Misspelt adventures in the Central Highlands

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Rappel down cliffs, abseil through gushing waterfalls, scramble up and down rocks, trek through rivers, and slide down natural rock slides - thrilling adventures await at Datanla Falls in Da Lat

For those seeking a real rush of adrenalin abseiling at Datanla Waterfalls in Dalat is the perfect getaway

Are they badly spelled words? Tongue twisters? Anagrams?

These were my first thoughts when I came across "abseiling, rappelling and canyoning."

Don't let the words puzzle you, because these water sports guarantee a rush of adrenaline every time, as I found out recently.

In Vietnam, one of the only places to go rappelling, abseiling, and canyoning are the breathtaking cliffs and waterfalls in the Central Highlands town of Da Lat.

In 2005, a Vietnamese-French doctor invited his friend Andre Gala, a canyoning trainer, to explore the mountains and train local water sports enthusiasts.

A passionate trainee, Ngo Anh Tuan, decided to go back with Gala to train further in more challenging terrain. He returned with lots of gear, eager to introduce the sports in Vietnam.

Tuan now provides daily rappelling, abseiling and canyoning trips to waterfalls and cliffs around Da Lat like Lien Khuong Falls, Pongour and Draysap but the most popular site on his tour is Datanla.

Datanla has three spectacular and challenging waterfalls perfect for everyone from learners to experienced water sports enthusiasts.

On a bright Sunday morning, my friend and I, along with two American tourists, placed ourselves in Tuan's hands. He led us to Datanla trekking through the rainforest to a face of rocks where our lessons began. Tuan started by teaching us the basics of abseiling. "You will start off with practice abseils and graduate to the longer, more exciting stuff," he said. "The skills you learn today will be tested when you abseil 25 meters off a cliff to the lower floor of the Datanla Waterfalls."

Our foreign friends, having abseiled many times before, quickly passed the practice test.

It was my turn. I leaned backwards over the edge, with nothing to hold on to but a rope nailed to the cliff. A terrifying fear spread through me, and for a moment I forgot everything Tuan had taught us during the morning lessons. His words of encouragement woke me from my nightmare and I began to slide down. Somehow, I passed.

A quick lunch and we were set for the more thrilling part of the tour. I can say it was thrilling in hindsight but at the moment, I felt a good deal of trepidation and had serious second thoughts about continuing with the adventure.

This time, we had to get off our "training wheels" after making our first vertical descent of 15 meters to make a jump of about 10 meters. For one scared of heights, like yours truly, it was a major feat. But that proved to be just the first step.

Another short walk took us to the next cliff. "This is the real challenge," our guide said enthusiastically. The sound of gushing water could not mask the pounding of my heart. It was a 25-meter high cliff with water gushing down.

Trust your abilities, our guide said by way of added reassurance.

When my turn came, and I stepped over the edge, holding the rope, all I could do was close my eyes and pray feverishly. As the water battered against my skin, my limbs held on for dear life, struggling to maintain balance.

When I opened my eyes next, I felt marginally better; the bottom was not far away. And then suddenly I heard Tuan shout, "Jump!" I was holding the end of the rope and there was no other way out. I took one more deep breath, said one last prayer, and let go. In an instant, I found myself in a cool pool of water at the bottom of the waterfall. Needless to say, I was proud of myself.

Before we left the stunning cliffs and waterfalls to trek uphill to the bus for the city, Tuan said he had one "last but not the least" challenge for us, a 20-meter jump into a lake. Thankfully, the weather took a turn for the worse, and we decided to take him up on his offer the next time. I can't say I wasn't relieved.

For a rewarding canyoning experience contact

Dalat Discover Travel
15 Dang Thai Than Street, Ward 3, Da Lat Town, Lam Dong Province
Tel: (063) 3 531 586 - Hotline: 091 527 0999 (Mr. Tuan)
Email: dalatdiscover@gmail.com

Prices of a canyoning tour:
$60/person (for a group of two)
$35/person (for a group of three to five)
$30/person (for a group of six to eight)
$25/person (for a group of 9 to 15)

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