Last Saturday (February 25), I was finally able to experience the discovery trail at Masungi Georeserve. Prior to our visit, I asked my officemate Alvin, who visited the place last December, how the trail was. He said it’s very easy, it won’t take three hours to complete the whole trail. Was it really easy? Read on…
About Masungi Georeserve
The Masungi Georeserve, also known as the Masungi Karst Conservation Area, is a protected area and a rustic rock garden in the southern Sierra Madre range in Rizal, Philippines. Its name comes from the Filipino word “masungki” which means spiked, a term to describe the jagged rocks in the area.
In the late 1990s, what is now the Masungi Georeserve and its surrounding area were overridden by large-scale illegal loggers. The area was constantly under the threat of mining and quarrying activities, and most especially land-grabbing activities. Initiatives in the protection of the Masungi Georeserve were led and funded by Blue Star Construction & Development Corporation and the foundation body of Masungi Georeserve, alongside the communities of Pinugay, Baras, Cuyambay, and Tandang Kutyo. Since securing the spine of the rock formation in the 2000s, restoration and rehabilitation have been underway. (http://www.masungigeoreserve.com/about-us/)
How to Request for a Visit
The discovery trail visit is on a per reservation basis. They do not accept walk-ins. To reserve a date, go to http://www.masungigeoreserve.com/trailvisitrequest/. The minimum number of guests required is 7 and the maximum is 14. They accommodate groups of less than 7, however, the rate for 7 people will still be charged as the total price. They only allow children 13 years of age and above regardless of experience and height for safety purposes.
Booking a trip must be made at least three days before the intended date of visit; at least a week in advance booking is highly recommended. Due to its increasing popularity, the georeserve is already fully booked on all weekends until the end of June as of this writing.
Conservation fees for the full trail visit are Php 1,500.00 per guest for the weekdays and Php 1,800.00 per guest for the weekends. Visit http://www.masungigeoreserve.com/trailvisitrequest/ for the payment procedure as well as information about refunds and postponements.
Fee includes a dedicated park ranger, a helmet which will be returned after the trek and light refreshments. I have read on some blogs that a guest kit (sling bag with binoculars, a bottled water, and a whistle) is also provided. However, nothing was given to us because everything has been issued to earlier visitors.
How to Get There
Via Private Transportation
It is highly recommended to take a private vehicle because it may take up to an hour waiting for a jeepney when leaving the area.
Route 1 via Marcos Highway
This is the recommended route for visitors coming from the Metro Manila Area. This route takes about an hour to an hour and a half. Cruise through Marcos Highway. You will pass through Masinag, Cogeo, Boso-Boso Resort, Foremost Farms and Palo Alto. Slow down at Garden Cottages along Marcos Highway. The entrance of Masungi will be on your right. There is no signage at the entrance, you will only see the logo of Masungi.
Route 2 via Sampaloc in Tanay, from the Manila East Road
We took this route from Ortigas because our driver just followed the instructions from Waze. Apparently, the destination he typed in was Baras, Rizal. It took us around two and a half hours to get to the georeserve and had to stop several times to ask for directions. For this route, take Sampaloc Road. You will pass by the street to Daranak Falls. Don’t go to this street, just go straight until you get to a junction. Turn left and just follow the road until you get to Kilometer 47 Masungi entrance. The ride is about 45 minutes to one hour from the junction and you will pass by Sierra Madre resort and Ten Cents to Heaven on your right. When in this route the entrance of the georeserve is on your left.
Via Public Transportation
Route 1 via Cogeo
Ride a van or jeepney going to Padilla/Cogeo Gate 2 and get off at Gate 2. From there, take a jeepney bound to Sampaloc via Marcos Highway in Tanay. It will be the same route as Route 1 in private transportation.
Route 2 via Tanay
Take a jeepney to Tanay town proper and hire a tricycle that will take you to Garden Cottages. Fare is Php 500.00 one way but can be haggled down to Php 350.00
The Discovery Trail
From the entrance, walk for 5-10 minutes to get to Silungan where you will be given a short orientation. This is also the area where you will be given a helmet. There are water refilling stations near this area. You can request for bottled water from them in case you forgot to bring one. Restrooms are located near this area.
