Even if you only have a day to spare, you can paint a weekend with colorful adrenaline strokes when you do Dalat Canyoning which takes you to a series of heart-pumping waterfall rappelling, unlimited river crossings (and floating), natural water slides, a drooling 10 meters jump, and a tropical forest trail hiking and scrambling.
For me, there was no leaving Vietnam until I have experienced Canyoning in Datanla Waterfalls, a series of streams running miles in the highlands of Dalat, although I know that it would not hold a candle to my home country’s “Kawasan Canyoneering” in the pristine blue and fresh waters of Badian – Alegria Cebu which ends in about a 12-meter exhilarating jump to the basin of the second level of Kawasan Waterfalls. So 2 months before my scheduled departure from Vietnam, I booked a night bus to Da Lat to finally push through with this Vietnam bucket list. This time I was joined by Cyril, a new travel buddy I met in my Phu Quoc trip.
3-Step Planning Before Going To Da Lat
Actually, you can just hop on a bus to Da Lat and scout for tours and homestay as you get there. However, if you prefer spending your time enjoying the place you are visiting rather than looking for accommodation and tours, then you can follow these 3 steps so that when you get there, you only need to breathe in its cool atmosphere.
- Book a night bus via http://futabus.vn/. I have heard warnings both verbal and online about the danger of night trips but I have rode them (especiall Futabus aka Phuong Trang) too many times and have grown confident of them. What I love about this company is that their website is available in English and they offer transfer to your hotel of destination. Aside from that, payment is online and you can pick your seat assignment. I suggest you take right window top bunk seat. Fare is 120K VND per way if you are coming from Ho Chi Minh City.
- Book a homestay. I will be biased about my favorite homestay in Vietnam which is Da Lat Mr Happy Homestay. Minh (Mr Happy’s real name) is such a gem to his guests. He’s a young local (he said he’s just 16 or 18, but I doubt that, as a compliment, because his life skills, I think, exceed a typical teenager’s. By the time of our my visit, the homestay was just 3 months old and yet, online reviews were already exceptional. With his welcoming and friendly spirit, I could see why. A bunk in a dorm room is only $5 with breakfast already!
- Book a Dalat canyoning tour provider. Now if you booked Da Lat Mr Happy Homestay, you can already skip this part because Mr. Happy can already do this for you. And, if you are friendly enough, maybe even give you a discount. 🙂 There are a lot of Canyoning providers in Da lat and you have to be careful which one you pick. You have to specifically request for Datanla Canyoning, because some do it in another waterfalls which is not as exciting and thrilling. If you see in the itinerary that there is “zipline,” then that’s not the one you would want to take. Price is typically at $40 per pax, including eveything like pick up, gears, lunch and pictures.
Once you’ve done these, then just hop on your bus and expect to arrive in Da Lat after 5 hours (it’s faster at night). You should also inform your homestay that you will arrive early, so they can open for you. Leave your bag and go for a walk around the lake, find a Banh Mi Xiu Mai for breakfast and take some pictures to make your time productive as you wait for the shuttle to pick you up at 9am.
Dalat Canyoning Walkthrough
When the shuttle arrives at your hotel/homestay to pick you up, expect it to have other people as you are joining a group. Based on my experience, most if not all are backpackers, dominated by westerners. We are favored to have only 8 people in the group with 3 guides. Other groups were as large as 20 which translates to longer queuing time and waiting time since you can only get to rappel one by one.
Your group will get a quick orientation from the guides, training you with how to use the abseiling gears. They will make sure that you could do it before the group moves to begin the adventure, which starts with a 10-15 minute hike to the first rappelling station. You will let yourself down on a dry wall beside a large waterfall and land on a shallow river. I suggest you to be brave and be the first to go down among the group so that you could have time taking pictures or exploring down within the area while waiting for others in the group to finish, instead of waiting up there for your turn.
This will be followed by two other more rappel station, the last of which is on a wet wall where you will be quickly swept away by the “Washing Machine Falls.” In between the rappels are countless river crossings and river floating opportunities, as well as water slides and my most favorite part, cliff jumping! There are 3 levels of the jump, 7, 9 and 10 meters. I actually went there to take the 10 meter jump, but our guide said he had to see me do the 9m first to see if I could do it safely. It’s another adrenaline craving satisfied when I finally took that 10m jump! From my group, there were only 2 others who did it, both men of course.
