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A hike of volcanic proportions

Taal Island

Taal viewed from the highlands of Tagaytay has never failed to mesmerize people. I for one am enchanted everytime I’m in the area whether to just pass by or to eat at one of my favourite restaurants overlooking the Taal volcano.

Taal Island

This is the island in a middle of a lake, at the center of an active volcano in the middle of an island right at the center of a larger Taal Lake. Whew! Also known as the 1911 crater.

Taal viewed from the highlands of Tagaytay has never failed to mesmerize people. I for one am enchanted everytime I’m in the area whether to just pass by or to eat at one of my favourite restaurants overlooking the Taal volcano.

The imposing structure of a dead Volcano

The imposing view of a dead Volcano while docking on the island

I’ve always have been interested in trying to hike the crater of the volcano. Finally I was able to do this. The Taal Discovery tour was supposed to take place November last year, but was cancelled due to volcanic activity at that time. Well it pushed through with the help of Miss Ruby of MFPI and 27 participants from Accenture. I was surprised at the sheer number as I was not used to leading such a big group and was keen more into taking photos and not having to worry about them. Well Miss Ruby did well in organizing with me on the background for support and Benjie of Accenture overlooking his invited participants. I also thought it would be ok since this is only a daytrip so it pushed through.

Inhabitants

Island inhabitants

We left Makati half past 6am and headed to San Nicolas Taal via Lemery. This isn’t the usual route when doing a Taal Crater hike. Usually you head of to Talisay and rent boats good for 6pax either at the Yatch Club or near by resort, then you’ll hike over to a view point where you’ll get to see the craters in the island. Our route was through the other side of the island where you’ll get up close and right there at the crater itself. We arrived at the municipality of San Nicolas where we haggled for a boat. Now we got a big boat good for all 31 of us, which is really cheaper compared to Talisay’s 6pax per boat. And an advantage, the ride here is shorter, about 30 minutes and you’ve already docked on the island.

Crowded

Just a bunch of UP students going down to view the crater.

Due to the numbers in our group and not all of them are really hikers, it took a bit longer to get from point to point. But fortunately it was a bit hazy that day and not as hot as I expected due to the clouds, but unfortunately for me, there’s no sun to get that nice lighting for my subject. We reached the first crater that erupted in 1965 45minutes later. The crater bed has already dried up but our guide Manong Dario with his dog companion Dondi told us this creater looked like a sea with a shore before. Then by noon we arrived at the 1911 crater, the main crater with an island in the middle of the crater lake and the same one viewed from Talisay’s viewpoint. We decided to have lunch and let the other UP students go down first. Which we found out later they didn’t really go down since their instructor didn’t allow them for safety reasons.

1965 crater

Marlboro country?! Not. This is the 1965 crated now dry and left only with volcanic rocks. The mountain seen afar is Mt. Maculot

After lunch we headed down the crater and all I can say is WOW! It’s an amazing site to be right there at the crater, there were lots of birds flying around along the lake. The volcano has quite a history. This whole lake used to be a cone shaped volcano right smack in the middle of Asia’s ring of fire, spanning the height of 18000 feet, the highest in the Philippines before 1572 when it erupted and literally destroyed itself and left only it’s tip. And now it’s one of the mesmerizing sight of the Phiippines and right there at the crater is a piece of Nature’s wonder in itself. Would you believe there are coconut trees in there like a beach? And it’s an interesting sight for birdwatchers too.

Grazing horses

A bucolic scene of horses grazing in a field.

Heading back was a lot easier and faster. Did I menton that there’s also a small community on the island? Most of them are there to cater to visitors. There are horses, which you can rent if you don’t like to walk or get tired in the middle of it. And up there in the crater there are mineral water and softdrinks for sale which you can expect to cost more. There’s this amusing story from Ms J who first climb the crater in 1999. She said there was this softdrinks vendor selling coke at 5 pesos at the docking station. The vendor went with them all the way up to the crater and when they were gonna buy, the price went up double. hehehe. On the way back to San Nicolas, we have to tow this other boat full of Korean adult students studying english, led and toured by Dindo whose the VP of tourism in the area. Quite a vocal guy. Their boat’s engine stopped, well towing them along took longer for us to get back. We reached San Nicloas by 3pm and after washing up and eating, we headed of to the Taal Heritage Town.

The Taal Crater group

The whole group (except me) with our guide Manong Dario and his dog Dondi (far right) at the 1911 crater.

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