After checking out from Villa Escudero on Sunday morning, Charlie and I drove to Talisay, Batangas to meet our friends who were on their way from Manila. I have been to Tagaytay a couple of times but I never got the chance to trek and see the volcano’s famous Crater Lake – the lake inside its crater. Perched on a volcano island inside another lake called Taal Lake makes this geological wonder unique and popular among tourists. It’s like having an island in a lake on an island in a lake on an island in the Pacific Ocean (ah never mind).
The group agreed to meet at Baclaran where they rode a non-air-con mini bus via SLEX- Sta Rosa Exit en route to Tagaytay City and got off at Olivarez Plaza. After having breakfast and buying packed lunch from Chowking Tagaytay, they chartered a tricycle down to the town of Talisay and agreed to meet me at Taal Yacht Club where we pretended to be tourists on ocular visit so we can park the car for free (few minutes lang naman). Due to Tagaytay City’s immense popularity, it is often mistaken as the jump-off point to trek Taal Volcano. Talisay is really the gateway to Taal Volcano where Taal Lake touches the shore. This 4th class lakeside municipality is where you can see the lake and the volcano up close. This is also where you can find rows of resorts for all budgets and where you can hire a boat to cross the lake.
The boatman from the Yacht Club offered us 1300 pesos but the group already made an arrangement with a boatman from Leyness Resort who charged them 1500 – the standard price. It is a must to bargain when dealing with boatman because they often overcharge unsuspecting tourists and the fee can go up to 6000 pesos if you don’t haggle. After joining the group at Leyness Resort, we had a pleasant 20- minute boat ride to Barangay Look – the starting point for the trek to the crater.
Just like many famous tourists destination don’t be surprised to be touted persistently by guides offering their service as well as those who offer a donkey ride. One even followed us halfway through the trek hoping anyone would get tired and finally give in and take the donkey. It would be nice to help our fellow kababayan but renting a horse for 350 pesos and a guide for 500 pesos for a 45 minute hike just isn’t worth it – besides we were also on tight budget.
The trail wasn’t really steep and it was easy to follow as opposed to what the guides had been telling us at the beginning of the trek (walang ligaw). It was heavily eroded however because the donkeys use the same trail. You will also be greeted by the obnoxious scent of the donkeys’ dung at the start of your trek but you will probably get use to it especially when you reach the open air area of sparse vegetation. Sunblock, wide-brimmed hat and lots of water are very essential – Janet and I even brought umbrellas. Ten minutes before the summit you will meet kids selling ice-cold soft drinks in a small shed for 30 pesos each. If you think it is expensive wait till you reach the top and it sells for 50 pesos each! Upon reaching the summit of the main crater, you will see two wooden view decks and stalls of souvenir shirts and buko juice for sale.
If Mt. Pinatubo’s crater lake glistens with aquamarine water, Taal’s crater lake sparkles with emerald water. The view was even more breathtaking than the usual vista you see from Picnic Grove or while driving along the escarpment at Tagaytay City.
Taal Volcano used to be just a mystery to be marveled at from a safe distance, but taking a step further to satisfy our urge for discovery rewarded us with magnificent views of this remarkable work of nature. I highly recommend it!
How to get to Taal Volcano
There are three main roads that link Tagaytay City to the lake and the volcano. One is Diokno Highway near the border to Nasugbu, Batangas; the other is just behind the Tagaytay Rotunda (but this is a very steep road); and the most preferred way is the Ligaya Drive near the Tagaytay-Sta. Rosa road, which leads to the town of Talisay, Batangas.
By car – less than 2 hours drive from Manila you can hire an FX or a van for an all day trip for about 2,500 plus gas and tolls) if you’re a good haggler. By renting a private car, you may also ask the driver to take you to other attractions around Tagaytay.
Breakdown of Expenses
Boat rental- 1500 (roundtrip maximum of 6 persons)
Boat parking fee – 10 (the boat parks at Barangay Look)
Registration fee – 10
Guide – 500 (optional – no need)
Horse ride – 200- 350 (optional – haggle hard if you must)
Tricycle from Olivarez to Talisay – 200 – 250 (per trip maximum of 3 persons)
Packed lunch – 100 (up to you already)
Fare – 100 or less (Manila to Tagaytay City- it depends on where you are coming from and mode of transport you are taking)
The whole area itself including the surrounding province of Cavite and Batangas was once part of an immense pre-historic volcano estimated to be 18,000 feet high which erupted violently and collapsed into a caldera with a channel opening towards Balayan Bay. Between 1572 to the present, more than 41 eruptions have been recorded with the great eruption of 1754 lasting close to six months. Just like Mt. Pinatubo, it darkened the skies over Manila for days, that people during that time literally walked around the city carrying lanterns even at 10:00 in the morning. It is most probable that this eruption finally closed the open channel to the sea that allowed the accumulation of fresh water from rainfall leading to the formation of Taal Lake. (www.aenet.org)