Embracing My Inner Adrenaline Junkie: Canyoning in Dalat, Vietnam

If you’ve been reading this blog for more than about five minutes, you’ve probably realized that I’m not a huge adrenaline junkie. In fact many of the more daring activities I tried, like duck-hunting or surfing, I completely failed at all together.

But canyoning – an adventure activity that can be summed up as “white-water rafting without the raft”, I was hungering to finally try. So when I saw signs in Dalat, Vietnam, advertising canyoning, I signed myself up for the next truck out.

On the way to the picturesque, pine-dotted mountains around Dalat, I met my canyoning companions; three hilarious English guys who would provide comic relief and moral support in equal measure throughout the day.

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After being stylishly outfitted in harnesses, helmets, gloves and dayglow livejackets, we practiced rappelling (known to the Brits as abseilling) a few times off of a pine tree. In other words, we jumped backwards down a steep hill in frog-like hops.

Then it was time for the real thing; a thundering waterfall.

After watching two of the guys shimmy down the cliff past my view, I felt fairly confident. This wasn’t so bad right? But once I was harnessed I froze; the idea of blindly jumping down a waterfall with only a rope to support me no longer seemed prudent.

Looking down, my stomach in knots, I yelled back up to the belayer, ”I literally can’t do this.”

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But my belayer Craig, one of the English guys, called back to me, ”No, you really can!”

And although I was thiiis close to throwing in the towel, I decided to forge onward. And slowly but surely I began jumping down, trying to grip the rock with my useless, flat-soled tennis shoes.

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Once I reached the icy waters at the bottom my hands were trembling and I felt accomplished enough to call it a day. After all, I had just jumped down a cliff!

But the day wasn’t over yet- next up was the water slide, in which the guide sent us sailing down a small rapids headfirst. Thank god I have travel insurance.

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This was fun but my foot definitely got caught under a rock during one slide, ouch!

 The first waterfall and water slide were child’s play compared to our next obstacle- an 80-foot (25m) waterfall.

On the way down I had so much water pounding in my face I felt like I was being sprayed by a fire hydrant. Heeding the guide’s advice to look down, not up, in order to avoid the gushing water, I slowly jumped down the cliff. Until I slipped at one point and was flipped upside-down.

May I now interject that I was rappelling in socks.

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After I miraculously righted myself, I continued descending, and when the guide shouted, “JUMP!” I fell into the water like a log. It was perhaps the least graceful dismount ever.

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After scrambling to the shore like a drenched Pomeranian, I snapped shots of my fellow canyoners. I particularly loved the way the waterfall looked when I slowed down the shutter speed!

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Once the entire group had descended, we enjoyed a picnic beside the waterfall: Bánh mì sandwiches filled with La vache qui rit cheese, pork pâté and vegetables, accompanied by freshly cut dragon fruit and pineapple. After I ravenously ate three whole sandwiches (canyoning really takes it out of you!) we happily munched on strawberry Oreos for dessert.

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During our lunch one of the English guys called out the elephant in the forest. “I know waterfalls are supposed to be relaxing, but really they’re just noisy.”

Bellies full, we headed to the next waterfall. The challenge? Jumping. We had the choice to leap from either seven or 11 meters. Gulp.

I almost didn’t jump (probably due to the agony I experienced cliff-diving in Greece), but then when an eight-year old Vietnamese boy leapt off fearlessly, I begrudgingly realized I would have to jump too.

I chose the seven-meter jump, flailing myself off the rock and touching silt upon landing. (I’m so glad I didn’t heed the guide’s suggestion to dive!) And then I jumped again.

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One of the guys was doing backflips!

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And after we swam to the shore, we heard about our final task of the day: the Washing Machine.

The Washing Machine is named as such because it shoves you in circles, mimicking a spin cycle. When I first saw the waterfall from above, I asked the guide, ”Are you serious? You want me to jump down that?”

After a few paranoid questions, I (wo)manned up and began rappelling. As I rappelled down, I realized this waterfall would be different than the others; with a gap of only a few feet below me, I would have to fall carefully to dodge the jagged rocks on either side of me.

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My heart racing, I let go of the rope and fell down the rushing water, procuring a few scratches and ripping my cheaply made shorts on the way. I seriously should’ve bought some better sports clothes online before canyoning!

But it wasn’t over- after the Washing Machine we began hiking back up to the car at a steep 75-degree angle. Trying not to visibly pant, I trudged 15 minutes completely uphill stopping to catch my breath take pictures of the beautiful scenery.

Near cardiac arrest aside the nature was really spectacular, from the mechanical screech of cicadas to the white pines dwarfing us above.

And though canyoning was incredible, the highlight of the day may have been tobogganing. This death trap on wheels was possibly the best $3 I have ever spent. IMG_9839

My toboggan partner almost went off the rails twice because he kept forgetting to break. I was literally laughing until my ribs hurt. I can describe it no more eloquently than it was literally the most fun thing ever.

