated for a while and as soon as we reached the shallow part of the river we put on back our footwear and started to trek along the river line again

We are now on the last segment of our canyoneering adventure as we head back to the civilization towards Kawasan falls.

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  1. Do they have rafting in there?

    1. No. Rafting is not available there, you have to traverse the river manually by doing a lot of swimming and trekking. No worries though, youll be provided with floating device to assist you in deeper portions of the river.

  2. Hi! your canyoonering experience was awesome! hope you could share as well the contact details of your guides, Marvin and Wilson. thanks in advance!

    1. Im sorry i just read your comments. Been away from blogging for quiet sometime. If youll be interested still you can shoot me a message at my email nightarcher54@yahoo.com and ill look up my travel journal to check on Marvins number. I did purposely kept his number as i planned to do it again =)