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Taygaytay and Taal Volcano Tours
Tagaytay city is located approximately 55 km south of Manila. It is a popular getaway for Filipinos and foreigners due to its beautiful scenery and cool climate. It is home to Taal Lake and to Taal Volcano. The volcano is located on the island of Luzon and boasts to be the second most active volcano in the Philippines. It hasn’t had any significant eruptions in several years, and its crater is partly covered with water. You can still see the steam coming from hot vents, however.
Once you reach the city of Tagaytay, you’ll see a multitude of vendors holding up signs saying”boat rides.” Believe me, there are many of them, and they are aggressive. You can choose one and haggle over a price. I wouldn’t, however, paying any more than 1500 pesos for a group tour. It’s important to remember that the price usually includes only a tour guide, who will get in your vehicle and remain with you through the entire trip to the island back, and the boat ride to and from the island.
With your tour guide doing the navigating, you will begin your snaky descent down the mountain to the shores of Taal Lake. Once there, you’ll be guided to a restaurant/resort with several small Nipa huts which act as tables. Under no obligation to purchase anything, you can wait there for your banca boat to depart. Watch your step as the docks usually consist of a piece of wood placed on top of a stump.
The trip to the island is about 30 minutes. From my experience, it is usually calm and event free. The boasts are older and sometimes break down, however. The view of the landscape during the boat ride is absolutely breathtaking.
Once you reach Luzon island, you will walk down the beach a few meters to where the volcano tours begin. The beach itself is nothing to write home about. It’s a little on the dirty side and is usually surrounded by children and stray dogs.
When you get to the area where the tours begin, you have two choices. You can either hike up the mountain or travel up by horseback. If you choose to hike, I would certainly suggest that you are in good physical condition. Even if you are, I wouldn’t suggest it because it is a hot, dusty, and steep. The trip on horseback will cost you 500 pesos for the horse and 500 pesos for a tour guide. There is no negotiating about whether or not to have a tour guide as it is a compulsory. Once you’ve done the tour on horseback, you will certainly understand why. You can, however, rent the horses as a group and hire one tour guide. The horses are smaller, somewhat malnourished, and some of them are a little on the frisky side.
Once you are mounted on your horse, you will experience a saddle unlike any other. It’s actually a saddle built for two people. There are no reins on the horse. There is simply a rope attached to the bridal. You will be offered a pair of gloves and a mask which you’ll think is a nice gesture of courtesy. It turns out, however, you’ll be billed 100 pesos for the gloves and 50 pesos for the mask at the end of the tour.
The tour guide is well worth the 500 pesos as he or she will take the rope, control the horse, and guide you up the mountain. They will commonly jump on and off the back part of the saddle. They do a great deal of walking and running, as well. The trip up the mountain is very bumpy and dusty. You will also experience close encounters with other horses descending the mountain.
Once you reach the top, you will be confronted by vendors strongly suggesting that you buy a soda for yourself and your tour guide. It’s seemingly more of an obligation than a courtesy. In light of this, be sure to take some extra pesos with you.
From the top of the mountain, the view of Taal Lake and surrounding scenery is beautiful. You can walk up a little further and experience the gorgeous emerald waters of the partly filled crater of the volcano. This, in itself, is probably worth the money and the somewhat annoying horseback ride up the mountain. There is no time limit on your stay there. You can hike around and take as many pictures as you like while your horse and tour guide patiently wait for you.
Once you’ve done your sightseeing and snapped your pictures, you can find your tour guide and begin your journey back down the mountain. When you reach the bottom, the tour guide will more than likely ask you for a tip for he or she and the horse. This is totally optional, but they are somewhat persistent about it especially if you are a foreigner.