The dwarf-like Taal Volcano is located about 30 miles south of Manila and presented me with a challenging daytrip as well as some amazing panoramas.
The Taal Volcano is a complex volcano located on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. It is the second most active volcano in the Philippines with 33 historical eruptions. All of these eruptions are concentrated on Volcano Island, an island near the middle of Taal Lake. The lake partially fills Taal Caldera, which was formed by prehistoric eruptions between 140,000 and 5,380BC. Viewed from the immensely touristy Tagaytay Ridge, Taal Volcano and its lake present one of the most picturesque and attractive views in all of the Philippines – which is quite a feat when you consider the spectacular scenery around the archipelago!
Regrettably, I didn’t get to explore the surrounding town of Tagaytay, as I would running short for time. I was here mainly to take in the amazing scenery around Taal volcano itself. The whole island-within-a-lake-within-a-crater scenario reminded me very much of Samosir Island and Lake Toba in Sumatra.
I paid 1,500PHP for an all-expenses tour to the volcano, which included a boat ride around the lake, and lunch (my first experience of Kwek-Kwek!). We started out early on our tour of Taal, and the pathways leading up were reliant on the light, as there is no electricity here. The day was very miserable and overcast, although thankfully dry. That said, the low levels of light played havoc with my footing and I was slipping around in the mud tracks. The foliage was very dense, and you not expect that when you visit here, as it seems much more accommodating and scenic. In this regard, I am again reminded of my adventures at Lake Toba. There was a group of 9 of us I think, and I soon made friends with everyone. They were mainly resident Filipinos, but our group also included a couple of Chinese tourists who kept themselves to themselves. Our guides were two men who stank of cigarette smoke and alcohol, which disturbed me a little seeing as it was so early in the morning. I was assured by my new Filipino friends that I shouldn’t be surprised by that in this part of the country!
You can see from the photos above of the caldera that the views from Taal were pretty incredible, even though it’s actually only half a volcano! That said, it is very active, and last erupted I am told in 2011. Our guides explained to us that people can actually sense if Taal is about to erupt by the temperature of the water of the lake, and even by the presence of dead fish floating on the surface. I was happy that such volcanic activity was nowhere to be seen or heard while I was scaling Taal. When the time was right, we headed back down the winding path and I hurt my feet quite badly on some of the jagged rocks that line the pathway (I was only wearing plimsolls).
I would advise the following for a day trip to Taal Volcano from Manila:
- Wear comfortable shoes. The climb is not difficult, but the rocks are sharp and potentially dangerous
- Organise a group tour from Manila rather than attempt the climb independently
- Make sure you head to Taal in the early morning to avoid the worst of the Philippine heat and humidity
- It might be a good idea to check the news beforehand to see if any volcanic activity has been reported recently