Conquering Cagayan de Oro River: White Water Rafting Adventure

Ask anyone about the activities that you can do in Cagayan de Oro (also known as CDO) and it’s certain that white river rafting will be among the top five suggestions from your friends and from TripAdvisor search results.  Indeed, one cannot leave the City of Golden Friendship without having a go at this must-try, adrenaline-pumping, heart-stopping river ride.

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Post-rafting photo op

Pre-Paddle The time and the location of your rafting adventure will depend on which rafting company you negotiate with.  For our trip, we acquired the services of the CDO Bugsay River Rafting team (Shout out to the coolest crew of Bugsay Rafting, including our guides Ser Tutang,  et al).  After picking us up from our hotel in the heart of the CDO city proper around 7 in the morning and dropping by their office to sign the waiver and secure the necessary payments, we took a 45-minute jeepney ride to the mountainous part of CDO before crossing the bridge into the town of Baungon in Bukidnon, the jump-off point of the Intermediate/Advanced Course of the rafting adventure.  This course is ideal for able-bodied tourists who have a bit of experience in rafting, but even first-timers can manage to pull this off.  In our case, only Edge has had the experience of white water rafting in Davao back in 2011.

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The bridge that connects CDO and Bukidnon, undergoing repair due to typhoon Pablo
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Local kids on their routine play

Upon arriving at the venue, we were fitted with life jackets and safety helmets.  The experienced guides then spent the next 20 minutes to give us a short orientation where they introduced themselves, explained the simple yet strict rules of rafting, taught us how to use the paddle, and gave instructions on what to do in case of an emergency.  They explained what we should do in case we fall into the water and find ourselves underneath the capsized raft.  For obvious reasons, it’s very important for everyone to listen to the orientation and remember these precautions.

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Good luck pose
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Briefing time

After the brief orientation, the bright blue rafts were dropped into the gray waters where members of the group along with the guides were asked to set themselves in position.  There were only two of us and the guides told us early on that we would have to join a smaller group of give people in a raft.  Luckily for us, they changed their minds for unknown reasons and allowed us to have our own raft where two of the guides accompanied us.  Aside from better photo opps, having fewer people in the raft means that it’s less possible for the boat to capsize.  Once everyone has settled down, we dipped our paddles in the water and began to row.

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Off we paddle

The Ride Bugsay’s Intermediate/Advance Course covers 19 kilometers of the mighty Cagayan de Oro river in four hours, which meant that there was plenty of time for us to gaze at the amazing scenery.  In most parts, the river is hugged by lush forests.  In some, you will find yourself drifting closer to small, rural communities, and you will certainly be awestruck by the massive cliffs forming small caves beneath the imposing rock faces. What’s amazing about the CDO river is that it really packs a punch — you will get to experience the thrill of different kinds of rapids one right after the other.  Just when you thought that you can take a deep breath and put your paddle down to rest your aching arm, your guide will warn you to prepare for the next set of rapids.

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Here comes the rapids…
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Raging waters of CDO river
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where the fun begins
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Holding on
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Daredevils

However, there are also long stretches of the river where the water is calm enough.  Here, you are permitted to jump in the water, take a relaxing dip or swim, and catch up on those selfies that you just couldn’t take while you were busy paddling. Along the way, we also did brief stops by some equally beautiful cliffs and stone formations, teeming with life.

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A refreshing shower from one of the natural falls along the river
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The right approach in saving, rescuing or helping a person get into the raft
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One of the many rock formations along the way
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We were lucky to have seen this snake in the so-called ‘snake wall’, but the crew made it sure not to stay directly below it
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Captivating view

Our Bugsay guides were also a big part of the thrill.  Most of the time, Edge and I sat in the opposite sides of the raft’s front, where we were in charge of accelerating the boat.  Our guides would let us try different things to give us varying experiences.  There was a time when they let us sit in the back of the boat where we would be responsible for direction instead of acceleration.  Another time, our guides made us sit in front of the raft with our feet dangling over the water and our hands holding on to the ropes for dear life.  This gave the feeling of riding an angry bull at a rodeo as our raft tossed above the wild waters. In one part of the river where the rapids were moderately strong, we were even asked to stand up!  The guides have a lot of tricks under their sleeves, but these gimmicks should not be read online but instead be personally experienced when you go on your own rafting adventure.

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Some daring balancing act
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Final stretch
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Finally, we conquered the CDO River White Water Rafting challenge

The exciting four-hour rafting adventure ends in the lower part of the river near the old CDO Lumbia Airport, where the rafting company will take you back to your hotel all in one piece, thankfully.

Check out our videos:

What to Prepare

  • Rashguard/arm sleeve – Since you will be exposed to the searing heat of the sun from morning until noon, it is recommended to wear a long-sleeved rashguard or a spandex arm sleeve.  There are vendors outside the jump-off point selling these items, but it’s always better to bring your own for a better fit and quality.
  • Sunblock – An obvious necessity.  Unless of course you want to end up getting sunburnt.
  • Snacks and bottled water – Four hours of furious paddling means that you will become hungry or thirsty eventually.  There is no need to pack lunch (rice and ulam) since there will be no time to eat during the trip.  Have some biscuits, crackers, and chocolates handy.  Bring a large bottle of water or Gatorade.  Do NOT drink the river water.
  • Waterproof containers – You can bring a small waterproof bag where you can store your valuables during the trip.  It is not recommended to bring huge backpacks since there is limited space in the raft.  Use a waterproof case for your phones and other gadgets to avoid these from getting wet.

Other Reminders:

  • Eat a hearty breakfast before going on the trip.  You will definitely need lots of energy for this activity.
  • It may be difficult if not impossible for you to shoot photos of yourselves or the scenery since you will be busy paddling for most of the trip.  However, Bugsay and other rafting companies offer a photo package.  We paid Php 500.00 for a trained photographer to follow us throughout the trip.  We received the CD containing our pictures the same afternoon.

How to Get There So far, the best way to do this activity is to avail of the many rafting adventure providers in CDO like Bugsay, Kagay, Great White, etc. In our case, we decided to avail of the Team CDO Bugsay Rafting to fit in our limited schedule. They also offer other CDO outdoor adventure package. You can contact them through Facebook or through these digits: CDO Bugsay River Rafting | San Agustin-Velez Streets, Cagayan de Oro City  | Contact No: 850 – 1580 / 309-19-91  | Mobile: 09173284729   |   E-mail: cdobugsayrafting@yahoo.com   Trivia: The jump-off point of the rafting activity is technically within the jurisdiction of the province of Bukidnon, specifically the town of Baungon, since we crossed the (heavily damaged) bridge that connects CDO and Bukidnon.  The river where we did the rafting is more known as the Cagayan de Oro River, but its headwaters are the Mt. Kalatungan mountain range in the interiors of Bukidnon, which could explain the large volume of water that’s very ideal for the activity.  It is only fitting to also mention Bukidnon as party to this awesome experience aside from setting foot into another province.  For more information about white water rafting, visit Rafting Philippines.

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