Canyoning is an adventure and exploration sport where participants climb into a wetsuit and get themselves down a river, gorge or – you guessed it – canyon, using a variety of techniques ranging from walking, jumping and scrambling to abseiling and rock climbing.
If you’ve not done it before, the whole process can be a little daunting, but the good thing about canyoning is that it can often be as relaxing or as intense and adrenaline-fuelled as you want it to be. There are different routes depending on ability and confidence, and even within the same canyon there are often different options and a variety of ways back down.
At it’s best, canyoning isn’t just an adrenaline hit, it’s an unbelievable, intimate way to explore and enjoy beautiful canyons in a manner that’s otherwise simply not possible.
Here are a few things that you’ll learn on your first canyoning trip and some epic places and ways to try it out.
1) You’ll hate your wetsuit… until you’re in the water
One of the first things that will happen on any guided canyoning trip is that they’ll bring you your gear, give you a few safety lessons and some information about your harness, then get you in your wetsuit and march you up to the canyon.
The walk to the start of a canyon can be anywhere between 10-30 minutes long, or possibly longer. After all, you’ve got to get up pretty high if you’re going to get to a canyon that you can jump and slide your way down for an hour or so. The hike is going to be uphill. You’re going to be warm. Really warm. Especially if you’re in a warm-weather country in summer.
You’re going to probably start cursing your wetsuit for this heat, and start producing more beads of sweat than your local charity shop has copies of FIFA 14. But just you wait.
Once you get into the canyon and immerse yourself in the chilly water – even in warm countries canyon water tends to be cold since it’s normally sheltered by large canyon walls (which make the experience all the more stunning!) or trees – the wetsuit will become your new best friend.
You might be a little warm on the way up, but it’s all worth it and fear not, you should be the perfect temperature for the remainder of the trip down the canyon.
2) Canyons are not too kind to footwear
You’re going out to the wild! Maybe you’ve bought an awesome new pair of trainers or even hiking boots to do so? Yeah don’t wear them. Sorry. We’ve only got your own best interests at heart. Canyoning is unlikely to leave your footwear in a particularly pleasant state.
Don’t get us wrong, your footwear won’t be destroyed when you come out the canyon, but it will be very, very wet, and it’s likely your shoes will have taken a few scrapes from all those rocks that you’ll be climbing over too, so don’t wear footwear that you want to keep peachy.
You can actually get purpose-built canyoning shoes online, made with grip, fit and waterproofing in mind, and some canyoning companies include shoes or wetsuit boots as part of the provided-equipment (check in advance, and use their stuff if you can!), but if not, try and take a pair of old trainers that you don’t mind getting a bit messed up.
3) You’ll be able to handle more than you think
Let’s say you’ve got a fear of heights or you’ve never been in a canyon before and you’re a bit unsure of yourself at the start of the day. There’s every chance that by the end of the day, you’ll be jumping several metres into deep pools of water with a huge smile on your face.
The best canyoning guides are not only incredibly well versed in their practice, but they’re real reassuring too. They’ll help you find your comfort level, help you through the whole day, taking you step by step through all the essentials, and not only telling you where to jump or where to abseil, but showing you how, and explaining why it’s perfectly safe.
Throughout the course of the day you’ll be faced with scrambles, slippy rocks, abseils, and you’ll jump into pools of water surrounded by scenery untouched by human hands. And the more you do it, the more you’ll grow in confidence and the more you’ll love doing it.
There’s something about doing something with a group and seeing others do it as well that can convince even those unsure about heights that you are perfectly safe, and when you’ve made the jump once, your confidence grows quickly.
Canyoning is a great way to push your limits and go even just that little bit further than you thought you were capable of – so you can go even bigger next time around!
4) …But if you can’t, you can still go canyoning!
When canyoning first became an adventure sport about 15-20 years ago it was mainly something that you would do on a stag or hen do – a one-off experience to get an adrenaline rush, have a bit of fun and jump off big things in front of your friends.
These days, canyoning has expanded. It’s a fully fledged exploration sport in its own right. This also means that it has grown, the training and guides have gotten better, the equipment and routing has gotten better, and it really is open to everyone now.
You can go as full-on or as tame as you want in a lot of canyons, or at least, with a lot of providers. Most providers offer beginners canyoning as well as more intermediate and advanced levels. If you choose beginner, you won’t have to do huge jumps, and on some intermediate canyoning experiences – though check with the provider first if you are nervous about this – an alternative to any particularly big jumps will be provided through an abseil or through an alternative route you can climb down.
5) Forests have built-in waterslides
One of the best parts of canyoning is getting up close and personal with the natural wonders you can normally only appreciate from afar – the likes of waterfalls, which you get to abseil down, and dreamily-coloured pools of water which you get to jump into and swim in.
One of our favourite parts though are the natural water slides that you’ll find in canyons – slippery rocks that the guides know like the back of their hand and naturally-formed chutes that they lead into which drop you off in a pool of water. These sound almost too good to be true but they’re commonplace in canyoning.
“Just get on your bum and slide on down,” is one of the greatest commands you will hear from a canyoning instructor.
6) Rope skills aren’t so tough
If you’re canyoning for the first time then there’s a good chance that this means it’ll be your first experience of abseiling or repelling as well. Rejoice! There is probably no time you will be closer to fulfilling your childhood ambition of eventually becoming James Bond.
Abseiling is something that can look very ominous – you’re going from one very high place to one significantly lower place, through the air, attached to only a rope – but not only is it incredibly safe (assuming you’re with a trained professional and have all the gear), it’s incredibly fun too, and the best guides will teach you all about abseiling as you do it and as you travel through the canyon as well, so not only will you get your first abseiling experience, there’s a good chance you’ll leave with some reusable rope skills as well, and the more you come back, the more you can built those up.
7) Canyoning is ridiculously fun
At the end of the day, canyoning exists for one reason and one reason only; it’s insanely fun.
It’s a great adventure sport, a fantastic way to get out into the countryside and explore the rivers and gorges, to get waist-deep in the water of new countries on your travels and to see waterfalls and slides, the likes of which you never even knew existed.
It’s also a little like the adult equivalent of spending an hour in one of those badass children’s play parks you used to go to on your seventh birthday.
Canyoning is an assault course – a challenge through a natural water system that will test your adrenaline, but also that will have you clambering over and under rocks, leaping from one place to another and laughing away with your group, grinning like an idiot while you do it.
We don’t know what your thoughts will be when you go into the canyon, but when you come out, we can guarantee one thing – you’ll be promising yourself you’re going to do it again.
Push your limits and discover more canyoning and multi-adventure holidays with only the best local guides and hosts.