After living practically next to the world’s smallest volcano for two years already, I thought it was about time to drag my husband and let him see it up close and personal. The first time I hiked the volcano was on a trip with my step dad when I was 12 years old. I contemplated on hiking all the way to the crater this time around, but in the end I figured I just needed a quick adventure fix so we opted to just hike to the summit instead. Taal Volcano, although usually viewed in Tagaytay, is actually located in Talisay, Batangas— about a 40-minute drive away down the winding road. The volcano had erupted several times in the history, ruining the towns that was built around them. Taal, Batangas was originally located along the shores of the volcano but was forced to relocate because it was destructed by an eruption. Today, there are a few families living at the foot of the volcano who depends on the tourism for their livelihood.
So you’ve probably heard of the lakeception of Taal. Ok here goes: There is an island within the Crater Lake that happens to be situated in an island (Taal Island or Volcano Island), located within another lake (Taal Lake) on an island (Luzon). Phew, mind blown, am I right? Since it is a lakeception of its own, a short 20 minute boat ride is required to hike the volcano. These days, they offer water activities around Lake Taal such as Flying fish and parasailing.
You’ll see plenty of fish farm around the lake. Another interesting trivia about Taal is that freshwater sardines, locally known as tawilis, are exclusively found in two places in the Philippines. One is in Zamboanga, and the other being here in Taal. Apparently, long before the eruptions, the lake was connected to a bay, but somehow over time, these eruptions have caused the lake to be sealed from the sea, eventually causing the sea water to turn to fresh water, and these marine species were one of the very few that were trapped inside, evolving to purely freshwater beings. I recently tried crispy tawilis, and whoa they were good with spicy vinegar. It has the texture of deep fried crickets that I had in Thailand, but it’s so much better, so much tastier, and so much more enjoyable as compared to having to pick out cricket legs in between your teeth.
Moving on to the climb, we’ve specifically planned to go on a Monday to avoid tourists. But of course that didn’t happen. There were still many tourists because, here’s a fact about Philippines tourism. July is known for Koreans flocking to the tourist corners of the country. I don’t exactly know why, but it’s true. The thing about Korean travelers is that they roll deep, so they’re usually the biggest groups. So you don’t want to be walking behind them if you plan on taking photos. It wasn’t very bad once we reached the top because it’s so hot, that most people just go up, take their pictures, and leave after ten minutes. But then again the climb was a little bit more dustier for us since most tourists go on a horse when they go up the summit. Despite all that, we made it up alive and we had a great time at the top. We started the hike a little past 10 am and reached the summit at 11.
The hike itself was pretty easy that any beginner can do it with flying colors. That said, a horse really isn’t necessary. I did at 12 without one so there’s no excuse. The ascend is really minor, but expect the heat to tire you out! There are a few nipa huts for rest stops along the hike so it’s best to take advantage of that. Once we reached the top, there are a lot of vendors selling unsurprisingly overpriced goods like coconuts, chips, and drinks. I mean it’s understandable that they’re quite pricier since they have to get their products outside the island.
The summit was just as I remembered. The mouth of the volcano rested beautifully down below. You can see boiling water from up top on some parts of the lake. As I’ve said, it was really hot, but that did not stop us from exploring the summit a little bit more. The first time I went, this ledge was purely made of wood and did not look reliable at all. This time around, it’s actually made of metal and much sturdier! I did have some fresh cold coconut juice since it was pretty necessary for me. They usually sell it for 100php, but they gave it to me for 80. I heard them overcharging the foreigners behind us and asking them to pay 200php for one. As much as I understand the need to support livelihood, it saddens me when this happens. If there’s one misconception about tourists is that locals think they’re made of money. It just sucks being taken advantage of. I never have a problem giving a little extra for a tip, but many times here in the Philippines, people expect it and demand it, and that’s when I roll my eyes and say no.
We also hit some golf balls into the lake which was really fun! It’s not every day I get to hit a golf ball into a volcano. We paid 250php for 5 balls which I didn’t think was bad. We paid another 50php to get access to the Red Lava Rocks on the other side of the summit, just about a 5 minute walk away. It’s just another spot to see the crater lake in another perspective, and it’s actually a pretty cool formation of lava rocks. You can see holes with steams coming out of it. This was also the emptiest part of the summit, and I assume it’s because there are no shades up there. I still recommend swinging by because the different angle of the view was worth it if you’re a photo enthusiast.
We started our descend around 12 noon and reached the bottom in half an hour. The boat ride back was probably the most relaxing boat trip I’ve had. Feeling the breeze as it cooled us down was refreshing. It was also nice seeing the lake in a much closer perspective. I see it from the top pretty much everyday and it’s nice to be on the other side this time.
Some deets: To get to Taal Volcano from the city, take a bus to Tagaytay and get off the rotunda. There are jeeps that goes to Talisay but it might take a while because they don’t leave until it’s full. Another option would be to take a tricycle which would cost more. We did the latter and paid 200php for the ride down, and he waited for us and charged us 300php for the way up. It’s better to do it that way if you’re taking the trike because they charge more down there. A boat cost us 1500php, the environmental fee is 50php each, another 50php for tourist fee, and we paid the guide 200php. There are also horses available if you prefer that and it’s 400-500php each.
Have you hiked Taal or any similar volcano? Tell me about your experience and link me to your blog post about it!