Fast Facts: Mt. Taal
311masl, 1.7km, class trail 1
45 minutes to summit, half day climb
Mt. Taal is my first actual hike. Well, the one that I at least had an idea I was climbing a mountain.
This volcano is widely known as the smallest active volcano in the whole world. The once colossal volcano rising to 5800 meters was reduced to the now crater lake and what is known as the Taal mountain.
This climb is only a minor climb, with a difficulty level of only 2/9 according to www.pinoymountaineer.com. With a trail length of 1.7kms and class trail 1, the 311masl is only set for a half day climb, 45 minutes to summit (although we took more than an hour).
The history of the Taal volcano dates back to a wondrous story, bringing up stories that the beautiful lake stores numerous legends about unknown sea creatures, unknown ruins and even lost cities. Tales have even lead back to stories wherein sharks used to roam the lake as well as a the Hydrophis semperi or the duhol to locals or the Lake Taal Sea Snake that is colored black or blue with yellow and white stripes with a length of about 50 – 70 cms and is very dangerous.
While we didn’t encounter such things on our way to Taal, which is good; legends like these keep a culture very much alive.
The hike to the top of Mt. Taal can be classified into 3 divisions.
The first part is the smelly part because you’ll be going through narrow, slightly steep trails that are filled with mud and horse manure. This is the longest part of the trail. It’s really hot here even if there are some overhead trees, because the road is narrow and there isn’t much space for horses and hikers at all times.
The next part is more enjoyable as you go through a field of grassy surfaces and beautiful scenery. There is less horse manure here and you can now smell cool breeze. You can see Lake Taal from here. There is a small shed just before you get to the third part. You can sit here and rest before taking the steep slope.
The third part of the hike, there is less grass on the trail and it gets hotter here. You’ll wonder why even if it’s not too hot it will feel hotter at that area. Then on some rocks and deserted area, you’ll see steam coming off. That’s why. You’ll start to smell a bit of sulfur here. Just before you get to the summit, you go through a very steep trail, steeper than the trail in the beginning. You’ll have to balance yourself on the hot rocks and get yourself a little dirty here.
On the other hand, you can always hire a horse for P500 and a guide for another P500. It’ll save you trouble of going up by yourself – and all the muscle pains if you’re not a hiker.
At the top of the mountain, there is cemented area with a small hut and some people selling water, beer and softdrinks for about 500% more expensive. There are guides there who would offer to bring up horses for you so you can get down easier and there are those who will suggest going down to the crater lake. There’s a bleacher-type seats made of wood that you can climb for overhead pictures of the crater lake. During the best days, the Crater Lake glistens a beautiful color of green. It’ll smell a little like sulfur when the wind blows. If at special times (after alert levels or after rainy season), the color is less appreciable, more darkish, murky green with dirt surrounding the sides of the lake. There are others who have swum in the lake, however, when I visited, there weren’t any swimmers nor were the guides recommending it.
By the way, if you’re climbing solo, you don’t really need any guide. The trail is very clear; and if not, just follow the horses.
Here’s a suggested itinerary for dayhikers from Pinoy Mountaineer (updated by me)
0500 ETD Manila to Talisay, Batangas (P150 – P175)
0800 ETA Talisay. Arrange for pumpboats/guides at lakeshore resorts
0830 Start boatride
0900 At Volcano island, start trek to summit
0945 ETA summit, optional descent to Crater Lake
1030 ETA crater Lake; take a dip
1115 Back at summit, head back
1200 Back at jump-off point, take return boat ride
1300 Back at base hotel or resort, lunch
1400 Head back to Manila
1700 ETA Manila
A P1500 boat can be hired from the Taal Lake Yacht Club, although there is a big chance this rate has gone up.
For more information on TLYC, check out http://www.sailing.org.ph/tlyc/
Otherwise, you can ask for rates at any lakeside resorts. Make sure that they don’t charge you over P2000 though (unless there’s many of you).