Surviving the Rapids: White Water Rafting Adventure in Cagayan de Oro

At first I thought, "What the heck! Why am I here when I'm not even done confronting my fear of drowning? This is Cagayan River, 90 kilometers long and surely with portions much deeper than the man-made lake in Davao City's Deca Wakeboard Park where I almost drowned three months ago."

Orientation underscores safety and discipline
While the river guides of Kagay Outdoors, one of the six outfitters in Cagayan de Oro City providing services for river adventurers, enumerate the basic rules and techniques in rafting I was there standing cold. Silent. I threw questions once in a while especially on the safety of the raft and what to do in case of this and that. I know how to swim but I panic easily when in deep water.

"We're going down!"
Mr. Chisum Factura, chief of Kagay and one of the pioneers in establishing the rafting adventures in CDO, assured the riders of the safety. "If you will do it right and follow your guide's instructions," he said. That did not sound 100% certain.

The inflatable object is unsinkable!
Kagay assures of its facilities and the trip as "guaranteed to be safe, no matter what the time of year." In its website it boasts of its "experienced and able river guides that had been trained both by the prestigious International Rafting Federation (IRF) in rafting techniques and safety, and by the Philippine National Red Cross in first-aid and CPR."

I climb and even go solo to the most daunting peaks but the deep water, much a raging river, is not really my cup of tea. "But this is what I came here for," I said to myself. "I'm here to try something new and once again defy my self!"

Us versus the boulders and the angry rapids!

"Cut the crap! I will regret it if i won't shut up and hop on that raft!" So I did with my colleagues. We were 24 riders in four "inflatable" rafts.

I was not properly dressed for the river adventure but I think it's more fun that way - unprepared but ready to take the challenge. So, I took my shirt off, wore the safety vest and had my Vans shoes and my worried spirit wet.

"Get ready to swim in the cold!"

It took two rapids before my universe calmed down.

Not yet the end of adventure! There were 14 rapids to survive in the beginner's course with class 1-2 rapids. Twelve more to go and couple of hours more of shouting with my four other team mates in a raft of seven riders. The advanced course meanwhile has class 3-4 - meaning more turbulent rapids.

Doing the glide!

The river guides are all well-trained in their craft except in playing jokes. We found out that ours the other team's guides played the same jokes while rafting. But they were funny, nonetheless, and it was helpful for those who fear of tumbling down the river.

The guides told us relevant stories like how the river looked like before the December 2011 deadly flash floods induced by Typhoon Sendong (international name: Washi) where CDO and its neighbor Iligan City ended the most hit. The typhoon claimed more than 650 lives and washed away dozens of houses and infrastructures along the river.

Rapids-1, Rafters-0

The flooding also affected the flow of the river and the intensity of the rapids.

White water it is called but we traversed the river of murky and cold water that was not any close to white. It rained hard the previous day and the upstream silts turned the river brown.
I learned though that "white" does not refer to the color of the water but the froth-like substance formed by the raging rapids.

Swimmers! Riders should shout "swimmer" when somebody falls off the raft. But here, riders were given the chance to swim in still waters.

The outdoor outfitters themselves gave names to the rapids. But not all. Unnamed rapids mean no guest rider was (un)fortunate enough to have one named after him or her after falling off the bumpy raft.

Some of the memorable rapids in the basic course with a name were: Paolo Santos rapids (named after a Filipino pop singer) and KC rapids (after KC Conception. Yes, that woman who cried a river on TV after his breakup with...ummm...that boy named Piolo).

Doing the High-five!
Bonus rapids, our guides said, are for playtime! Here, riders are allowed to stand with their paddles up while on the raft! Be careful though because your guide might play you a trick and make you stand up on a rough rapid. It happened to the other group following us. Luckily (or unluckily), we all went home without a rapid of our name.

Who wants to proceed to the advance stage?
Two hours down the cold river and the ride of our lives is over. But it was all worth it after that wild fun and exhilaration.

It was a feat on my part after conquering my fear of the deep once again.

And surviving the beginner's course only meant one thing to me - that I will be back again to try the advance and the experts course! Maybe that time I will be more ready.
Or maybe one rapid will be named after me.


Here are the trip schedules, rates and packages offered by Kagay:

Trip Schedules
Morning Trip 7:30 A.M.
Afternoon Trip 12:30 NOON
Run and Rates
1. Beginners Course P700 / head
( 3hrs. Actual River Run ) 14 Rapids
Class I-II Minimum of 6 pax2. Advance Course P1000 / head
( 4hrs. Actual River Run ) 24 Rapids
Class II-IV Minimum of 6 pax3. Experts I Course P1200 / head
( 2hrs. Actual River Run ) 14 Rapids
Class III Minimum of 6 pax
Jeepney transfer from City Tourism Showhaus, DV-Soria or at your Hotel within city proper to Put-in
From Take-out back to the City.
Helmets, life vests and paddles will be provided.

Contact Kagay through their webpage, here.

(All photos were taken by Kagay Outdoors crew. Photo package is available at P250.00 only.)


  1. Well I am glad you didn't drown! By the looks of it, it looks like you and your group had an amazing time. I am planning on going white water rafting at the end of the summer, and I hope they have some tame rapids for me. Even though it is on my bucket list to do this, I really do not want to end up with any injuries! Are there any other adventures you took part in at the The Philippines ? Also, how did anyone take such amazing shots while this was going on ?!?!

    1. Hi Alex,really had a great time. we actually worried about ending up with injuries. but once we got there inside the raft and after a few rapids all worries were gone. just listen to the instructions of the guides and bear in mind their safety tips.
      Adventures in the Philippines? I've had a lot. mostly in the outdoors. I just didn't post most of them here in my blog. But i'm finding time for it.;)
      by the way, the shots were taken by the Rafting Company staff. that's part of the package when you take their service for the adventure.
      Try it. The adrenalin rush and fun is worth the risk.

  2. Hey Sir Louie. Are the lava rocks still there? :)

  3. sir Brennan, yes naa pa. our river guide called it the "dinosaur back." ;)

  4. Great article! Looks like you and your group had a blast! I have only ever been on the gauley river but I would love to go there. Would you go back?

  5. Thanks for the post! Looks like you and your group had a blast! I have only ever been on the gauley river but I would love to go to Cagayan de Oro. Would you go back?

    1. The adventures in Cagayan de Oro are always worth the repeat. We indeed had a blast. Thanks for dropping by Joan. :)

  6. Amazing experience! I'm curious to raft when the water is brown. Luckily the water was white when we got there last Valentine's Day. Blogged about it, too. Here:



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