Canyoneering In Biliran: Defy Limits With An Extreme Adventure
You’ve probably heard of canyoneering in Badian, Cebu. But aside from Badian, there are other Philippine rivers that are perfect venues for adrenaline-pumping adventures. In fact, one of the best adventures we have ever tried is canyoneering in Biliran, right smack in the middle of the powerful Sampao River.
Canyoneering, or canyoning for some, is a technical outdoor sport that involves trekking, scrambling, climbing, jumping, swimming, and rappelling down the features of a river canyon. Just by its very definition, this activity is clearly not for the faint of heart.
How to get to Biliran
The easiest way to get to Biliran is to book a flight from Manila to Tacloban City in Leyte. Flight is one-hour long. From Tacloban, take a van service going to Naval in Biliran. Van ride will cost you PHP 140 per head, and the duration is approximately two hours long.
If you’re coming from Cebu, you may take an overnight ferry trip directly to Naval. Travel time is approximately nine to ten hours. If you want a faster travel time, you may take a fastcraft from Cebu to Ormoc City. Travel time is three to five hours. From Ormoc, take a shuttle bus to Naval in Biliran. Travel time is one-and-a-half hours.
Arrival at Biliran
It was a rainy Sunday when we reached Port Naval in Biliran after departing from Cebu. Our outfitter Joni Bonifacio of Trexplore already coordinated habal-habal drivers waiting for us at the port. After some last-minute shopping at Naval’s public market, we rode to Agta Beach Resort in Barangay Talahid where we spent the rest of the day.
Early the next day, which fortunately turned out to be really sunny, we woke up rejuvenated and excited to finally try out canyoneering in Biliran! Together with our guides Vitale and Joven, we again rode habal-habals to the beautiful mountains, thick coconut groves, and vast farmlands dotting the municipality of Almeria. The overall serenity of the place was a distant contrast to the chaos and pollution in the metropolis where we live.
We arrived at the jump-off point in Barangay Sampao after a short 30-minute ride. After a quick briefing and registration, we started the one-hour uphill trek to the mighty Sampao River. Now, this was not just an easy walk. We had to balance along the narrow edges of irrigation dikes, climb on steep trails made of loose soil, scramble over slimy boulders, and hang on for dear life to avoid falling into the river below. Yes, the adventure started even before the canyoneering in Biliran itself.
Finally, after an hour or two of trekking, we reached the official starting point deep in the jungle of Sampao. We had the chance to rest and cool down for a short while and then geared up with wetsuits, helmets, harnesses, and rappelling equipment. Following a thorough tutorial on how to use the equipment in front of us, we and our tour guides were all set to begin this extreme canyoneering adventure.
Let the canyoneering commence
Sampao River is a relatively strong river fed by rainwater and hidden springs way up in the Tres Marias mountains. Its strength is clearly evident by the sight of roiling white water and the thundering sound of waterfalls that lay in the way of the river.
We enjoyed all the natural water slides. The fast-flowing water and the slippery bedrock made them into no-injury slides that did not fail to delight the child in us. We frolicked happily in the forest, with no other humans except us! That could be the main difference between canyoneering in Badian and canyoneering in Biliran—the latter being less touristy.
Expect a lot of waterfalls both high and low. We jumped off the smaller ones, screaming with glee as we leaped off from the abyss and into the cool, refreshing water below us.
For the towering ones—waterfalls that are around 40 to 60 feet tall—and deep ravines with shallow waters below, Vitale and Joven rigged us rappel lines so we can safely abseil down. Joni and his team already drilled bolts and hangers into the solid rock face, allowing a fast and easy setup of the anchors. The water was freezing by the way. The cold temperature and long exposure are also part of the reasons why canyoneering is considered an extreme outdoor sport. Despite wearing wetsuits, we still got the shivers.
Although the setting up of the rappel lines was fast and easy, rappelling itself was a difficult task because of the slippery surfaces and moss-covered rocks despite wearing the right trekking footwear. We had to be careful in lowering ourselves down to avoid being slammed into the walls.
However, between putting our physical limits and wits to the test, we enjoyed the tranquil moments with nature. We swam silently in calm pools, listened to the trickle of mountain springs, and basked in the sun.
As we reached the 60-foot high Nomad Falls, we had to endure a long rappel down to the ledge that was 25 feet high from the pool below the falls, and then we needed to jump from the ledge into the water. That marks the end of the first part of the canyoneering adventure.
We had a simple picnic-style lunch that was also prepared by Trexplore. While eating, we reveled at the beauty of the mysterious ravines that were carved by Mother Nature for millions of years.
Canyoneering must go on
The first part already drained our energy, and the filling lunch made us feel too heavy to move on, but we pushed through with our adventure.
After six hours of navigating the Sampao River, we finally arrived at the last major hurdle, the magnificent Ulan-ulan Falls. Getting down this foliage-covered waterfall involved a frightening but exciting 120-foot rappel over loose rocks! Yes, this scenic waterfall is beautiful, but rappelling down from it let us internalize its full grandeur.
We did it! We successfully conquered the many challenges of Sampao River. But other than the sense of achievement and appreciating the beauty and power of Mother Nature, we learned that we could conquer our limitations if we put our mind to it. Now it’s time time to conquer your fears and limits. Try out canyoneering in Biliran now!
Rates for canyoneering in Biliran
For canyoneering in Biliran guideship services, you can get in touch with Joni Bonifacio of Trexplore at +63919 294 3865 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also check out his Facebook.
PHP 3,000 per person (rate for 1–4 people)
PHP 2,500 per person (rate for 5–10 people)
Rates are subject to change without prior notice.
INCLUSIONS: two guides, porters, lunch, complete set of equipment (wetsuits, harnesses, floatation devices, helmets, etc.), roundtrip transportation from hotel-river-hotel, photos for souvenirs (bring your own USB or other storage devices!), certificates.
Philihappy Pro Tips
- First-timers are surely welcome! But we strongly recommend that you learn basic rappelling first for safety and time efficiency.
- Reasonably healthy individuals from 15 years old and above can do this adventure. If you are unsure of your health condition, it would be better to get some clearance from your doctor first. Also, for safety considerations, the number of participants is limited to 10 per day.
- Always do a weather check before proceeding to your adventure. Rivers are prone to flash floods and the water current can get too strong in times of bad weather.
- Waterproof all your belongings! Bring lots of water and pack light.
- Keep your life vests and helmets on!
- Don’t dive without your guides’ permission. Some parts are too shallow for diving.
- Remember to practice “Leave No Trace” principles.