Or “When timing goes terribly, terribly wrong”. Please, for the love of God, leave early.
Taal Volcano is nestled in a lake, on an island in the Philippines. Within the volcano is a lake, and within that lake is another island. Which means that island is in a lake in a volcano in a lake on an island. Thinking back, we should have been more prepared for the fact that things are a little complicated when it comes to Taal Volcano.
I’m assuming that you are as unsuccessful at being a human as I am, and have not yet learned how to drive. Therefore the below are instructions on how to get to the volcano depending on public transport.
1. Firstly, head up to Buendia bus station in Mikati. From there, you can catch a bus to Tagaytay, the nearest town to Taal. You’ll want one that states its final destination as Nasugbu and which avoids the Cavite/Aguinaldo Highway and instead goes through SLEX. This was our downfall – our bus took about 3 hours, double the time it should take to get to Tagaytay. Ask the driver to tell you when the bus arrives in Tagaytay.
2. Once you get to Tagaytay, you’ll most likely be confronted with a hoard of tricycle drivers offering you rides down to the bay where you can catch your boat. Bargain with them, and once you choose your driver, ask if they can wait for you to give you a return trip back up to Tagaytay. If you need drinks/food/suncream etc (which I really recommend for the hike), now’s your chance to get them. Apparently there are jeepneys which head down to the bay as well, but I didn’t regret my decision not to take one as I saw one crashed on it’s side on the way down.
3. Riding down the corkscrew roads towards the bay take about 15 minutes by tricycle, and your driver will probably assist you in finding a boat driver to take you the rest of the way once you arrive. Don’t accept anything above 1500 pesos for a boat – sometimes they even go as low as 1000. Your boat driver will whisk you across the lake towards the volcano and wait for you whilst you hike to your hearts content. Note: its not the one you think it is.
4. Once you’re on the island, you’ll need to buy an entrance ticket, which costs 50 pesos. You’ll then be approached by a number of people looking to sell you a horse ride up to the top. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not take them up on this. The horses are in terrible condition, and many are tied up by their noses, unable to even reach the ground to eat. If that doesn’t sway you, the horses are also rumoured to be extremely uncomfortable, probably as the result of a bony spine digging into your nether-regions.
5. The walk up to the crater takes about 30 – 40 minutes and features a pretty steep climb at the end, where you will at least once wish for a quick and painless death. But it’s all worth it when you get to the top.
How do I get back?
6. Meet your tricycle driver and get him to drop you at Olivarez Plaza in Tagaytay. Again, ask for a bus that goes through SLEX so you can cut a couple of hours off your travel time.
CONCLUSION: Taal Volcano was a nice break from Manila, and it’s definitely worth seeing. Just calculate your timings so that it’s also worth going to see.