Wildwater Rafting Along Davao River


It’s 9am and I’m sitting in the Davao Wild Water Adventure office curiously located at the Crocodile Park in Davao City. No, the locals don’t feed you to the crocodiles if you fall into the raging wild water although crocodiles are known to inhabit Davao River. Jackie, wife of Crocodile Park and Wild water business owner Sonny Dizon, and her friends are going rafting today and I’m joining them.

Our river guides clown around as they load the rafts onto the truck. Some of them are mountaineers; others are divers. All the guides have had medical training and specialize in swift water rescue. And all are Red Cross-trained, which is surely reassuring. I get into the truck with the guides while the others get into private cars. We barrel through Davao, singing along to a mix of 90s grunge and Bob Marley tunes, making a quick stop at a roadside eatery to pick up packed lunch boxes for our trip. An hour later, we pull into Tamugan.

Photo Credit: Yahoo!
Photo Credit: Yahoo!

Tamugan is the starting point of a three-hour rafting adventure along the winding Davao River, taking you through 24 challenging rapids – that churning whitewater produced by water rushing over boulders and rocks – that end in Barangay Lacson in Calinan District. It can get pretty hairy. Rivers are classified on a scale of 1-6, with 6 being the gnarliest. Today, the river is rather low and is a nice, pleasant class 2, perfect for beginners.

On average, Davao River is a class three river. Sometimes, it goes up to 3+ but never goes beyond that. Three-plus usually occurs from June to August when rainfalls result in rising water levels which in turn bring the tougher rapids.

Three tributary rivers end in Davao River: the Tamungkan River located at the foothills of Mount Apo, the highest mountain peak in the country, the Siao River located in the mountainous area of Marilog, and Suwawan River in Bukidnon, which starts as a small creek that gets bigger and bigger. Rainfall in either of these rivers results in rising water levels in Davao River, making for more challenging rapids.

If you do want to go class 4+, you’re better off heading to Chico River in Tuguegarao, Cagayan Valley, which has more tributary rivers and can give you that hell-raising class four plus rafting experience.
But classes aside, Davao is no small challenge, especially for an amateur like me.

Wilbert, one of our guides, points out huge boulders jutting out of the river’s edge. He says from August to December, when the river is almost but not quite a class four, the boulders are submerged in the roiling waters and there is an 80 percent chance of capsizing. The more adventurous can also try Cliffside rappelling, which practically means rappelling down a Cliffside.

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