Explore Philippines: Taal Lake and Volcano

Philippines
April 03 - 2017

TAAL VOLCANO AND LAKE

Having friends come to visit you is always a great excuse to see more of the country you live in without being labeled a ‘tourist.’  So, when my friend Marissa told me she was coming to the Philippines, I knew it was a good excuse for me to explore a little more of the motherland.
After looking into some daytrips to take us out of the city, we decided on Taal Lake and Volcano.

THE TAAL FACTS:

* Located 2 hours and 30 mins drive from Metro Manila (this includes traffic).

* Known as the world’s smallest active volcano and also one of the deadliest.

* The world’s only volcano within a lake, within a volcano, within a lake.

* The main lake at Taal is 30 km long. It was once part of the ocean channel in   Balayan Bay in the South China sea. Created during the 1754 eruption. Lava flowed into the sea and transformed the channel into a lake. As the water rose, the surrounding towns submerged, and the water became less salty.  

* Nowadays, it is a fresh water lake, that contains salt water species, sardines and highly venomous sea snakes.

* Inside the small crater lake within Taal Volcano, there is a tiny volcanic island that emits sulfur and steam.

* Steam and sulfur also rise from yellow furmoles on the slopes of Taal volcano and the cliffs on the inside of the crater.

* Taal volcano has killed approximately 6,000 people.

* Taal is declared as one of the “Decade volcanoes.”  This means that it is one of the most closely monitored volcanoes in the region.

* Taal has erupted 33 times since 1572.

* Taal’s greatest eruption was in 1572 which began on 15th May and ended 1st December.

* Taal lake is the deepest, and the third largest lake in the Philippines.

* Taal volcano killed thousands of people in 1754. But the eruption provided nutrients for the region’s fertile soil, which is used to even to this day to grow sugar cane, coffee and cattle.

OUR TRIP
We pre - hired a driver from Tourist Driver Manila, left Manila at 07:00am, and headed towards the town of Talisay in Batangas (which is where we would take a boat to the volcano).  The drive there was very relaxing as soon as we got out of the city, and was a breath of fresh of air.  I have been living in Manila for quite some time, hence why I have a new found appreciation for nature, fresh air and all things green.  We drove past towns, fruit stalls (which are my favourite provincial things ever!) filled with seasonal produce... watermelons, coconuts, papaya and pineapple.

When we arrived at the boat dock, they tried to sell us raincoats as we were warned that we would get wet.  But I was more concerned about my camera equipment than myself.  So instead I was given a large piece of plastic which I used to cover my beloved bag with.  Huhuhuhu

We rode a Bangka (which I recently found out, are known as ‘outrigger’ type boats) across the large lake with two other guides.  Can I just say, that this lake did not in anyway, feel like a lake.  I honestly felt like I was in the middle of the damn ocean.  It took 30 minutes of laughing and screaming on the Bangka to get to the volcano.  Now, on that journey, we did not too wet and figured we’d just dry off in the heat while hiking up the volcano.  Boy, did we do that and collect some volcano dust at the same time!

It was pretty dusty on the ground, and the locals were trying to sell us face masks and drinks for our journey up.  We had the option to ride a horse, and many people did.  But we declined.  One, because I felt bad for the horses, and two because I would be too scared to go downhill on one.

The trek up to the top took 30 minutes.  It did feel somewhat like a pilgrimage because as we trekked up the volcano, we also passed the Stations of the Cross (14 in total, guys).  That was kind of nice because it gave us an idea of how far we had to go.

Yes.. yes.. lots of dust and dirt. I hate to admit it, but my socks and Nike’s were still wet from the boat ride and that dust did me NO FAVOURS.  ARGH! But, was absolutely worth every dust particle and rubble, for the unforgettable experience and the breathtaking view!

Local villagers were selling beverages in little stalls on the way up for the parched tourists.  A little bit dearer but not unreasonable.  Hey, their English was also good enough to guilt trip me into buying a drink for our guide.

After a few mouth fulls of sand (ok, I’m exaggerating), we finally reached the top.  This gave an amazing 360 degree view of Taal lake, and its surrounding regions. You could even see the water bubbling in the inner lake from the volcano. It was, at that moment the first time I could feel in my heart that I was in the Philippines.  Maybe it was the fresh mountain (or volcanic?) air, the aerial view of the land, and the local people.  Nothing commercialized.  Not even the local guides.

Being up there gave me a sense of accomplishment.  Then of course after many selfies and Instagram worthy pics, it was time to go down.  For me, going back down was more challenging than trekking up.  It was pretty steep at the top and not once do I not regret hiring a horse for the journey down.  I would rather slide down controllably on my ass than put a poor horse through that.

There were horses and people coming from both directions, just like traffic in Manila.  We just had to maneuver our way through it.
I really felt like the guides had saved the ‘best till last.’  The Bangka ride on the way back was twice as intense as it was on the way there.  Water was throwing itself at us, and I often questioned if we were still in ‘the lake.’  Is there such thing as water abuse?  Because I seriously felt beaten up after that 30 minute ride.  Thank God for our humour, which made the water ride all the more fun!
And just like that... we were back in Talisay.  Some nice people offered some rooms for us to change in.  Luckily, we were advised to bring an extra set of clothes, as I’m not quite sure what I would have done if I didn’t!  
 
It was such a fun and memorable experience!  If you are planning on doing this, come with a good attitude, sense of fun, humour, and sunblock!  It will all contribute to a fantastic time and no burnt shoulders (learn from me).

Our next stop was lunch, which we chose to eat in Tagaytay City – another city about 30 minutes away.  So stay tuned for my feature on that in my next post!
Have you been here?  Comment below!
And thanks for reading xoxo,

WENDY TIPS:
- Bring an entire change of clothes (including underwear) and a towel.
- Don’t wear white if you’re a woman.
- Bring a face mask (think Asian style SARS masks) or you can buy some from the locals to help the economy J
- Wear old hiking shoes, shoes with good grip, or shoes that you don’t mind getting ruined. I advise against flip flops.
- Bring sunglasses.  Goggles are even better (no I’m not joking) to shield your eyes from the dust.  Note: All sense of style goes out the window.
- If you have long hair, tie it back unless you want knotty, rat tailed type strands by the end of the day. NOT sexy.
- You must be reasonably fit to do this trek.
- Bring water.
- Not suitable for young children and infants.
- LOTS of waterproof sunblock.  I had factor 50 on and I still burnt my shoulders.  WAaaa!!

We hired:
TOURIST DRIVER MANILA
WWW.TOURISTDRIVERMANILA.COM
TEL:     +63 998 820 211 (MOBILE)
            +63 2 807 2431 (LANDLINE)
EMAIL: TOURISTDRIVERMANILA@GMAIL.COM