Locals say that you haven’t truly been to Cagayan de Oro (CDO) if you haven’t tried white water rating yet.
White water rafting is an outdoor activity wherein you ride an inflatable raft to navigate through a river. It’s done in done in Cagayan River, which separates Cagayan de Oro and Bukidnon. This activity is ideal for beginners and pros alike.
Hali has already tried white water rafting in CDO before and he says it’s one of the most fun experiences he’s had. In my own trip to CDO with another friend in 2019, I put it down as our first activity.
Our CDO white water rafting experience
There are various outfitters for white water rafting in Cagayan de Oro. We booked our activity thru CDO Bugsay, which is a highly recommended local team for rafting.
A service jeep picked us up and 2 other joiners in the city. We rode for an hour before reaching the jump-off point for beginner rafting. At the jump-off point, we prepared for the activity by putting on lifevests and helmets for protection. Our lead guide Kuya Arman held a brief orientation and showed us how to properly hold and use a paddle.
There were 6 people in our raft: 4 tourists and 2 guides. There is another small raft for our team’s photographer.
To be honest, I was a bit scared. I’m not a sporty person and I didn’t really know what it’s like to do white water rafting. My friend Joemar was too but he’s a jolly person so it didn’t show.
The fear was short lived though. Once we rode the inflatable raft and started to drift in the river, I started to relax and enjoy what was coming.
The beginner rafting starts at the lower section of Cagayan River. The whole route stretches 12 km and takes 2-3 hours depending on the current. On summer months, the river is more calm and stable. On rainy season, the water level is higher and the current is faster. Our activity was scheduled on a February so the river condition was moderate.
There are 14 rapids to go through. Rapids are basically portions of the river with shallow water, leaving rocks exposed and thus creating movement over and around the rocks. There is a recognized classification for rapids, and in the beginner rafting, the rapids are classified as Class 2 or 3 (easy).
We drifted lazily along the river. This is one of the things that surprised me. I thought the activity was a continuous navigation through rapids, but it turns out that the majority is spent gliding along the river.
The afternoon sunlight was beautiful. We looked at the surrounding forest areas, limestone cliffs and hills, and rock faces. Every now and then we’d see carabaos grazing on grasslands and small residential houses. It was a wonderful feeling to be there — one with nature.
We came across our first rapid. Kuya Arman asked us to prepare and lock our feet in the kayak. He then told us to paddle forward or backward. Kuya Arman and the other one were seated at the back, doing the main navigation for our kayak.
Going through a rapid felt similar to a water ride in a theme park. Our kayak rocked and bounced, we held on to our seats or paddle as instructed, got splashed with water from different sides, yelled or laughed or a bit of both. It was really fun.
After passing through the rapid, Kuya Arman shouted “High Five!” and we responded with “Bugsay!” with our paddles high-fiving each other.
This continued for the rest of the activity. There are rapids that are strong and some that aren’t. We did variations on navigating through the rapids too, including approaching a rapid with our backs or standing up. None of us could stand up for longer than 2-3 seconds through the rapids, but it was a fun challenge.
We also passed by two swimming areas. These are river portions deep enough for a swim. We also saw a mini-fall with the stream coming from a cliffside directly to the river.
We reached the end of our trail just before it got dark. All of us were talking and smiling. The experience was better than I expected. White water rafting in Cagayan de Oro is something that you really have to try for yourself so you’ll know what it’s about.
The activity also left us extremely hungry. Once we were dropped off in the city, we immediately went for a restaurant for dinner.
Guide to White Water Rafting in Cagayan
There are beginner and advanced courses for white water rafting in Cagayan de Oro. The beginner course takes about 2-3 hours depending on the river current.
What you need to know
- This activity is done in Cagayan River, which separates Bukidnon and Cagayan de Oro.
- There are 3 levels for white water rafting: Beginner, Advance and Extreme. The Beginner Course includes 14 rapids on 12 km river stretch, 2-3 hours river run. The Advance Course includes 21 rapids on 16 km river stretch, 2-3 hours river run. The Extreme Course is held in a different route.
- White water rafting is open all year round. February to May are calm months, which are best for beginners. During the rainy season, expect fast rapids and higher water level. If you’re an adventurous person, this is the best time to go. We went on February and the river was relatively calm. We loved it since it was easy and on our afternoon schedule there weren’t any other people except us. Also, the river is green instead of the muddy brown caused by rains.
- This activity is generally safe. Make sure to listen to the instructions of your guide during the activity.
What to wear
Wear rashguard or dri-fit clothes, with strap-on sandals or aqua shoes.
You can bring a change of clothes, but usually guests just wash up back in their hotels or outfitter’s office. We didn’t bring any change of clothes or towels and since the service vehicle was a jeep it wasn’t a problem when we boarded it still wet.
What to bring
Generally, it’s advised to bring bring only your valuables with you. You can leave your items in your service vehicle.
You can bring your action camera for the river ride and attach the monopod on your lifevest via a metal clasp. Ours was provided by our organizer. That saying, you can only use your action camera when navigating through calm portions of the river, not on rapids. You can also bring a regular (DSLR or mirrorless) camera and secure it in a dry bag, but remember that any items that fall down the river is difficult to retrieve — you might as well consider them gone.
Don’t forget to bring water and snacks because you may get hungry after the activity.
Where to book your rafting activity
We highly recommend booking through CDO Bugsay. They are the best organizer for white water rafting in Cagayan de Oro. We felt at ease and safe during our first white water rafting experience thanks to our professional guides.
Here are their current rates (Updated as of 2020):
- Beginner course: P1200 per person
- Advance course: P1800 per person
- (Optional) Documentation (photos and videos): P500 for the whole group
CDO Bugsay also offers packages for groups. For a min of 10 pax, you can avail of a white water rafting activity including boodle fight on a riverside for an additional P400 per person. There are also overnight packages available.
Here are some things to note:
- Minimum 6 pax per group. Joiners are also welcome.
- Package includes pickup and dropoff in the city, rafting gears, and guide fees.
- Schedules are morning (pickup around 7AM) and afternoon (pickup around 12 noon to 1PM).
For booking and inquiries, you may contact CDO Bugsay at Facebook | 09173284729.
Please let them know that I (Katherine / Tara Lets Anywhere) referred you! 🙂
Reminders and Tips
Here are travel tips before your CDO white water rafting adventure:
- Eat a hearty meal before the activity because you will need your energy.
- Don’t forget to wear a sunblock especially if it’s summer. You’re going to be under the sun for hours.
- I highly suggest availing of a documentation package because it’s easy and reasonably priced. We were impressed with the effort of our photographer to paddle ahead of us so he could take pictures during the right moments. At P500 for the group photos, it was a bargain!
- If you want lesser crowd, book an afternoon schedule.
- Make sure to give a tip to your guides!
Disclaimer: Thanks to CDO Bugsay for the white water rafting experience! As always, thoughts and opinions are my own.
Have you tried CDO white water rafting? Do you have questions or suggestions? Let us know in the comment section below!
What to read next:
Planning a trip to Cagayan de Oro? Here are our guides!
- Cagayan de Oro: Travel Guide and Itinerary
- Cagayan de Oro Tourist Spots + Things to Do
- Cagayan de Oro Restaurants and Local Food Spots
- Where to Stay in Cagayan de Oro: Seda Centrio Hotel
- White Water Rafting in Cagayan de Oro
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Katherine Cortes is a long-time backpacker and a freelance writer/editor. She likes beaches, snorkeling trips, and relaxing staycations (preferably with bath tubs!).