There are some places you want to keep to yourself, and Masungi Georeserve, a natural rock garden 45 minutes away from Metro Manila, is one of them.
A conservation area located in Baras, Rizal, the postcard-worthy ecotourism destination attracted the attention of travelers when a video of its massive hammocks, hanging bridges, and treehouses set amidst lush rainforests and stunning limestone formations went viral on the Internet. Since then, booking a hiking session in Masungi, which strictly accommodates a maximum of 20 tours daily on its Discovery Trail, has been quite the challenge.
Even with the current waiting list stretching as far as December, the geopark is definitely worth the visit.
The entire Discovery Trail, which takes around three to four hours to conquer—not entirely dependent on guests’ levels of fitness, our guide Cedric points out, but on the length of time it takes everybody to finish taking selfies—is a fun and interactive lesson on environmental conservation, cardio challenge, and active meditation session rolled into one. The trail features rope courses and is lined with concrete steps that make it easy for guests to go around the park without getting lost.
One can opt to trail behind the rest of the group (this comes in handy when you’re the last one standing, and heaving, after a particularly uphill climb) or keep up with the guide who would offer interesting bits of trivia like “Sixty million years ago, this entire area used to be underwater.” He says this right after you reach Sapot, a spider web-like metallic platform with wooden steps that hangs over one of the park’s limestone formations. Those with fear of heights may find this part of the trek particularly daunting, especially since it’s the first high point you need to cross, but the 360-view of 1,500 hectares of natural rainforest, the Sierra Madre mountains and Laguna de Bay will distract you.
Once you’ve conquered that, the rest of the trail toward Nanay and Tatay, the park’s highest peaks, presents a pretty steady course lined with lovely flora, natural cacti gardens, stalactite caves, and if you’re lucky enough—at least according to our guide—a snake encounter or two.
Of course, my editor’s husband had the brilliant idea of making up the name of a snake G and I had encountered during our trek. She had sent him the photo below to show one of her twin sons, who is into exotic animals, asking him to identify what kind of snake it was and if it was venomous.
“Venomous brown leaf boa,” G informed. Gullible idiot that I am, I immediately humble-bragged about it on social media (you’d have done the same thing if creepy crawlers freak you out).
Tiptoed our way under this venomous brown leaf boa at the Masungi Georeserve. Our park ranger Cedric said snakes are a rare sighting so this supposedly spells good luck for us. I just couldn’t wait to get as far away from it as possible…
The post has since been edited twice. Because hours later D tells G it wasn’t venomous, and the following day G tells me it wasn’t even a brown leaf boa—that was just something he completely made up.
Clearly, the lesson here is to never take anything a smartass veteran photojournalist nicknamed “Ungas” (“knucklehead” in bisaya) would say as gospel truth…well now he knows what he’s getting for Christmas. -_-
Masungi Georeserve is located at Garden Cottages, Kilometer 45 Marcos Highway, Baras, Rizal. The park only accepts private group bookings (no walk-ins) of at least 7 pax at P1,400/head. More information on the Masungi Georeserve is available at http://www.masungigeoreserve.com.