by Julia Escano
A visit to Cagayan de Oro almost certainly entails the outdoors. With white water rafting as one of its main draws and with the Dahilayan Adventure Park so close in Bukidnon, most tourists to this progressive Mindanao city come prepared to get their hearts beating and their adrenaline rushing. But these aren’t all the blood-pumping action CDO has in store. Mapawa Nature Park lies a mere 30 minutes from the city center, and it holds adventure, not for the faint of heart.
Initially opened as a place that caters to team building activities, Mapawa Nature Park offers a unique canyoneering experience open to groups of all sizes. They are done under the supervision of expert local guides who coach and even cheer you on every step of the way. Mapawa’s river course is 100% all-natural, meaning none of its 4 main activities are man-made. It’s very much a man vs. nature thing, which eventually becomes a mind-over-matter thing. It takes an average of 5 hours to complete the trail though the guides say it could last well beyond that depending on how quickly people can complete the activities.
Going through the river course not only takes people through a slew of physical challenges, but it also has the ability to take you through a whole spectrum of emotions. Curious? Tantalized? Read on!
Stage 1: Why did I agree to this? Is this safe? Am I going to die?
The first activity is a 20 ft. high natural waterslide that drops into a pool below. First, you have to sit at the top of the slide, giving you a perfect view of the sharp drop you will soon face. The guide will tell you how to position yourself so that you fall into the water the safest way possible, then they count, and push you down. The tug of gravity is very strong and leaves that sensation where the rest of your insides feel like they’ve been left behind.
Stage 2: Hmm, this feels nice… Does it feel nice?
The drop happens within a matter of seconds, and before you know it, you’ll be in a pool of cold mountain water, feeling refreshed. You feel so refreshed in fact that you can already feel your bursting heart calming down again. After a few strokes in the pool, you’re as good as new.
Stage 3: This is gorgeous! I can’t believe I’m here!
The pool ends in some rocks, which you now have to clamber onto for a hike. But it isn’t just any hike. True to canyoneering, the hike to the next activity involves your feet being soaked in a stream majority of the time. It also involves some swimming and even some mild climbing. All throughout, you are in the depth of a gorge, surrounded by lush trees and giant rocks. You may get too focused on looking at where you’re going, but when you manage to look up, it’ll be a sight to behold.
Stage 4: I just went down a 20-foot slide, this is nothing! I can do this.
The second activity is a body rappel down a narrow 10 ft. waterfall. A body rappel is when there is no special gear used apart from ropes. The ropes are wrapped around your body in a specific way to make sure you’re secure on your descent. This activity needs some killer upper body strength and trusty, non-slippery footwear as you negotiate your way down a mossy surface continuously running with water. Since it’s not as heart-stopping as the first activity, it does wonders for the confidence!
Stage 5: Why did I agree to this? Is this safe? Am I going to die?
That’s right, in one quick step you just regressed back to the first stage. The third activity is what many find the most challenging: a 25 ft-high cliff jump. While that’s not very high for some, for others, it’s enough to send their knees shaking. The pool below is at least 15 ft. deep, which means there’s no danger of hitting your head or scraping the bottom. This is also where real camaraderie is formed as everyone cheers on those who are unsure of taking the leap.
Stage 6: I made it!
Just like the first activity, you fall into a cool mountain pool that immediately soothes your body. You can even stay there for as long as you like while waiting for the others to jump. It’s very relaxing to the muscles, especially after all the strenuous activities.
Stage 7: Okay, I spoke to soon. Help me God!
The final activity in Mapawa Nature Park is perhaps the most challenging and also the most rewarding. It’s a 65 ft. rappel right by the waterfalls. There’s no practice rappel beforehand, but the guides are very meticulous about teaching you proper posture, weight distribution, and safety. Once you’re ready, just ease yourself backward and down you go. For extra excitement, you could rappel right on the waterfall, and get splattered with water the whole way down. However, during rainy months when the force of the water is extra strong, it’s not advisable since it could cause you to lose your footing. After the initial nerves of going from horizontal to a vertical surface, and once you’ve gotten the hang of the ropes, the activity can become a whole lot of fun.
Stage 8: I’m so hungry!
After a grueling physical and (let’s be honest) mental experience, it’s understandable that you can get really hungry. After the rappel, a very generous lunch packed in banana leaves is served right at the foot of the waterfall, where a crystal clear river begins. It’s such a reenergizing experience, not only filling your stomach with good, home-cooked food, but also your senses with the sights and sounds of undisrupted nature.
Stage 9: I’m THE man, let’s do it again!
The hike back to base is relatively straightforward, though no less picturesque. Wading through streams and clambering on rocks give you the chance to reflect on what you just accomplished. It cements that feeling of satisfaction and pride as it sinks in that you’ve just conquered your fears, brought yourself to the edge, and came out of it on top.
Now’s your turn! Explore and conquer Cagayan de Oro’s Mapawa Nature Park with your friends and family. This awesome nature park will never fail to make your dream trek experience come to life.
Address: Malasag, Brgy. Cugman, Cagayan de Oro City
Contact: (088) 850-2580 / (+63) 917-7067206
Rates: P1200 per person (inclusive of park fee, gear rental, lunch, & bottled water)
Operating hours: 7am-5pm
Reservation policy: Walk-ins are accepted, but reservations are highly encouraged as the park sometimes closes to accommodate exclusive groups