Updated February 14th, 2019.
For travellers who are craving an adventurous activity to get their adrenaline flowing and their heart pounding, there is no better destination than Baños in Ecuador!
Offering everything from rafting to zip-lining, Baños is an adrenaline junkie’s paradise. Upon seeing what was on offer and looking for a new challenge, my boyfriend Tim and I got chatting to the guys at Takiri Travel and quickly arranged a canyoning trip.
What is canyoning?
I’ll be honest before I visited Baños, I had never heard of canyoning. It wasn’t long before I got up to scratch though! Michael from Takiri explained that canyoning is an adventure sport that combines, jumping, rappelling, scrambling and swimming as a way of navigating your way through canyons and waterfalls.
This was exactly the kind of exhilarating activity that Tim and I were looking for. After explaining the tour options to us, we booked on to the half-day Cashaurco trip, the most exciting of the canyoning trips on offer!
What to bring on a canyoning trip?
- Bathing suit
- A change of clothes
- Insect repellent
- A digital storage device for photos taken throughout the day
Does it matter if I’m a newbie?
Despite my craving for some adrenaline, I wanted to ensure that as someone with zero experience, I would still be able to partake in the activity. For this trip, no previous experience is required (phew!) and there is also a professional instructor to keep you safe. The guides speak both Spanish and English.
Why Takiri Travel?
Takiri Travel is keen to provide off the beaten track experiences of the highest quality, whilst taking all the stress out of organising for travellers. They work directly with local communities to empower them within the tourism industry and provide authentic cultural experiences. With a huge focus on both responsible and sustainable travel, they are a fantastic choice for backpackers who want to make sure they are investing their money in a company with a fair ethos.
Pick-up and arrival
Takiri arranged everything so that Tim and I were picked up directly from our place of accommodation, Community Hostel in Baños. From there we were transported to the Geotours office, who host the trip on behalf of Takiri. Here we had our equipment fitted and were given a brief rundown of what to expect from the trip.
We were provided with wetsuits, helmets, harnesses and footwear. This was a welcome surprise as we were only travelling with two pairs of shoes and we knew from experience how long they can take to dry!
After meeting our guides Tomas and Andreas, we piled into the truck and drove to the canyon. The guides did everything they could to create a fun laid back atmosphere on the way to our destination, starting with a group sing-along of Wham’s ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’. Haha!
Upon reaching our location, we went to change into our wetsuits and listened as our safety talk was delivered. To get us feeling comfortable in the water, we took it in turns jumping into a small pond before swimming to the edge. We were feeling fresh and ready to go!
Leap of faith
Our first test was to lean back and fall into the water behind us with our back straight and our arms crossed. This sounds easy but learning to overpower your instincts and let yourself fall is actually a lot harder than you would think. After a gentle nudge, I was laying down in the water.
The next challenge was the first of the jumps, which took place at a height of three metres. As someone who is terrified of heights, I was pretty nervous about this but determined to do it all the same.
I dallied on the edge of the waterfall for a good minute or so, flapping my arms and trying to get psyched up for the drop below. After a deep breath, I hurled myself off the waterfall to be greeted by loud cheers from my fellow travellers.
One guy looked at me incredulously and asked me if I was scared of heights. I timidly nodded to which he replied with ‘right on!’ I was feeling pretty chuffed with myself… until we got to the next jump.
It was located seven metres up, which is a heck of a lot higher than it sounds. I nervously watched as the other guys jumped into the pool. It was so high that I couldn’t even see the water until I got to the edge. As I approached the ledge, my legs started to wobble.
That was my cue but I had only managed to wobble on the spot. I attempted the jump a further two times but each time my body pulled me back at the last second. I had started to panic and was desperately looking around for another way down the waterfall but it didn’t look like there was one.
As I stood teetering on the edge, the stress began to really set in. Clearly seeing the fear and panic in my eyes, Tomas tried to calm me down. He was really patient in explaining where I needed to jump and worked with me to stop me from overthinking the leap.
Don’t think, just jump!
I took a deep shuddered breath and leapt into the air before my body had a chance to stop me. The free fall felt like hours but in reality, it was only a few seconds before I landed in the water. As I came up for air, Tomas waded towards me and wrapped me in a hug. Good job, he said. All of the other guys were cheering.
I’m not going to lie and say that the jump was a pleasant experience for me, however, I am really proud of myself for facing my fear and doing it. Without a doubt, the patience and support from the guides were imperative in getting me to make the leap and goes to show their adaptability when working with all kinds of people.
After plunging into the water and climbing my way up a large boulder, I waited anxiously to get strapped into the zip-line. Tomas showed me which part of the rope to pull for the break and sent me flying towards Andreas who was waiting at the bottom of the line.
As soon as gravity took me, I began to scream but quickly calmed myself as I noticed the beauty of the area around me. Andreas hit the brake and I then climbed down into the water to watch the others descend. (Naturally as the biggest wimp of the group, I was the only screamer.)
Now the jumps were out of the way and the adrenaline was still pounding, I felt eager to get started on the rappelling. As I got harnessed in, the guides delivered their instructions. Despite my fear from earlier, I felt completely safe under the clear guidance of both Tomas and Andreas and had complete faith in my equipment.
I leant back allowing the harness to take all of my weight and then slowly made my way down the cliff. Around halfway down, I stopped to admire the stunning waterfall beside me. There is no doubt that canyoning is a great way to get up close to nature!
During the canyoning experience, Tomas had done everything he could to encourage camaraderie between those of us on the trip and after experiencing some initially scary challenges together, we quickly felt bonded. We stopped regularly and posed for photos, which are included in the price of the trip.
Owing to the fact that this is such a wet experience, it is too much of a gamble to take your camera/phone. Being aware of this, the guides always take a specialised waterproof camera from which to document the experience. This means you get to take home a visual memory of the day, without needing to worry about any of your belongings.
The day ends…
After finishing the final rappel for the day, we were given the option to climb back up the waterfall and make another jump. Feeling truly exhausted from the challenges of earlier, I decided instead to swim in the clear pool and watch the others whilst they dive-bombed in.
The canyon part of the trip culminated with us all messing about in the water and taking a few final photos before heading off to get changed. We then all piled into the van back to the Geotours office in Baños to pick up the photos.
The final part of the trip saw us visit a small restaurant in the city where we had a delicious dinner of noodles provided. Believe me when I say this was much needed after the trials of the day! It was also a chance to get everyone together for a final time to discuss the tour and our achievements of that afternoon.
Canyoning: Is the fear worth it?
By its design, canyoning is a sport made to challenge you and get your heart beating faster. Owing to my dislike of heights, it was definitely a more challenging day for me than some of my fellow travellers but as a result, I think I took away a greater sense of accomplishment.
Both of our guides were instrumental in making the day both safe and fun. For me personally, their encouragement and patience went miles in making me feel comfortable and giving me the confidence to face my fears.
If you are looking to go canyoning in Baños, I would definitely recommend choosing Takiri’s Cashaurco trip. This experience incorporates a complex system of waterfalls and also gives you the opportunity to use a more diverse skill set which results in more adrenaline and fun.
Takiri’s emphasis on working with local communities sees them partner with industry experts like Geotours, which means that travellers always get a safe and fun experience. Canyoning may be a challenge but whats a trip to Baños without a little bit of adventure?!