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Hidden Canyon Beji Guwang

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Hidden Canyon Beji Guwang may be hidden, but it’s definitely no secret. This rugged and deep rocky gorge along a section of the Oos River between Ubud and Sanur makes for an adventurous two to three hour trek.

On our first attempt the Hidden Canyon remained hidden—flood waters had closed the trek, so to avoid an unnecessary trip, call ahead. If you have trouble getting any response, the local guide association often updates the river’s status on their Facebook page. Even if the weather looks promising, the river may have other ideas.

Grab a perch. Photo taken in or around Hidden Canyon Beji Guwang, Ubud, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Grab a perch. Photo: Sally Arnold

Admission is 15,000 rupiah, and a group of about 30 local guides work on a rotation basis for tips. It was suggested to us that 50,000 rupiah for a trek to the first section only or for the full round trip, 100,000 to 150,000 rupiah depending on how many in your group, would be appropriate. Guides are required for first timers, and on request if you’ve visited before. Some guides have limited English, but all are able to communicate what’s necessary to keep you safe. We’d recommend a guide regardless, unless you’re a very confident river-trekker, as it’s pretty hairy in parts.

You are going to get wet, so dress appropriately. The area is considered sacred by the locals, shorts and T-shirt (or boardies and a rashie) and more acceptable than swimmers. Local guides suggest going barefoot but unless you have soles of leather, we’d recommend trekking sandals or water shoes or even trainers, as it’s very slippery and rocky and we saw broken glass in some areas. Take plenty of water and a drybag for electronics, you can leave unnecessary bags at the ticket counter. We found trekking poles useful.

Free public showers available. Photo taken in or around Hidden Canyon Beji Guwang, Ubud, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Free public showers available. Photo: Sally Arnold

Beginning at the Pura Dalem in Guwang village, 14.5 kilometres south of Ubud and 15 kilometres north of Sanur, a steep cement staircase takes you about 12 metres down to the river where on the opposite bank, the small Beij Guwang Temple overlooks a sacred spring and bathing area. Here a sign says “fish therapy” and if you dangle your feet, fish may nibble your toes, but the water was too fast flowing on our visit for any hungry fish to be hanging around. During dry season the water is crystal clear and you can see the rocks and fish. Our experience was more cafe late, which made our guide who was able to warn of obstacles under the water more appreciated.

The trail follows the river (well it’s in it most of the time) upstream for about one-and-a-half kilometres, often against a fast-flowing current. In some sections the water is ankle deep, others it’s over most people’s heads, although you can avoid these parts by clambering over boulders. For folk who are reluctant of the idea of being waist deep in icy cold water, fear not. Although it seemingly gets little sun, the water temperature is surprisingly warm (still cool, but not icy), which suggests that at some point along its course, thermal springs may warm it up.

Don't forget to look up. Photo taken in or around Hidden Canyon Beji Guwang, Ubud, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Don't forget to look up. Photo: Sally Arnold

Traversing the chasm, you’ll be awed by its sheer natural beauty: craggy walls of rock, pitted and worn over millennia, tower 20 to 30 metres, narrowing in sections so the overhanging trees and vines almost entwine to form a canopy. A filtered sheaf of rays illuminates the moss-covered escarpment. Veins of red and white mineral deposits mix with the dark rock. The river changes course three times with three distinct narrow canyons, while other sections of the river are much wider.

Climbing, balancing, jumping and clinging to the walls to pull yourself up onto rocks requires a reasonable level of fitness and fearlessness—there are some demanding white-knuckle moments, however the guides are very experienced and helpful and will dictate every footstep and handhold. They’ll also carry your bags to avoid them getting wet, and pull you over the tricky bits, although there’s possibly less of these if you visit during dry season (we went in the wet). The trek is plenty manageable if you’re used to a bit of outdoorsy adventure.

Our guide mentioned he’d taken several kids on the trek, even one as young as four (who was carried most of the way). If you take kids, make sure they can swim and we’d recommend bringing along a lifejacket (and perhaps a helmet) for them (not available onsite). A bit of plastic rubbish had washed downstream, which spoilt the natural beauty somewhat, however it was minimal.

Watch your step. Photo taken in or around Hidden Canyon Beji Guwang, Ubud, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Watch your step. Photo: Sally Arnold

The final section where a confluence branches off to become the Bengbengan River, the continuation of the Oos River almost narrowed to a trickle on our visit, and was more like a jungle trek, than river, but still very appealing. Here we spotted a number of pretty butterflies, and our guide pointed out some plants that are poisonous to touch—watch out. A short climb up some stairs takes you to a very narrow path (25cm wide) along a water channel perched high above the surrounding fields. The section isn’t long and soon is the same level as the ground.

Nearby a “mini zoo” keeps caged animals to be photographed “for a donation”. Don’t go there: these sorts of attractions should be avoided, as the animals are kept in unnatural conditions and may have been obtained illegally. Even having a quick look is an endorsement.

From here, it’s a very pleasant 30 minute return walk along a flat wide paved path meandering though verdant fields of rice, chilis and flowers. On a clear day Mount Agung towers over the scene, and Nusa Penida can be seen in the distance. We enjoyed the late afternoon light, but our guide suggested that an hour latter would offer a spectacular sunset.

Time for a stroll. Photo taken in or around Hidden Canyon Beji Guwang, Ubud, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Time for a stroll. Photo: Sally Arnold

All up the trek took us a fun three hours, stopping for photos and a bit of a swim, you could rush through in two, but why would you? Cleanish (squat) toilets are near the ticket booth, and a small selection of warungs offers snack and cold drinks. Hidden Canyon Beji Guwang is a popular spot, our guide said they get around 200 visitors a day (maybe an exaggeration, we saw 12 others) more on weekends, defiantly not secret.

The canyon is not far from Sukawati Art Market. From Jalan Raya Gawan it’s well signposted from the turnoff marked by a large stature of Visnu riding Garuda. Other natural attractions in the area include Tegenungan Waterfall and Goa Rang Reng or for an equally adventurous trip, a little further from Ubud, Gunung Batur offers a strenuous and rewarding hike. Or if you’re heading for Java, similar canyoning experiences can be had at Green Canyon near Pangandaran.

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Hidden Canyon Beji Guwang
14.5 kilometres south of Ubud, 15 kilometres north of Sanur
T: (0821) 4675 0908
Admission: 15,000 rupiah

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