Each group visiting Masungi is assigned a park ranger. They are called park rangers and not guides because aside from assisting visitors, they are also responsible for protecting and preserving the area. Before the start of the trail, James gave us a short introduction about the area. He also told us to avoid touching a particular part of the bamboo plant.
The trail starts with Lagusan ni Ric, a cave-like passageway. It was named after Ric, the engineer who designed the rope courses. Along the way, James also shared geologic facts like the different types of sinkholes and how these were formed.
After a few minutes of walking, we got to the first rope course, Lambat. It is a rope net with smaller grids on the left side and bigger grids on the right side. According to James, it is easier to climb on the bigger grids. Four people can climb this course at the same time. Before climbing, visitors are required to brush their shoes.
We continued with our hike and got to a balete tree. We stopped there for a few minutes to take a rest and wait for the other group to finish with their picture-taking session at the Sapot. While resting, James gave us facts about balete trees. Initially, balete start upon other trees, later entrapping the host tree entirely and finally killing it.
The next rope course, Sapot, is a web-style viewing platform on top of limestone formations. It is made up of steel wire rope. I almost crawled to get to the center of the platform because I was scared that I might fall. The view from this place though is breathtaking. You get to see here a spectacular view of Laguna de Bay as well as the Sierra Madre mountain range.
Each group is given fifteen minutes to stay and have their pictures taken in Sapot. After our picture taking session, we crossed the hanging bridge connected to Sapot and continued with our hike. Along the trail, James showed us the compost pits in the georeserve and the rock formation where the logo of Masungi Georeserve was based. He also shared with us interesting facts about some of the trees. He said the presence of Tibig tree is an indicator of the presence of water in the vicinity.
On the way to Ditse, one of the three featured peaks in the georeserve, we passed by a cactus garden. We also passed by Patak, an air house with a shape like that of a water droplet which is in between two hanging bridges. Patak is made primarily of bamboo with glass windows. After taking a rest inside Patak, we crossed the bridge and got to the top of Ditse.
From Ditse, we went down to Duyan, a giant rope bridge that resembles a hammock. I have read that this is the most photographed course in the georeserve. I’d say this is the most thrilling part.
After a quick stop at Duyan, we walked further and got to a cave named Yungib ni Ruben. It was named after Ruben, the park ranger who discovered this cave.
While inside the cave, James shared some facts about caves after which we started our hike to the top of Tatay, the highest peak in the georeserve. After some sightseeing and picture taking at the top, we moved to Nanay, the second highest peak in the area.
The last and newest course in the discovery trail is the Bayawak, a rope net shaped like that of a Bayawak (Iguana). You have to go down this net to get to Dahon, a rest area with lots of hammocks in different shapes and sizes. Alternatively, if you don’t want to go down this net, you can take the stairs.
We didn’t finish the trail in less than three hours but overall, I can say that my visit to Masungi Georeserve was a wonderful experience. The rope courses were thrilling but fun. I like that aside from the great fitness activity that a visitor gets to experience, they also educate visitors on how to care for the environment and their park rangers talked about how the rock formations in the area were formed.
Tips and Useful Information
- Wear non-slip closed shoes suitable for a hike.
- Wear lightweight, comfortable clothing. Bring face towel and extra clothes as you will be perspiring a lot.
- Slather on sunblock lotion to protect yourself from the harmful UV rays.
- Meals are not allowed to be brought inside. Bring trail foods such as peanuts, chocolate, trail mixes, and biscuits. Don’t forget to bring water.
- Eat a sufficient meal prior to your scheduled hike.
- Pack light.
- Be extra careful and watch your steps. Avoid using your gadgets when going through the course as there’s no guarantee that these can be retrieved if they fall.
- There is no signal inside the georeserve so save the uploading attempts of your pictures for when you get back to the city.
Thanks to Alvin, Junard, Neil, and Jem for the pictures 🙂