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Leaping into water is about that heart-in-mouth moment as you launch off and the world rushes past you. And it’s about the feeling of relief as you splash into the water to emerge with a spluttering grin. But if it were just about that, no one would travel farther than their local swimming pool.
At Kawasan Canyon, the stone walls are decked with vines, and the water is an irresistible turquoise. You can leap from wooded cliffs into bright pools and slide through dappled sunlight into bubbling waters. All around, water cascades down chutes and over boulders. This canyoning hotspot in the Philippines feels tailor-made for daredevil antics – and it’s a lot more beautiful than your local pool.
Kawasan Canyon is an hour’s drive south of Moalboal, a backpacker-friendly resort on Cebu, an island famous for its diving and beaches. It’s possible to visit the canyon – and do the jumps – on your own, by getting a bus from Moalboal or the nearby town of Badian to a turn-off, after which it’s a 20-minute walk up the hill.
There are three waterfalls at Kawasan itself, the largest being 15m (49ft) tall. The main pool can get very busy, especially at weekends, and if that’s the case, it’s worth seeking out the smaller but quieter other falls.
Rather than visiting independently, many visitors take a tour. That has obvious safety advantages – guides will tell you the best place to jump from and will keep an eye on you. It also makes it easier to make a day of the trip, as guides will lead you up paths through undergrowth and down stretches of river to the various jumps (most of which are optional), chutes and falls. If you’re not a strong swimmer, it’s worth asking for a life jacket.
The highlights of an extended trip include rope swings, various cliff drops, a sloping dam and a bamboo raft that floats on the edge of one of the waterfalls, offering a very potent power shower. Vendors en route sell snacks, and it’s a good idea to wear shoes with a decent grip.
Cebu is the most happening island in the Visayas, an archipelago that makes up most of the central Philippines. Cebu City is the capital and main hub, home to the country’s second-biggest airport after Manila. While its busy streets and rather uninspiring architecture put off some visitors, it’s a buzzing destination, with great food (seafood and suckling pig are among the top picks) and fun bars, and there are also museums, markets and temples to explore.
Set 90km (56mi) southwest of Cebu City, Moalboal is a deservedly popular town, with plenty of accommodation – it’s also easy to book a tour to Kawasan Canyon from here. Its bars and restaurants look out over the Tañon Strait and are great for a drink at sundown, and just offshore there’s excellent diving in the coral reef. Sardines run along the coast in huge numbers and can be seen by anyone with a snorkel and reasonable swimming skills. Trips out of town to see huge but graceful whale sharks – the biggest fish in the sea – can also be arranged.
Other highlights on Cebu include Malapascua Island, off the north coast, where you can dive with big-tailed thresher sharks, lounge on great stretches of beach and enjoy the relaxed pace of life. To the south, Sumilon Island is a beautiful marine reserve that’s home to a swish hotel, while to the northwest, Bantayan has white-sand beaches and a historic town – and it goes wild during Easter’s Holy Week.