Strapped in from head to toe in a wet suit, hip harness and countless carabiners, I was attached to a rope suspending me above a roaring waterfall in the rainforest just outside Baños, Ecuador.
The Go Pro camera stuck to the helmet of our tour guide was focused on me and I could hear the faint noise of everyone cheering down below. There was no turning back – my only choice now was to go straight down the waterfall.
Planting my feet on the wet rocks, the water rushing over my legs, I slowly released the rope and slid down one step at a time. It seemed to take forever to reach the bottom and at one point I slipped, grabbing onto the rope with both hands and scrambling to find my feet. When I finally reached the bottom, I was greeted with high fives. I had abseiled my first waterfall!
Abseiling down waterfalls, known here as “canyoning” is a great activity to do if you are visiting Baños. Don’t worry if you are not a hard-core extreme sports type person. You don’t need to have any experience and it’s quite affordable.
We went with MTS Tours because they were recommended to us by some Australian girls in Quito and we had a great experience. The half day tour, which lasted from 9am until 1pm and included all equipment, photos and transport, cost $30 USD per person.
There was also a full day tour available for $60, which included lunch. We like to take the opportunity to try these activities in the countries where they are cheaper, as an experience like this would cost much more in Europe or North America.
Abseiling is a little harder than it looks and it takes a while to get used to it. We received a demonstration beforehand in which our guide showed us how to move “like a monkey” with wide-spread legs, slightly bent knees and a curled spine. After the first couple of waterfalls I really got the hang of it.
The Rio Blanco has five waterfalls in total and we abseiled down three of them, slid down a zip line on one of them and used the final one as a natural waterslide to slide down on our backs – with an abrupt plunge into a deep pool at the end. With each one I started to feel a little more confident, although I still got butterflies in my stomach while standing at the top and looking down.
There were a few crazy guys who were obviously professionals and would run straight down the waterfalls face first, tightening the rope just before they reached the bottom. It was exciting to watch, but I think I will need a bit more practice until I get to that point. I’m still impressed with myself for making it down the waterfall slowly and carefully!
Baños is located approximately 3.5 hours from the capital city of Quito. The bus from Quito to Baños costs $3.50 and several buses leave every day.
MTS Tours is located just off the main square in Baños. We stayed in Hostel Cañalimeña in a private room with bathroom for $12.80 per night.