Tagaytay and the Taal Volcano

I got to ride in a Jeepney! I wanted to get a good view of the whole crater lake and was told that the Sky Ranch is the place for it. Once you get to the roundabout at Olivarez, all of the Jeepneys are going in the right direction and it turns out that you just kinda flag them down rather than them having bus stops. 10 Pesos got me and my new friend Rie to the Sky Ranch.

I knew Sky Ranch was a theme park that opens at 10am but I figured there was a viewing area. There isn’t.

No matter though, I spotted the Taal Vista Hotel on the map and we waltzed through the lobby and out onto the viewing deck with no problems. And wow what a view!!!!

There is a slight view from the hostel in Tagaytay itself but only of a small part of the lake so it’s worth taking the Jeepney to the viewpoint and back before you head to the water.

In fact it’s worth saying that you could get a Jeepney along this road to find somewhere for dinner if you wanted. There are lots of places. Just hand the driver 9 Pesos and say “Para Bo” when you want to stop.

We went back to Olivarez and got a Hello Kitty bedecked tricycle down to Talisay (the harbour) with a lovely guy called Bawsung, who charged 100 Pesos for the trip. Which is a little less than I was expecting. The ride is around 18 kilometres; much further than I expected and the steep journey is incredible.

He took us to a particular jetty who explained the pricing for the boat trip. And here is goes:

2000 Pesos per boat (return journey)

500 Pesos Boat Registration fee (apparently mandatory)

50 Pesos Docking Fee (per boat)

100 Pesos per person Park Entry Fee

So I paid 1,375 Pesos (£20.50) because I shared with Rie. A solo trip would cost 2,650 Pesos.

You can also hire a horse (500 Pesos) and/or a guide (500 Pesos).

Understandably, they don’t allow you to join with another group once you arrive because they worry that once you separate on the island you will want to return at different times so the boat will only do one trip out and back. I get that.

The boat ride out there was great, it was exciting to be heading towards this huge volcano caldera.

We went past lots of fisheries too and there were some guys feeding the fish so the water was thrashing around.

On arrival at the island, there was the most rickety jetty I’ve ever seen and it was fun to walk across. There’s a Staalbucks coffee shop next to all the souvenir stalls, with a great copyright infringing logo too.

It’s touristy but not busy. There’s a village on the island and you walk through this before you reach the hiking trail.

In terms of the trail itself, I wouldn’t bother with a guide. It seems that most people take horses but you ride at walking speed with a guide per horse (hanging onto its tail usually).

The trail isn’t difficult, but it gets very steep at the top and it is extremely dusty the whole way. It’s probably flip-floppable but sandals or trainers would be best. There are lots of places to sit with shade or buy cold drinks and the trail itself is quite shady at times. It was HOT today and so humid.

The views from the trail are absolutely gorgeous and you can see all the fisheries on the outside in the main lake.

At one point I took a slightly steeper path over a particularly rocky area as I could see some smoke and wondered if someone had been careless with a cigarette. It took me a little while to twig that I was literally walking on an active volcano with really hot rock all around me and smoke coming out of the volcano!! It was a little scary for a moment and the intense heat was quite a shock.

The view from the top is breathtaking. The water in the caldera is deep green and there is a little island in the middle of the lake on this volcano island in the middle of a bigger lake. Strange and beautiful.

There are food and drink places at the top so you could actually have a meal if you fancied it. I bought a picnic last night so I shared a bit with Rie as we sat in the much needed shade.

I did say the Filipinos love Christmas…

We hiked down and met our boat driver. I bought a refreshing baby coconut for 50 Pesos (£0.75) which didn’t seem like too much of a touristy price.

Then we took the boat back to the mainland. Our tricycle up to the town cost us 150 Pesos each, so it cost three times the price of the way down. In general you should not expect to pay the same price for the same journey in opposite directions.

When we got back to the hostel I packed up the rest of my things and walked to Olivarez to catch a bus to Batangas, on my way to Anilao, a superb dive site.

Bus tickets, Philippines style

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