‘Jump! Jump! Jump!’ I was treading water in a small pool of brilliantly blue water looking up to the protruding rock above where one of my friends was preparing to jump. We had already traversed rocky ledges and scaled a wall of cascading water to climb the four previous levels of waterfalls and this was part the next stage of our expedition; a cliff jump.
We had come to the southern part of Cebu with the promise of a great many outdoor activities ringing in our ears. We weren’t disappointed and the huge number of things to do had actually caused us to draw up an itinerary, not something I was accustomed to. Today we were visiting a couple of the many incredible waterfalls Cebu had to offer.
It was bright and early when we reached the Tumalog falls in Oslob, the closest to our hostel. Although the road up to the falls was paved and in very good condition it was still steep. And winding. What with the added bonus of a pillion passenger on my scooter it made for a hairy start. Once we reached the top we were directed to a gravel car park which, despite the early hour, already had a smattering of other vehicles. We then began a ten minute walk down a very steep track which made us already begin to dread our departure. As the ground levelled out we were greeted by a wooden hut and seating area, the only evidence of civilisation. We then walked past a small natural pool before clambering over a small hillock and finding the falls themselves. I tried my best to see the top of the falls but try as I might I just couldn’t crane my neck far enough. It is a huge rocky cliff with fingertips of water pouring down from the entire width. The natural pool at the bottom is quite large and full of a spectacularly green coloured water. The whole area is surrounded by forest and that combination of greenery and water gave the place an almost steamy humidity. Add to that the early morning sun and the whole effect was one of a muted earthy glow.
We were right to dread the walk back though and even spotting monkeys in the trees did not make the climb up a nearly 45 degree hill anything close to enjoyable.
Our second choice of waterfalls were the Aguinid falls a little further round the tip of the Island in Sanboan. Unlike the Tumalog falls, this was not a stand still and admire kind of situation. The Aguinid falls is in fact multi layered and requires a certain amount of physical activity to scale each part which is why they assign you a guide. As you enter and pay the entrance fee, you are accompanied by someone to ensure that your ascent goes smoothly. After packing everything away safely we were led into the undergrowth. As with the Tumalog falls, these pools and cascades were hidden within the forest and appear as you wander precariously along muddy and uneven paths. The first level seemed simple enough as we stepped one by one over sand bags made into stepping stones across the beautiful blue pool made from a gently tickling stream. It was just a leg up to reach level two where we were instructed to stand under a powerful stream for a ‘massage’. By the time we reached level three however it was a different story. ‘We climb up that? But the water is coming down it’. Nicole was confused, and rightly so, how were we meant to climb up a waterfall? Our guide however was adamant and indicated the holes cut into the rock. Despite the steady fall of water, the limestone was surprisingly grippy and it was much easier than expected to clamber over the 10ft or so boulder. Level four involved a cliff jump, and at level five we were instructed to climb a small level, traverse under another incredibly heavy chute of water and drop into a worryingly shallow pool. The whole experience was exhilarating and the environment spectacular. At every level we had been greeted by a different kind of natural pool, stream or fall. We had climbed through, up and over all kinds of rocks and boulders. All the while moving further into this peaceful and natural rainforest. The place was so quiet and free from other tourists. Indeed the only people we saw on our descent was a Filipino couple in the jungle cracking open a huge pile of coconuts they had picked from the trees around us.
On our way home from the falls a rainstorm caused us to find shelter in a food stall on the roadside. Chatting to the women there we asked if we could take a picture with their children who were wandering around the shop. The children proved to be far too shy for pictures but the women themselves obliged, before asking for a photo with the three of us. Although this exchange is fairly common whilst travelling, it is not often you feel like a complete anomaly. Yet that is what we were to them. Wandering through our local town of Bolijoon heads turned at the sight of us as we were some of the only tourists nearby. It is hard to believe that a place so full of natural beauty, not least beauty that is so accessible and ready to be explored, is not yet brimming with tourism. Yet all the better for it. I only hope that it can remain that way for some time to come.