Here’s Your Ultimate Guide to Masungi Georeserve in Rizal
by Jace Amodo, February 26, 2019 12:30pm
Art by Dani Elevazo
Masungi Georeserve, a conservation park tucked in the rainforests of Rizal, took social media by storm when it launched its "Discovery Trail at Night." The park’s latest attraction puts a twist to what is already a beautifully engineered marvel of a trek track, attracting more thrill-seekers and nature lovers. The georeserve is nowgetting recognized globally too—all the more reason to tick it off your bucket list. But before you go packing, here are things you should know about the park.
Masungi’s history can be traced as far back as the late 1990s. Masungi came from the word masungki, referring to its steep slopes and rocky landscapes. But before Masungi came to be what it is today, it faced rocky encounters against large-scale illegal loggers and threats of mining and land-grabbing activities.
Masungi Georeserve was declared in 1993 as a Strict Nature Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. This meant the area is closed to activities which might affect the habitat and ecological balance in the area; because of this, the trees grow taller, the wildlife is enriched, and commitments to biodiversity conservation are stronger. Perhaps the most awarding result is the overwhelming response from netizens which helped improve geo-tourism and therefore gain sustainable development.
How to get there
The area has an erratic, almost non-existent mobile signal so it would be wise to familiarize with the directions early on. Masungi is located along Kilometer 47, Marcos Highway, Baras, near the town of Tanay. The entrance sits at the right side of Marcos Highway road pass the Garden Cottages, Foremost Farms, and Palo Alto markers.
If coming from Metro Manila, take Marcos Highway instead of the Manila-East Road which is a significantly longer and less reliable route—the last thing any hikers need before even trekking. According to the georeserve, the estimated travel time is three to three and a half hours if coming from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Metro Manila traffic permitting); and one hour and 15 minutes if coming from Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City.
As an option, Masungi has travel partners to provide transportation services for your convenience. Among those are Pirkko and Troy Travel and Tours, Intas Destinations Management, Kilometer Zero Travel PH, Tanlines Philippines, and Air Taxi PH—the latter offering a scenic helicopter shuttle from their Manila Hangar to the georeserve in less than 15 minutes.
Visits must be arranged ahead of time for everyone’s convenience. The park only entertains private group requests with 7-14 guests ranging from 13 years old and above. Park visitors must secure a reservation because walk-ins won’t be entertained. Occasionally, they offer shared trails—perfect for when you can’t complete the required number of participants.
Conservation fee is 1,500php/guest on weekdays and 1,800php/guest on weekends (as of February 2019). This includes a local park ranger guide, complimentary light refreshments, and light bags. You may only enjoy the snacks provided along with your ticket once you reach the stop just before the final ascent of the discovery trail.
Since outside meals are prohibited inside the park to limit waste, eating a sufficient meal beforehand is a favorable option. For an additional 850php, you can wrap up your trek with a dining set specially prepared for you at the Silayan Restaurant. The menu consists of an appetizer, the soup of the day, Chicken Confit with Tomato & Foraged Greens, the dessert of the day, and a house tea. A vegetarian alternative can be requested as well. The Silayan is accessible by car, five minutes from Masungi's entrance, and is open from 8 am to 5 pm from Tuesdays to Sundays. It is open for reservations for trail guests who booked no later than March 2019; it will be exclusive to private dining and special events come April 2019.
Currently, Masungi Georeserve has three trails: Discovery Trail, a hiker’s favorite; Discovery Trail At Night, its newest attraction; and the Legacy Trail, the trail less traveled but fulfilling enough as it is.
The Discovery Trail is Masungi Georeserve’s main trail. Once you enter the park, you will be escorted to the Silungan, the receiving and briefing area which also serves as a visitors’ shed. The trail ends at Liwasan, a valley-like area designed for relaxation before returning back to Silungan. Here are all the rope courses and uniquely designed stops of the Discovery Trail.