Around lunch time, our group camped somewhere along the trail conducive for setting up food. We had a Banh mi buffet in the wild, enjoying our lunch while we hear gently rushing river. By 3 pm, we could finally say we survived Dalat Canyoning! It was a rather quick (around 5 hours) but jam-packed activity. Since it finished early, we still had time to visit the crazy house, and walk the cooler streets of Da Lat.
-Best footwear for Dalat Canyoning would be a hiking/trekking sandals, instead of a closed shoes since the former gets dried quicker.
-Although the guides have their own camera, they only take generic photos for everyone. Still better if you have your own action camera. They also had helmets with mounts so don’t worry about how you could mount yours.
-The lunch prepared was so good and enough for everyone, There were also options for vegetarians.
What To Wear
The tour provider is complete with safety gears such as helmets, life vests, gloves and aqua suits. The first three are mandatory for your own safety, but I don’t advise wearing aqua suits unless you are canyoning in the rain which will make you really chilly. Everyone in my group wore their aqua suit except me because, one, I don’t want a lot in between my skin and nature; second, whatever the weather, hiking makes the body produce much warmth; and lastly, I did canyoning before without aqua suit and it was all fine. During the long periods of hike, my group mates ended up zipping down their suits because of heat. Having said that, I suggest you just go with your usual swim/hike/sports clothes.
From the listed itineraries in the next section, we actually did the second one, an overnight trip so we could relax and have a good sleep after the activity. Budget damage is as listed:
780K VND – Canyoning tour
240K VND – Roundtrip night bus
115K VND – Bed in Dorm with breakfast at Dalat Mr. Happy Homestay
15KVND – Banh Mi Xiu Mai breakfast
25K VND – Dinner Mi Quang
60K VND – Boat paddling in the lake
15K VND – Ice cream
1,250K VND (around $56) TOTAL
Depending on your schedule, this activity can adjust to suit your free time. You have three options: a day trip, a chill overnight trip, or a jam-packed 2-day trip.
Option 1: Day Trip Only (Do this if you only have a day to spare)
0000 Board a bus to Da Lat
0500 ETA Da Lat, check in the homestay, leave your stuff to stroll around and have breakfast.
0900 Pick up from homestay for Dalat Canyoning
1500 Back to homestay to get picked up by Futabus shuttle
1600 ETD From Da Lat
2200 ETA Saigon
Option 2: Chill Overnight Trip (Do this if you have 2 days to spare and want to recover after the activity)
0000 Board a bus to Da Lat
0500 ETA Da Lat, check in the homestay, leave your stuff to have breakfast and stroll around the lake.
0900 Pick Up from homestay, travel to Datanla falls for Dalat Canyoning
1500 End of Canyoning
1530 onwards Explore the city, go to crazy house, walk, walk, walk or sleep 🙂
0800 ETD From Da Lat
1400 ETA Saigon
Option 3: 2-Day Adventure Trip (Do this if you want to maximize your visit in Dalat)
Day 1 – Hike to Lang Biang Peak (click here for complete DIY guide)
0500 – ETA at Da Lat, wait for Sunrise by the lake
0630 – Check in the homestay, leave your stuff
0700 – Explore the city, have breakfast
0900 – Board bus #3 or #5 to Lang Biang (Alternatively, you can use rented bicycle or motorbike)
0945 – Arrival at Lang Biang Entrance
1000 – Start hike
1330 – Arrival at the peak
01430 – Start descent
1630 – Arrival at entrance
1700 – Board the bus to Da Lat
1745 onwards – Arrival at Da Lat, dinner, sleep
Day 2 – Canyoning
0900 Pick Up from homestay for Dalat Canyoning
1500 End of Canyoning, go back to homestay to get picked up by Futabus shuttle
1600 ETD From Da Lat
2200 ETA Saigon
This activity turned out to be one of my favorites among all adventures I did in Vietnam. Oh to be honest, it’s so hard to choose so I’ll keep them all on the same ranks 😛 But probably one factor about Canyoning that stands out among the others is that you can do it whether it rains or shines! If it shines, then good. If it rains, it wouldn’t matter much because you are going to be wet anyway! Just be more careful as the trails would be muddy. 🙂
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