For all its fame as one of the world’s most notable and active volcanoes, Taal Volcano in Southern Luzon is not your usual hiking destination; it is seen, like Pinatubo, as more of a place for tourists. It didn’t help that horses are at hand and the trail is littered with horse dung, as well as droves of people. Although the view at the top is nice, getting there isn’t really attractive prospect for hikers especially if you have to pay way more for it than, say, nearby Mt. Batulao.
The Calauit Trail, however, which approaches the crater rim from the north, offers a much less popular, equally scenic route in the shadow of Mt. Maculot — and it is actually a nice and easy hike. Furthermore, this trail takes the hiker not just to the crater rim, but down the crater lake – unique for being a ‘lake within an island (Volcano island) within a lake (Taal Lake) within and island (Luzon)’.
On Saturday, January 12, I had the opportunity to do this hike with my friends Pam Aquino and Josh Lim. From Tagaytay we went down to Talisay, Batangas and proceed to Taal Lake Yacht Club, which has packages for visits to Taal. For the Calauit trail, the boat rental costs P3,800 (compared to P2,800 for the regular trail) and this is good for 5-6 persons; there are additional fees so in all it cost us P1,400 each. Our boatman-cum-guide was Jayson.
The boat ride itself can be quite tricky. Taal Lake, being the third largest lake in the Philippines, is big enough to have some strong waves and you can get wet before you reach the island. The ride takes around 40 minutes.
Upon arrival at Volcano island, one passes by a small village before entering the gentle, open, and dusty-when-dry trail that is quite scenic, with Mt. Maculot to the east a towering presence, and the view of Taal Lake surrounding the island. As expected from a volcano island there aren’t much trees – though the forest that is forming around the rim is a pleasant surprise.
Within thirty minutes or so, one reaches the rim where one can have a nice view of the crater lake. It is beautiful, and just like other volcanic lakes, the colour of the water changes depending on the season, the rainfall, and the time of the day. The tiny islet in the off-center of the lake adds a distinctive feel to it. From the rim, it takes just 15 minutes to reach the crater lake, where one can even swim — the water is just a bit hot and is mildly sulphuric.
Because we started late, it was already noontime when we reached the lake and we didn’t stay too long. Heading back was as easy as getting in: it took less than an hour for us to return to the boat. What proved much challenging, however, was the return boat ride: at one point the engine stopped, amid formidable waves, and we were soaking wet by the time we reached Talisay. But overall I think it’s a worthy trip and I can even suggest it as a good introductory hike. Thanks Jayson and the friendly staff in Taal Lake Yacht Club!