Cliff Jumping at Cunca Wulang Waterfall
When one thinks of Labuan Bajo, they think of diving with manta rays or visiting the Komodo dragons at Komodo National Park, but what else is there to do is a common question I’ve been asked? How about jumping off a 42-foot cliff at Cunca Wulang Waterfall?
Admittedly, I almost didn’t go. The night before I was raging it up at the Paradise Bar, the only place to go on a Saturday night in Labuan Bajo. My Swedish friend and two-week long roommate was taking off, and I wanted to properly send him off with one last good night out.
It’s Sunday morning, and I get a Facebook ping at 9 am from my local friend, Stefan, who is all bright eyed and bushy tailed ready to go. This is going to be a struggle. He said he’ll be at my place by 10 am so I use the opportunity to sleep in those few extra minutes before he arrives. Should I use this time to sleep in and go another time? Motivate, Celia. Motivate!
So I get my ass up and hop in the shower and meet my friend as scheduled. I stop to pick up a sandwich and water for the road, and we start making our way to Cunca Wulang Waterfall. He’s concerned about his two other friends…and, when I say concerned, I mean he’s concerned they’re still hungover and not going to wake up. He promised to not leave without them but stopped by their house and no sign of life. He called but no answer. Eventually, around 10:30 am they awake from the dead! It looks like after the bar had closed, they all decided to go swimming at the beach and share a bottle of tequila until the early sunrise. Rock stars! So we’re all a bit of a hot mess at this point except my friend Stefan who seems to have a neverending supply of energy.
We make about a half-dozen more stops (it’s one of those mornings, lol) trying to find bananas for my other two friends, stop to take pics at a viewpoint, pick up some food from the local warung, more water, cigarettes, and then we finally get our shit together and begin making our way to the waterfall.
I’m not really sure how long the drive would take to get there because we made so many stops, but I guestimate it’s about an hour away.
After making our way on our motorbikes through windy roads up the mountain, we reach a rocky unpaved road. We pay our $4 (50,000 rupiahs) at the entrance of the waterfall park where we could either park our bikes and make a long 1-2 mile trek or say f*ck it and four wheel our way through that mothereffer. We’re still hungover, so we say f*ck it and start riding our bikes on the loose cobblestone path.
After about 15 minutes and a sore ass, we make our way to the end of the path where the only way to go is by foot. There’s an old man there selling coconuts, so we decide to take a couple for the waterfall. The man chops the outer barrier with a machete trimming it down for us. We then have a local who we pay to escort us to the waterfall.
The hike is about another 15 minutes or so. We come to a crossing point where we literally have to leap from one rock to another. I’d guess it were about 4 foot jump. I’m thinking, “Are you serious? F*ck!” Here goes nothing! My sad leap across the two boulders with streaming water below me looked more like one awkward old lady giant stride. Stefan grabs my hand so that I don’t fall into the flowing stream. Alright! I made it! How in the hell am I going to get back, though? I’ll think about that later. Then we come across another “leaping point” we’ll call it for lack of a better term, but this one wasn’t as bad as the last one.
We arrive, and it’s just as beautiful as I imagined. Wow. I’m surprised we’re one of the only few there. We get settled and park our things, and I can’t decide if I want to nap, eat, nap, or jump.
My friend decided she’d motivate to be the first to jump off the 42 foot (13 meters) cliff. Alright, alright, let’s get our asses in there. It’ll feel so much better. My friend, Stefan and I, decide to jump in together and “Weeeeee!!” *splash*… shock therapy! Instant hangover cure. There’s something about the ocean or natural body of water that clears the mind, body, and alcohol seeping from your pores.
Later more people begin to show but still not too many where it felt crowded. We begin to guide them on where to jump, and it’s about a dozen of us all enjoying this hidden gem.
Our friends made their way to a rock below the waterfall, so my friend Stefan and I decide to follow them. Stefan went first, and I could see it was going to be a struggle getting to the waterfall. It required all of his upper body strength to swim there. I try, and I’m struggling. I keep getting pulled back into this little hole, and the current is too strong. My arms are tired, and I feel myself getting swept back. I tell him I can’t make it and I’m swept back to where I started. He comes back for me and said we don’t have to go, but I’m determined. I’m not a quitter. I can do this. So we hang onto a rock with one hand and try to find an alternative route until my arms regain strength. Our friends told us to try from the other side which now made a whole lot more sense because it was a lot less strong. So we try from the left side, and then I make my way to the other side, and we begin climbing to meet our friends. The rocks are slippery and I keep slipping, so Stefan continues to be my guiding light helping me get up safely. Then others begin to follow suit, and he helps about 3 others make their up grabbing them all with one hand until they get to a stable point.
We want to give others the chance to enjoy the rock under the waterfall, so we decide to get off, but it’s tricky. One of our friends was starting to make his way down with his feet in a sliding motion, but that only lasted about a second before he was swept down in .2 seconds, the fastest rock slide I’ve ever seen. We see a couple of others try, and the same thing happened. Slippery slope! Stefan was the last to go down and then told me not to go down that way because it was a very shallow and rocky area. So he helped me get down the way I came up.
After about a half-day at Cunca Wulang Waterfall we decide it’s time to make our way back to town. We ask our friends to carry our bags back to the beginning area of the trail so we could go in for one last jump and float part of our way down, which also allowed me to skip that treacherous leap between rocks.
Our local guide who was there watching our belongings the whole time making sure it was safe carried our bags back the rest of the way until we reached out bikes. Score! I tip him $4 (50,0000 rupiahs) for allowing us to focus on having a good time.
After we got back to our bikes, we made one last pit stop at a private resort beach and rested up with some coffee and tea until the sunset.
Moral of the story is get your lazy ass up and motivate when it comes to beautiful natural gems like this and never quit even when you’re fighting against a strong current you don’t think you can fight; there’s always another way.