„It´s more fun in the Phillipines“ – This is true. Most of the time, however. I had a blast on my trips to this beatiful country. However, travelling for a long time, you cannot avoid a disappointment every once in a while. Like what I encountered when visiting the Taal Volcano.
Taal is situated about 2 hours south of Manila and holds a record. The volcano lies on an island. On this island there is a lake, and on this island another island. Sounds confusing? It is. According to Wikipedia, Taal is „the largest lake on an island in a lake on an island in the world“. Reason enough to go visit this record-holder and natural wonder.
Transport and Accommodation
The easiest way to Taal is from Manila, where you can take the bus to Tagaytay. Many busses take this route, which only takes about 2 hours.
Coming from Mindoro in the south, you best start you journey in Batangas and take the bus to Turbina. There you board a van to Tagaytay.
Travellers coming from Bicol should try to exit in Turbina or Calamba (SB Camalba) and switch to a van to Tagaytay.
Tagaytay does not have a wide variety of affordable rooms. The cheapest option is the Country Living Hostel, rather hidden in a private area behind the Metrobank-Complex. Here you can find a bed in a 2-bed dorm for 500 Pesos (9 USD).
On the ride to Tagaytay you can already catch a glimpse of the lake and the volcano. Unfortunately, there is no public transport to the pier 6,2 miles from Tagaytay, so you have to hire a tricycle. Expect to pay 150 Pesos (3 USD) with a little haggling. At the pier you have to hire a boat that takes you to the volcano island.
It was now that I was in for a bad surprise. The official price for a return boat ride is 2000 Pesos per boat. (On the sign below you can see the „official“ prices. However, all these signs look different which makes it hard to say what the official price is). One boat can take 7 passengers, so if you divide the costs, you should only pay 285 Pesos (5,3 USD) per person. This is pretty standard procedure at the Island Hopping Tours in Puerto Princesa and El Nido.
In Tagaytay, however, boat-owners will try to discourage you from finding a travel group that you could join. Even if you head to a resort, where groups are waiting to go on board, groups that would be more than happy to take another person and reduce the costs – you are still not allowed to join them. The reason the manager gave me was that this could lead to disagreements on the island if the makeshift group can not decide on a meeting-time when to go back. I call bs on this explanation: There are enough boats going back to the main land at any time.
I did not want to support this greedy business practice, nor did I want to pay 2000 Pesos for a boat where 6 other people could be seated. So with heavy heart I turned and went back to Tagaytay. I would have loved to go to the island because It is said to be really beautiful. But I did not want to do it on the terms I found there.
Makiling Forest Reserve
Luckily, Taal Volcano is not the only attraction in the area. Nature lovers should visit the active Makiling Volcano.
To get there you have to take a van from Tagaytay Central Bus Terminal to SB Calamba. From there you take the jeepney to Los Banos, and another jeepney to „forestry“. The entrace fee is just 10 Pesos (0,19 USD). If you are early, you can tackle the difficult hike to the top of Mt Makiling. However, this is only possible for visitors before 9 am, because the park closes at 4 pm. If you arrive later, you can still hike to two points of interest: The Flat Rocks and The Mud Springs.
The Flat Rocks are just 1 km away from the entrance. here you can climb the rocks in the riverbed. Swimming, however, is not possible.
The Mud Springs are a bit more interesting. These are hot sulphuric springs with a water temperature of 80° Celsius. The result is a sulphuric smell and dense steam. At these springs you are reminded that you are hiking an active, yet relatively calm volcano.
The hiking trail is mostly paved, the incline as well as the humidity makes hiking here exhausting nonetheless, so you should bring plenty of water. On your way to the Mud Springs, you can stop at a scenic picnic spot.