Rappelling down the waterfall felt like a scene straight out of a video game. Lara Croft and Nathan Drake make it look too easy and they don’t even have ropes, I thought to myself as I scrambled to navigate the environmental puzzle. The scenery even looked reminiscent of CGI.
I grew up in Naga City, but our visit to Nalalata Falls in Bula, a neighboring town in the province of Camarines Sur, was the first time I’d even heard of it. But unlike our previous visits to Malabsay Falls in Mt. Isarog and the waterfall circuit in Pili with Naga Excursions, our visit to this particular waterfall promised to be more action-packed.
Our agenda for the day was waterfalls rappelling — descending down the rock face of the cascades using a rope — with Kaddlaggan Outdoor Adventure Tours, the pioneering outdoor group in Naga City. Kaddlaggan organizes different adventure packages, from island-hopping tours to Caramoan to hiking / canyoning adventures in remote destinations in Camarines Sur.
From Naga Manor, we boarded a jeep to the town of Bula, stopping by to pick up the crew and equipment needed for the activity. The ride took roughly 1.5 hours from Naga City, passing through both paved and dusty dirt roads. Lots of roads were under construction, so I expect travel time will be cut in the future. From the parking area at a small store, it was a 15-minute hike through concrete stairs under a grove of bamboo trees leading to a makeshift bridge near the streams at the foot of the falls.
With its natural clear water and pristine environment, Nalalata Falls is a real beauty. From fifty feet above, water trickled down in a steady stream over the mossy rocks, cascading into a small basin surrounded by rocks below. The shade of blue in the pools was absolutely mesmerizing. In the distance yellow leaves fell softly from the trees into the clear, blue streams. We were told that somewhere on the right side of the waterfall, there was a cave entrance leading to another village.
“Ang lakas maka-Encantadia,” was how Chino described it. Fellow travel bloggers Christine, Darwin, and Estan, along with Naga Excursions team Wyne, Albert, Rustom and Paolo immediately crowded to take photos.
Aside from being so picturesque, the great thing about the falls is that it’s pretty easy to navigate. The rock surface is not slippery at all and you can easily walk barefoot or in rubber slippers here, though it helps to have footwear with good traction.
After getting our fill of photo ops, we were called back to a series of small picnic huts, where we had left most of our gear. Before the activity, Jojo Villareal of Kaddlaggan gave us an orientation on the basics of rappelling and demonstrated the different styles we could do.
The Standard Rappel is when climbers lower themselves down the mountain with their back toward the ground and their feet in contact with the rock surface. This involves walking down while letting the rope slide through the belay device. In the Australian-Style Rappel, the climber faces the ground while walking on the rock surface and lowering themselves. They also demonstrated the Lizard Style Rappel, which we could do as a photo op towards the middle of the falls. Climbers just have to kneel, sit down and reorient their body position to lay flat upside down.
After getting geared up in harnesses, life jackets, elbow pads, knee pads, helmets and gloves, we headed up to the top of the waterfall. I felt fully equipped to take on an army of henchmen or assassins in the get-up.
The trail going to the top of the falls was short but involved some steep climbing. Moving around was more difficult because of the gear, but it’s still pretty manageable. There was a lot of teasing about who would go first and people getting cold feet after seeing the view from the top. I volunteered to go second to get over the fear at once, but still have someone else show how it’s done.
After the initial hesitation, I finally got my chance and I soon found out that rappelling was just awesome! I’ve tried rock climbing before but never in a waterfall setting. It’s one thing to admire a waterfall from afar, but it’s an altogether different experience when you’re scaling down its rock surface. I never felt closer to nature (literally). What a rush!
Here are a few photos of fellow travel bloggers in action:
Estan (Langyaw.com) descends down the waterfall
Darwin (TrackingTreasure.net) having a good time
Christine (JovialWanderer.com) conquers acrophobia
Chino (JuanderfulPinoy.com) wins award for best pose. Fierce!
Wyne (Naga Excursions) tries the Australian-style rappel
Kaddlagan Staff at the top of the falls
After our delicious packed lunch of sisig and ensalada from Calle Barlin, those who wanted to try again got a chance to do repeat descents and I ended up trying two more times. On the second descent, I tried the Lizard Rappel pose, which was surprisingly easy to do.
On the third descent, I tried the Australian style rappel, which proved to be much more difficult than I anticipated. If you’re scared of heights, I don’t recommend you try this one.
By descending face down, you bear most of the weight on your chest. The top part of the falls was steep and I found it hard to keep my footing straight. I knew I was supposed to release the rope and walk down at the same time, but this was easier said than done. It was an extremely slow crawl down with no room to back out. I breathed a sigh of relief when I finally dropped into the pool below. It was really tough, but I was glad to try it out. But I think I’ll stick to the standard rappel next time. And there will definitely be a next time.
That’s me rappelling down! Woohoo! Love this shot by Jojo Villareal/Kaddlaggan.
The awesome experience left us exhausted but in high spirits. The problem now is that I don’t think I can look at waterfalls the same way again. After that adrenaline rush, simply visiting waterfalls to swim or take photos without rappelling will seem like such a letdown! Many thanks to Naga Excursions and Kaddlaggan Outdoor Shop for this thrilling adventure. If you’re visiting Naga City and looking for something different to do, I’d definitely recommend this.
Additional photos courtesy of Rustom, Jojo, Wyne & Christine
TRAVEL TIPS & USEFUL INFO:
- What to wear: Swim gear (rash guard, shorts), footwear suitable for hiking and getting wet
- What to bring: Change of clothes, towel, waterproof camera, snacks, drinking water
- For packaged Hiking and Waterfalls Rappelling Tours in Camarines Sur, contact: Kadlaggan Outdoor Adventure Tour or Kaddlagan Outdoor Shop. Look for Hazel Bradecina Avila or Jen SM City Naga at Sikat Sa Naga or text or call Villareal Jojo at 09198006299.
- Aside from Nalalata Falls, Kaddlaggan also organizes Hiking, Waterfalls Rappelling and Canyoning tours to Itbog Falls (Buhi), Slide Falls (Pili), Malabsay Falls, and Kinahulugan Falls.
- Rates vary depending on the number of participants in your group, but to give you an idea, Kaddlagan will be holding an organized Waterfalls Rappelling at Itbog Falls in Buhi on March 1, 2015 (one day only) with Registration costing P700/pax which includes:Round trip land transportation,I.D.Give aways, Guides and Rappelling activity and its equipment. Exclusive of food and snacks. Slots are limited to 25 pax only.