White Water Adventure at Sibulan

Nov. 21, 2005

The river to brave is the Sibulan River, a long stretch of rapids after rapids that the tubing guides had to divide it by levels.

By Angely Chi

SIBULAN, Davao del Sur — For the adventurous soul who dares brave the strong, harsh waters of a running river, there’s always the whitewater tubing facility in this village, in Darong town, Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur, to check out.

The tubing facility is located inside the Ayala compound, a 700-hectare coconut plantation owned by the Ayala-Zobels. Sibulan is an hour’s drive from Davao City. You can go there by car or by bus or jeepney (the Darong or Digos routes). To go to the tubing facility, you can either use your car or ride the habal-habal (passenger motorcycle) at the Ayala Crossing.

Upon arrival, one will find piles of coconut husks and copra and wafts of smoke from the charcoal oven, as well as the welcoming sound of rushing water nearby. Behind the mounds of coconut husks and copra are the rubber tubes (tire interiors) and 25 small cottages set up along the riverbank.

Tubing comes in a package, which costs 350 pesos, a reasonable price that includes a tube, safety gear (helmet, life vest and knee pad) and a guide for a whole day.

For newbies and even the frequent tubers, the safety gear and the guide are musts. Some rapids can grow so strong that these can overthrow you off the tube and into the rough currents. Only the safety gear could cushion the bumps on the river rocks and help you stay afloat while an experienced guide could pull you back up into the tube. The guides can prevent accidents from happening.

The river to brave is the Sibulan River, a long stretch of rapids after rapids that the tubing guides had to divide it by levels. Dodo Denzon, a tubing guide-rescuer from the Darong Action Rescue Team (DART), says that the known levels they’ve usually undertaken in the past years are levels 1 to 5. But there is also the farthest one — level 8, which can be reached from four hours to a day of tubing.

Negotiating the Sibulan River does not only entail travel by water but also by land. The distances between the various levels are spanned by kilometers. You have to walk or ride a habal-habal (motorcycle) from Ayala to the location of the chosen level.

Level 1 is located in Car Asia, which is only a 15-minute walk from Ayala. It is the nearest of the tubing levels but the rapids there are also the strongest. The ride there would be thrilling but definitely shorter than when you go to the upper levels. The farthest level that most tubers go to is level 5. It is located at the First Gate, a one and a half kilometer distance from the tubing facility. You have to use habal habal to get to this tubing spot.

Upon arrival, you will undergo a crash course on tubing from the guides. You will be taught the positions on how to ride a tube, how to tackle rapids, and the precautions in tubing. Since a tube is like a donut with a web-like cradle made of rubber in the center, only two positions can be done. One is to lie on your back (you can, however, shift to a sitting position in the lighter rapids). The other is to lie face flat with the chest and torso always on the center web. You will use your hands as paddles and steers while the feet can be also used for steers or for pushing away rocks.

Putting this knowledge to use is very tricky once the ride begins. Tackling the various degrees of rapids does not only require you to sit or lie on the tube but also to shift your weight, change positions, or put weight on the tube by stiffening your body in order to go through the huge rapids without losing balance. There will always be nervousness at first, especially for the newbies, but learning comes along with the ride as well as the excitement and pride you would experience once you clear the rapids one by one. (Angely Chi/davaotoday.com)

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