IMG_9843           We survived!

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I finished the day bruised, exhausted, and absolutely content. And a little bit proud of myself. I was now a canyoning convert!

Our company, Viet Challenge, was  amazing: friendly guides who gladly took photos for us, a tasty picnic, a focus on safety. Also the head guide called one of the English guys a “tiger monkey” on account of his face which kind of made my life.

Practical tips:

You can bring your camera- our guide provided a dry bag so it was fine to pack a dSLR.

Clothes-wise, I would recommend light clothes and possibly a change of clothes and flip flops for after. I wore my bathing suit under a t-shirt and shorts and that was fine.

Wear Tevas or tennis shoes- no flip flops. And stuff your shoes with newspaper after and let them dry out overnight- they will be soaked!

Have you ever tried canyoning? Would you want to?

Viet Challenge in no way paid or perked me. In fact they didn’t know I run a travel blog at all! Their canyoning costs $32 which is truly a steal for pick-up, drop-off, equipment, lunch and a full-day of canyoning.

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28 Comments

  1. You daring soul! This was beautifully written and so captivating to follow! Well done. Cheers!

    Reply
    • Thanks so much, Leah, I’m glad you enjoyed the post! My adventure posts seem to be less popular so I’m glad to hear you liked reading it :)

    • we are warmly welcome you to viet challenge tours, DaLat, viet Nam.

    • Thanks so much for having me! I loved it!

  2. Looks like so much fun! I love canyoneering. If you really enjoyed it, Arizona has some great places to go.
    Angela recently posted..Banff Instagram Photo EssayMy Profile

    Reply
    • I would definitely look into canyoning in Arizona, even though it might cost a bit more than $32, haha :)

  3. that looks like so much fun. honestly, i am slightly terrified of heights. i love whitewater rafting though. i did it near the grand canyon some years back and it was incredible. anyways, glad you enjoyed it. i’ll have to sum up the courage someday and try!
    Blakeley AeroSea recently posted..my new toyMy Profile

    Reply
    • I would love to whitewater raft in the grand canyon, what an amazing experience!!

    • Actually no… it was more just getting banged up by the rocks on the side, and then once getting my foot caught :)

  4. ughhh, i remember you telling me about this in Nha Trang and when I was on my way to Dalat i crashed my bike and never even made it there!!!! So pissed! Looks like so much fun though, guess I’ll just have to go back to Vietnam!

    Reply
    • Oh no! Hope you were okay :(. And definitely, just one more reason to go back!!

  5. wow, that’s insane!

    Reply
    • It was crazy but I would highly recommend it! And for such a low price, what a deal :)

  6. I’m not sure I have any burning desire to try canyoning/bouldering/jumping off of cliffs, but I can definitely get behind your toboggan love. The Great Wall of China is seriously amazing, but that didn’t mean my favorite thing about our day trip to visit it wasn’t the toboggan ride down. ;)
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..To Market, To Market: Kota Kinabalu in PhotosMy Profile

    Reply
    • That sounds amazing! I have to say, I will definitely be looking for more tobogganing opportunities when on the road in the future :)

  7. I love those gifs!! i’m going to totally try to make one- so cool!!! and i did canyoning in interlaken – so much fun!! it is truly scary though and i also had some close cute and ended up with some bumps and bruises
    Rachel of Hippie in Heels recently posted..Packing list for a Girly Beach trip in IndiaMy Profile

    Reply
    • Jealous! I would love to go canyoning in Switzerland… I bet the scenery’s incredible!

  8. Wow its so adventurous and incredibly fun trip

    Reply
  9. Amazing! The closest thing I’ve done to this was climbing up a waterfall it Jamaica — so much fun, though I imagine going down would be even more of a thrill!

    Reply
  10. Whoaaa! And you’re saying you’re not an adrenaline junkie? I’m impressed. And intrigued. And terrified. Not sure what I’m going to do with this post, but I have FEELINGS about it. Might have to try canyoning.
    Silvia recently posted..Our Trip in NumbersMy Profile

    Reply
    • Haha glad to hear it :). Canyoning is amazing and I seriously am a chicken, so if I can do it so can you, trust me! :)

  11. Aaahhhh this looks SO fun! Definitely adding it to my list when I head to SE Asia in a year. I went canyoning in Chile and it is still one of my all time favorite adrenaline rushes, even though I was completely terrified at the time. Kudos for going for it! :)
    Kaleena’s Kaleidoscope recently posted..The Tale of a Wannabe RunawayMy Profile

    Reply
    • Ah I totally wanted to go canyoning in Chile! I was down in Puerto Varas and it looked amazing :). You should check out Vietnam and see how it compares!

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