Pagsanjan Falls, Philippines

Photos by Robert Gardner

Pagsanjan Falls is a popular day-trip about 100 km SE of Manila located in the Laguna province near the town of Santa Cruz. Check with the Tourism Bureau or any hotel in Manila about tours. I drove there with an uncle and his friend and although I don't remember the exact route we took, I do remember the driver asking directions along the way and ending up at a restaurant next to the Pagsanjan (Magdapio) River (Pagsanjan Falls Lodge and Summer Resort). Behind the restaurant down the riverbank was where the canoes embarked. The canoes are close to 6-m long, made of wood, and lack the outrigger you see on most boats (bancas) in the Philippines. Two young men are hired with the canoe which usually carries two passengers. I don't remember seeing any life vests so if you can't swim or have young children along, I recommend getting them before the trip.

The lower part of the river is slow and meandering with homes and palms crowding the banks. It doesn't take long before the river valley turns into a deep gorge, with a rainforest canopy, and the quiet waters become cascading rapids. The paddlers often jump out of the boat to manhandle it between boulders while dodging other canoes on their way down. This provides almost as much entertainment as the iridescent birds and butterflies flitting overhead. After a couple of hours, a dead-end box canyon is reached where Pagsanjan Falls tumbles over. Here you can take a raft-ferry across the plunge pool to the base of the falls.

The trip down the rapids is fast and exciting and in less than half the time going up, you're back at the restaurant. If you take the trip, be prepared to get wet, bring extra clothing, and be sure to protect your camera. Here are some photos from my trip.

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