The great outdoors in the city

Subscribe Now January 11, 2011 at 11:24pm

DREAMING of an action-packed break for 2011? Then escape to Davao City, the jump-off point for a waterlogged adventure in the Great Outdoors: whitewater rafting. When taking on the might and buzz of the Davao River , seek out The Davao Wildwater Adventure, definitely among the best river rafting outfitters in Davao City . The river guides – who are committed to safety and high-quality service – are headed by Sonny Dizon, who has traversed and conquered the river many times and has received safety, rescue and life-support training from the Philippine Red Cross.

"In Davao , the river is one product," says Dizon, the passion lighting his face. "This product spans 13 kilometers in length, embracing the waters of Davao River , taking on as much as Level 3-plus rapids along the way. It is considered the best river in the Philippines."

Different thrills await both the first-timer and the hard-core adventure seeker. In whitewater rafting, rivers are classified according to intensity levels. The gentlest are graded as Level 1, with the intensity and challenge rising rapidly as the level goes all the way to Level 6. According to Dizon, operator of Davao River Rafting, these rapids can rise to an even higher level depending on the weather and the season.

"If everyone could be here, just for one day, to feel the gentle kiss of cold water flowing down the mountain rocks, or feel the mighty river rapids, or simply take in fresh, cool air, then we would realize we are all under Mother Nature’s power and we are not, in any way, superior, and therefore must respect its authority over us humans," Dizon says.

Our lively and adventurous guide, poured cold river water on our heads as he steered our boat into a cave. I was with a feisty bunch of travel writers who had just gone whitewater rafting in the mighty Davao River in Calinan, Davao City .

Our group was on a three-day adventure trip to this spic-and span city. We were all bleary-eyed as we had to leave Manila at 4:30 a.m. The rains had just ceased when the plane touched down at the Davao City International Airport. Clouds loomed on the horizon, making me worry that the adventure I came here for might not happen. But luckily, the hot summer sun shone through.

We then headed to the Davao River , 45 minutes away from the city proper. We all caught up on sleep along the way, our only opportunity to recharge before the three-and-a-half-hour rafting activity.

For P2,500 per person, thrill-seeking tourists can paddle their way through exciting rapids on the 13-kilometer stretch of the river, occasionally coming to deep portions that are good for swimming. The package includes, aside from the guided tour, transport from Crocodile Farm to Davao River, and a modest but tasty lunch served al fresco.

Aside from the thrill of the rapids, one can feast on scenes of lush forests, which are fortunately being protected not only by the government, but the local residents as well. The good thing is that people take only what they need. They are aware of the bounty of their forests and realize that if they take only what they need, they would never run out of resources.

Aside from a wide array of trees and undergrowth, there are occasional sightings of rare animals, such as the Philippine water dragon and predatory birds such as hawks, crows and smaller ones such as the balinsasayaw, the swiftlet that makes a nest out of its saliva, a prized delicacy in many Asian countries.

A section of the river has a high rock platform from where daredevils could jump into the water. It looks intimidating, but if you let go of your inhibitions and fears, Nature will richly reward you with an unforgettable experience.

Our tiring first day was amply rewarded with a hearty dinner hosted by Sonny and Jackie Dizon. The group feasted on fresh tuna kinilaw, seaweeds, prawns and a bountiful spread of more seafood, complemented by a dessert of mangosteen and durian ice cream, made exclusively in the province.

We left Davao with full but heavy hearts, and memories that would always serve as an invitation to come back.


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