From fear of heights to fear of spiders, courage will definitely be tested on the Discovery trail’s rope courses—a lowkey exposure therapy. One of which is Sapot, a suspended netting mimicking a spider’s web above the peaks of Masungi. Sapot allows guests to stand, walk and lay on top of a metallic platform to get a spectacular 360-degree view of the Sierra Madre, the country’s longest mountain range, and Laguna de Bay, the country’s biggest lake.
In case you’re wondering, there are caves inside the park. One of the most photographed is the Yungib ni Ruben. The cave also serves as a shed for those seeking a short break from the sun. Marvel at the beautiful stalactites and stalagmites formations, as well as a man-made fountain.
Tatay is the highest peak at the georeserve. It is composed of rocks seemingly piled on top of one another, with a deck offering vast and panoramic views of the park. The second tallest peak is Nanay, a natural limestone formation interconnected by bridges.
These are just some of the relaxing and breathtaking spots you can enjoy during your three to four-hour trek.
Discovery Trail at Night
By the time the sun sets, the trail (and the park itself) transforms into an enchanting nature reserve, offering a whole new trekking experience—the Discovery Trail at Night. With this trail, you get to go through all the activities of the Discovery Trail but this time you to trek the illuminated pathways under the moonlight.
This trail is only available on weekends at 1,800php/guest (as of February 2019); it comes with a campfire activity (complete with light refreshments).
As part of the greater Masungi Geopark Project established in 2017, the park introduced the Legacy Trail. Restoration efforts are currently on-going in the park’s surrounding areas, and opening the Legacy Trail means letting guests come up close and directly participate with forest nurturing.
Rows of bamboos stretch along the trail as you ascend to the top. Guests will have up to 45 minutes of tree planting and tree nurturing. Thereafter, a well-deserved, community-prepared lunch will be served. Guests will also be able to rest in Amihan, in ropeways and floating huts among the last pine trees in the project area. The Legacy Trail is available on weekdays and weekends for 1,000php/guest (as of February 2019).
By request, guests can also take in the beauty of the park’s rock gardens and water cascades through a garden stroll at Masungi's flatter sections.
What to bring
The weather in the georeserve is generally tropical and humid, with temperatures playing around 24 and 31 Celcius. It is advised to wear appropriate hiking attire: casual, lightweight clothing when the sun looms above, or a triple-layer, moisture-wicking garment when fog covers the lush mountain rainforests. Of course, don’t forget your non-slip trekking shoes or boots.
As expected on a hidden sanctuary, water sources hard to come by. Guests are encouraged to bring their own water containers, ideally with 1-liter capacity. Refill stations are available at Silungan. There are no shower rooms, and Silungan and Liwasan are the sole holders of restrooms in the park.
Good manners and right conduct played a big role in the sustenance of the nature park. Being a sanctuary of biodiversity, several policies must be observed.
It’s a no-brainer that the “No littering” policy is strictly observed inside the park. There are no trash bins along the trail, except for those inside the restrooms. The park is a non-smoking zone so any instruments related to it—cigarettes, lighters, etc.—must be surrendered at the entrance. Noise must be kept to a minimum as it may pose stress on the wildlife and disturbance on fellow guests. Encountered animals must not be fed or touched. Picking up of flowers, rocks, and other specimens are likewise prohibited.
Park rangers accompany hikers during the trail for a reason. They are to be heard and followed at all times. And while it’s tempting to give a tip for their kindness, it is not encouraged.
Naturally, the best time to hike is on an early morning of a cool season, around December to February. While it’s fun to hike with friends and family, it’s best to join a local hiking club in one of their treks for a start just so you’re armed with knowledge and avoid common hiking dilemmas.
Maintaining a house garden is no mean feat. What more if it’s an entire landscape? With a solid mission, like-minded people, and hikers like you, Masungi Georeserve continues to strive in the preservation of the park. But the challenges—deforestation, human negligence, climate change—is far from its shrinking point, and the mission is not fully realized yet.
Your contributions through your conservation fees, promoting the georeserve and its advocacy, and actively participating in forest nurturing can make a difference. Have your dose of georeserve adventure and get to trekking in Masungi.
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