There’s no other way to put this – canyoning is awesome.
It’s the combination of repelling down waterfalls, jumping off rocky cliffs, slipping over naturally made water slides and zip lining in between that makes for an adventure that’s hard to get enough of. When we started our research of adventure activities in Bali, Indonesia and saw canyoning as an option we knew we just had to try it out. So we left our green drinks and yoga mats behind in Ubud for a day and made our way to the north of the island to visit an epic series of canyons, gorges, pools and waterfalls with Adventure & Spirit.
What is Canyoning, Exactly?
Also known as canyoneering, canyoning is the combination of all the activities it takes to descend from the top of a series of canyons to the bottom in one piece. It’s a fun (and slightly scary) mix of slipping, jumping, scrambling, climbing and repelling (abseiling), often ungracefully, as you follow the water down stream. And the most beautiful part is canyoning allows you to access waterfalls, pools, rapids and gorges largely unvisited (and thus unspoiled) by people.
For as active and adrenaline-inducing a sport as it is, really anyone with a moderate level of fitness, ability to swim or even just doggy-paddle and a desire to have fun and face their fears can do it. There are, of course, canyons with varying degrees of difficulty but if you stick to the beginner and intermediate courses for your first few go-arounds you’ll do great.
There are places around the world renowned for their canyoning. Take Interlaken, Switzerland for example.
Bali doesn’t happen to be one of them… yet. (Though I’m pretty confident as more people experience canyoning in Bali this will change.) The north of Bali is blessed with beautiful a series of canyons with varying degrees of difficulty, many of which are still being discovered and bolted for eager adventure seekers today.
If you are looking for an adrenaline-inducing adventure activity that takes you away from the green drinks of Ubud and party beaches of Kuta the canyons of northern Bali are guaranteed to give you just that.
Getting Ready for an Adventure
Our day started with a banana pancake breakfast (yes, please!) and Bali coffee at the Adventure & Spirit offices in Northern Bali. We were briefed by our canyoneering sensei Supi’i (P.E. for short), with the help of Coca and Ramma, on what the day had in store for us and taught the procedures for hooking into safety lines, preparing for rappelling and adjusting our speeds. Then we each took our turns at practicing fastening our cow tails and looping rope through our piranas.
Now (slightly more) confident in our ability to succeed at the adventure ahead of us, we were given our full body wetsuits, booties, boots, helmets and harnesses. Let me tell you, wiggling (and jiggling and pulling) into those extremely tight wetsuits was a bonding experience for our group of nine hailing from France, Australia, Saudi Arabia and the United States and immediately made us more comfortable with one another. Geared up and ready to go, we set out by truck then by foot to the start of the waterfalls.
The First Step is Always the Hardest
I can remember vividly the first 4 meter (13 feet) jump we came up to.
Okay, I know. Even I might be thinking, four meters is not that high. But peering over the edge of that first jump boy was I nervous. The large boulder jutted out feet beyond the point at which I was standing so it appeared as if I was going to hit the rock below, rather than the pool, if I didn’t propel myself out far enough.
Left foot firmly planted and right foot in the cocked ready position to jump, I counted down in my head: 3-2-1- I was frozen. So I tried it again: 3-2-1. But I still couldn’t move. I had psyched myself out too much, allowed too much time to pass. I turned to Supi’i for reassurance.
“What if I don’t jump far enough and hit the rocks below?”
“I am 1,000 percent positive you won’t hit the rocks below,” Supi’i promised in his comforting, sensei-like way giving me a pat on the back.
And I did feel more comforted. I mean after all he had been doing this tour week after week for years and had never had a problem before. Plus 1,000 is, like, a lot of percents. Why would I be the exception?
So with faith, trust and a little bit of adrenaline coursing through my veins I pushed myself forward right foot first and I had lift off. My free fall air time was only a few seconds before my feet broke the surface of the water below and my body plunged down deep into the opaque pool of rushing water.
Resurfacing, a little disoriented from the plunge, the look on my face quickly went from surprise to elation. Not only as this a total adrenaline rush, but it was also a ton of fun!
Fun in the Heart of Bali Canyonland
For another 2 hours or so we forged on, deeper into the belly of the canyon. There was no way out but to follow the currents as they ferociously wound around rocks and over cliffs. Part of the fun of the day was also just wading and walking (mostly ungracefully) through the gorges and passage ways, observing the beautiful and untouched jungle scenery.
