How to Survive a Visit to the Taal Volcano
No visit to Tagaytay would be complete without a hike up the world’s smallest active volcano, the Taal Volcano. Described as “a volcano within a lake within a volcano” it’s one of the most visited tourist spots in the Philippines. Only about 2 hours from Manila it’s easily accessible but does have some downsides.
You’ll need to take a bangka across Taal Lake to get to Volcano Island. There are many guys pressuring you to buy a trip to the island but it pays to know how much the standard fare is so you can negotiate a good price. It’s quite irritating that there’s actually a board that lists the prices but it’s across the lake on the island. The thing is before you get to the island you already have to settle on a price. Does this make sense to you?
Depending on the weather and the wind you may get wet, very wet. It can’t be helped so be prepared. Enjoy yourself and have fun with it. It’s part of the experience.
You not only share the trail with other hikers but with horses as well so watch your step as there are horse droppings everywhere. You’ll also have to yield to horses going up and coming down. If you are in good shape the 45 minute hike should be easy.
On the island there are swarms of vendors trying to sell you everything like masks, rain jackets and horse rides. They are annoyingly persistent. Even if you say no and start your hike you will be followed by guides and horses continually asking if you’d like a horse. I am pretty soft-spoken and politely said no but they still continued to follow me so closely I felt the horse’s warm breath on my back. Finally “the Chef” in his big German voice turned around and gave them a loud and commanding “No!”. They finally retreated.
Once you get to the top try to ignore the vendors to the left and right selling soft drinks, t-shirts and souvenirs. Buy a refreshing coconut drink and enjoy the view. Just make sure to take the plastic straw away with you as we noticed a big pile of coconuts thrown on the side of the trail including the plastic straws.
Enjoy the view and appreciate that you’re standing at the rim of an active volcano. The last warnings were in 2011 when there was enough activity to call for an evacuation order. It’s crazy but a little over 1,000 people live on the volcano island even though it’s illegal.
Get away from the crowd and hike up the side trails to take in some beautiful views and get close to some of the holes blowing up steam.
Once you get a chance to be alone with the volcano it’s an awesome feeling to experience the raw beauty of nature.