I was finally able to visit Masungi Georeserve in February 2017 with friends new and old. The conservation area is so popular and there are only a number of visitors allowed per day which made it hard to reserve a slot. Read on to know how we made this trip possible and our experience during the trail 🙂
Trail Visit Request
Initially, I and the boyfriend planned to just join a group tour for Masungi Georeserve. But upon browsing through their Facebook page, I found out that the management doesn’t allow tour operators to re-sell schedules and there is a big chance that visitors won’t be allowed to enter the area if this is the case.
So I took went directly to Masungi Georeserve’s Trail Visit Request page to book our visit. I booked in November 2016 but all the slots were already taken until January 2017. I managed to find a slot for February 2017 so I grabbed that chance. At that time, it was only me and the boyfriend in the group. But since Masungi Georeserve only allows groups of 7-14 to visit, we had to find other companions to fill the group requirement.
So what to do? I posted a status on Facebook looking for folks to take up the vacant slots. Less than an hour later, the 14 slots were all taken with a few more friends asking if they can still join. I emailed the management to ask if more than 14 people will be allowed but they are strict with this guideline. If more people wanted to join, I had to book another trail visit request.
The total conservation fee for each guest at the time I booked was Php 1,400. This fee includes the services of a park ranger guide, helmet, light snacks after the trail, bag to be used during the trail and water. For 2017, Masungi Georeserve increased their fees to Php 1,500 for weekday visitors and Php 1,800 for weekend visitors.
Browsing through Masungi’s Facebook page, there are several complaints about the management not replying to emails. But I didn’t experience this at all. I received a notification saying that they’ve received my trail visit request and asked for the guests’ details (name, birthday and phone number). After I gave them this information, they asked me to make a 50% downpayment. They confirmed receipt of payment and my booking after paying the required amount.
A week before our visit, they emailed me again to confirm if we would indeed be going and to remind me to pay the remaining amount for our booking. They gave a final confirmation with the park guidelines and reminders after I paid the whole amount.
It was a smooth transaction for me. It took 1-3 days for them to reply but I was okay with that turn-around time.
How to get there
Since all of us didn’t have a car, we decided to rent a van to take us to Masungi Georeserve. I inquired with several transport companies but they all quoted me from Php 4,500 to Php 5,000. Good thing my friend found Sir Chris on Facebook and he gave us a reasonable rate 🙂
All of us weren’t familiar with the way going to Masungi Georeserve but it was easy enough to find with the help of Waze. Travel time from Robinson’s Galleria took only around an hour. We were lucky there was no traffic then.
Upon arriving in Masungi Georeserve, a park ranger greeted us to get our names and to confirm if we were really scheduled for that day. There was a free parking area where the van and our driver could wait for us.
We had to walk around 10-15 minutes from the gates to Silungan where we made final preparations for the climb and the staff gave us a briefing about the rules we had to follow. Two of these stuck with me the most: stick with the group at all times and no loud noise throughout the trail. We left our non-essential climb items at Silungan and borrowed bags we can use during the climb.
It was a cloudy day and it was drizzling when we started our climb. I honestly preferred this weather instead of trekking under the bright sun.
Our park ranger led us through well-established trails throughout the conservation area. We had to go through dirt paths, cemented walkways, steep stairs, caves, rope bridges and some rope ladders to get to the main features of the park.
The first stop was at Sapot. This I think is the most famous attraction of Masungi Georeserve. I was so excited to finally be standing at the giant web. My balance was challenged the whole time though because the ropes were a bit slippery due to the rain.
The view from Sapot would have been amazing but the clouds blocked our view. We spent the most time here so everyone could get the perfect Instagram shot but our park ranger suddenly left us so we had no choice but to follow him to the next stop.
He reminded us that we were only allowed a specific amount of time for each stop so other groups can take their turn. The park rangers coordinate with each other through a radio so they know where each group is. When it’s time to move on to the next destination, the group has to follow. Those left behind will risk being lost in the forest or be bitten by snakes. Yikes! We apologized for our group not respecting the time and we continued on. They are very strict with following the guidelines, but it was for our sake and for the other guests as well.
We crossed a bridge to get to Patak which is an air house held up by thick ropes. According to our park ranger, there wasn’t a tree big enough to be able to hold up the house so they hung it with ropes instead.
Although Sapot was a sight to behold, my favorite part of the trail was Duyan. It is Masungi Georeserve’s giant hammock in the middle of the forest. To get there, we first had to climb down a long rope ladder. It looked scary at first but climbing down was relatively easy.
There was another group lounging at Duyan when we got down. Their park ranger and the rest of their companions already left them but they still continued on with their photoshoot like they had all the time in the world. It was very irritating since they can see that we were already waiting for our turn and it was starting to rain hard. Our park ranger had to go to their spot and photobomb their shots until they decided to leave. Because of this, we only stayed for short while at Duyan for a water break and for our group shot.
We were led to Yungib ni Ruben for a brief shelter from the rain. The cave was named after the park ranger who discovered the path in and out of the cave. The cave smelled of sampaguita flowers thanks to the scented candles inside the cave. These candles also served as our guide inside the cave.
The rain was falling hard when we got to Tatay. It is the highest peak in the conservation area according to our park ranger. We only saw fog from the peak and a silhouette of Nanay which was our next destination. By this time, I was already soaking wet and shivering from the cold. I had no choice but to wear the rain poncho provided by Masungi Georeserve. I had to be extra careful while climbing though because the poncho got in the way of my movements.
Both Tatay and Nanay would have given a great view of the park and the surrounding areas, but we weren’t so lucky to see it. We loved the rain, but it reduced our visibility from the different vantage points of the park.
The last hurdle of the trail was Bayawak. If I thought the rope ladder going down Duyan was long, this was even longer. We were all very tired and hungry at this time. The thought of food was the only thing that kept us going.
Finally, our park ranger led us to the end point where light snacks were waiting for us. The egg sandwich, bananas and juice served to us were gone in 10 minutes. LOL.
We all had a great time exploring Masungi Georeserve. Even though it rained, it was part of what made our experience unique. The staff were all smiles and very attentive towards all the guests. I think the strictness of the implementation of the guidelines is necessary or else we’ll see empty bags of chips along the trail soon. We could all see how the area was well-preserved thanks to the hardworking people of Masungi Georeserve and through the cooperation of the guests.
At first, I felt that the conservation fee was too expensive but it was justified by the service and the beauty of Masungi Georeserve. The fees we pay go to the salary of the park’s staff and towards the conservation of the area. They are also continuously improving and adding facilities for the benefit of the guests which makes their price increase for 2017 a bit easier to accept. We saw another attraction in progress during the trail which made me want to go back in the future.
We wished there was a restaurant (which the park ranger told us is already in the works), a souvenir shop or even a certificate for the guests to remember their visit to Masungi Georeserve and a shower facility (but this is hard to build as water supply in the area is hard to come by). The last item wasn’t a big deal for us since it rained 90% of our climb. LOL.
I went to Masungi Georeserve mainly for the photos but I realized that it wasn’t just something you do for fun. It was an educational experience for all of us. And it made me more aware towards caring for the environment. 🙂