Our group was large which meant we’d often be waiting at either the top or bottom of a rappel or jump for the rest of the group. Lucky for us, we had the comedian and prankster guide, Coca, with us to keep the mood light and fun.
By the time we reached the half way point where we would say goodbye to those in our group who had signed up for the 2 hour Kalimandu tour, I was thinking to myself that I was really content with all that we had accomplished and at this point I could go home happy. Man am I so glad we stayed on for the second half of the Kerenkali tour as the best of the day was yet to come!
Adjusting My Rope to the Fast Lane
As we advanced further and further down stream, each successive jump got higher, waterfall longer and slide bigger. As usual Adam was often playing leader of the pack, volunteering to go first if the rest of us were sheepish. He was first to complete the rappel/zip line combo and first to jump the 10 meter (32 foot) cliff (twice!). All the while, he was doing it using the fastest possible rope loop setting. Canyoning in Bali is the stuff Adam lives for.
Luckily for me, this series of canyons (called Kerenkali) had a nice rhythm to them that allowed me to buildup my confidence as we went along. Rappelling, for example, doesn’t feel natural when you first start out. Putting yourself into a horizontal 90 degree angle with the cliff wall, feet splayed apart, all while trusting the sturdiness of a rope with a diameter of a nickel takes some getting used to. But as time went on, I hesitated less and trusted more.
Now that’s not to say that my stomach didn’t drop a little as we came up to a new precipice.
The Final 26 Meter Waterfall Rappel
The crescendo of the waterfalls was saved for last. Our final big daddy waterfall of the day was a 26 meter high (85 feet) double waterfall. And for this rappel we had an audience of families swimming and playing in the pool below. No pressure, right!
Once again, Adam volunteered to go first. Somehow I’m always amazed (perhaps I shouldn’t be at this point) at how easy he makes all of these activities look. He was so quick he was almost done with his decent by the time I got strapped in.
Climbing down to the point where I would start the rappel I could feel my heart beating out of my chest. This was pure adrenaline. Supi’i was there to check my ropes and take one final relaxing breath with me. And with that, I started my long descent down.
It was a lot like the other waterfalls we had been on until about half way point where the water from the second waterfall combined with the first making it a force to be reckoned with. Now I was faced with the challenge of trying to stay horizontal while fighting the raging water in my face. It was awesome! After a few moments I came out the waterfall on its underside to find Coca there waiting for me. He gave me a high five and helped me get unhooked. I had completed Kerenkali and I felt great!
The Ultimate Outdoor Activity in Bali: Canyoning Kerenkali
We choose to participate in Adventure & Spirit’s Kerenkali Canyon Trip due to its popularity as well as being ideal for beginners in good shape who are looking for a challenge. What I liked most about Kerenkali is the pace at which we were eased into the higher jumps and rappels. For a first timer, I was able to gradually build my confidence with each action with the highest waterfalls and biggest repels and jumps saved for last. Our official canyoning tour after orientation and getting suited up started around 9:30am or 10:00am and we were back at the offices around 2:30pm.
The whole experience was more intense and awesome than my words, and our pictures can describe. Being in the Kerenkali canyon was unforgettable and these are the types of adventures we live for: feeling the rush of adrenaline and closeness with nature at the same time.
Canyoneer Initiation Certificate with ICOPRO
Our recent canyoning adventure in Bali at Kerenkali canyon was my first canyoning experience and Adam’s second. After completion of the course we were awarded our International Canyoning Organization for Professionals (ICOPRO) Canyoneer Cards with a passing grade for Canyoneer Initiation!
If You Go:
What: Adventure & Spirit is the only company leading canyoning trips in Bali. They have a range of tours from beginner to advanced levels. We went on their longer beginner tour through Kerenkali. Tours include breakfast, snack, lunch, guides, gear and digital photos from the adventure. You will also receive an ICOpro card certifying you’ve completed Canyoneer Initiation.
Where: All tours commence at the Adventure & Spirit offices in northern Bali. Same-day transport to and from their headquarters can be pre-arranged through Adventure & Spirit from almost anywhere on the island.
When: All year round!
How: Rappelling, jumping, slipping and sliding. Don’t worry – you will be outfitted with a helmet and large plastic diaper-like contraption to keep your head and bottom protected.
Cost: US$195 per person
The Kerenkali Canyon Tour was provided by Adventure & Spirit (+62 8533 3885 598, adventureandspirit.com). Touch base with Supi’i, Coca, Ramma and the Adventure & Spirit team when next you are in Bali – you’ll be guaranteed an adrenaline-filled good time.