Updated for 2017: The Ultimate Guide to The Masungi Georeserve

Thursday, December 10, 2015

masungi georeserve tanay rizal


UPDATE: The Online Visit Request Form will be available on January 24, 2016 on Masungi Georeserve's official website.
Screen grabbed from Masungi Georeserve's official facebook page on January 22, 2016


Watch: Masungi Georeserve Virtual Tour

Filipinos, together with the rest of the world, has started to remember (because we all know this deep down, it just that we'd forgotten it) what a joy it is to coalesce with Mother Nature. We're finally choosing to see a truth that we'd long denied, that living with the environment and not against it is, and will always be, the best way to live. Along with this realization, a number of movements and causes that are all for environmental and cultural preservation had become prevalent. And as more and more people treat travel and adventure as a legitimately sound investment, as they get to see more of the world, there is now a genuine interest to partake in nature conservation. Hence, the revolution of tourism from being just that, to tourism as an avenue for environmental awareness and ecological protection. This shift in meaning is aptly named as Ecotourism.

There are many ecotourist spots in the Philippines, but one need not to look far because there are plenty of them right here in Rizal. One such place is the Masungi Georeserve in Baras.
masungi georeserve tanay rizal
This rock formation is called Hari. It is the basis for Masungi Georeserve's logo
Masungi Georeserve or, simply, Masungi – often misheard as Masungit or  Masungki  – is 1500+ hectares of conservation area whose most prominent feature is the 10-kilometer spine of limestone formations. The area is practically a maze of limestone, some of which are dated to as far back as the Paleocene and Eocene period – that's 66 million years old tops! It should be noted that Paleocene limestones are often found underwater, making Masungi the only area in the entire Philippines where limestone outcrops from this period can be found (according to the National Institute of Geological Sciences).
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This is just the entrance to the reserve.
The reserve's karst terrain is also home to jade vines and titan arums (which, here, are purplish and bluish, for some reason), as well as to a variety of wildlife such as civet cats, monitor lizards, cloud rats, macaques, migratory birds, and occasional raptors.

The ecological diversity of Masungi becomes even more fascinating when you think of its past riddled with illegal logging and huge-scale quarrying. It had only been in the 2000s when Masungi was declared as a conservation area. And after almost two decades of ardent reforestation and community reintegration, this geological wonder has finally begun to recover.
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The visitor shed where guests are oriented of the reserve's policies
In an initiative supported by the Baras government and the communities of Cuyambay and Tandang Kutyo, Masungi – which had previously only accommodated private tours, mostly for research – has finally opened its doors to the public this December. And in just a brief period of time, the demand to experience its uniqueness has skyrocketed.

Masungi's offered attraction is termed Discovery Trail. Ann Dumaliang, the reserve's project officer, explains that the 4-to-5-hour trail "does not lead to a particular destination and is more like a meandering path."
masungi georeserve tanay rizal
Ann demonstrating how to safely climb this net contraption -- one of the many obstacle-course-like elements of the trail
Aside from the rope bridges, obstacle-course-like elements, and the fascinating flora and fauna, Discovery Trail is also an informative tour tackling the ecological relevance of Masungi, and also includes these highlights: Sapot, Ditse, Patak, Duyan, Yungib ni Ruben, Tatay, Nanay, and Liwasan.
masungi georeserve tanay
Did you know that there are three types of sinkholes? Cover-subsidence, Cover-collapse, and Dissolution. The one Ann is pointing at is a Cover-subsidence sinkhole where continued erosion increases the size of the depression. 

Sapot

Hovering over a cluster of limestones, Sapot was put up to get a great view without risking personal safety and damage to the rocks. This web-like industrial steel structure offers a 360-degree view which includes the superlative combo of the Sierra Madre mountain range on one side, and Laguna de Bay on the other.
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Sapot has a wonderful view of the Sierra Madre
"A spider's web is proven to be structurally sound," says Ann.

Create this design with the same material used in suspension bridges and you get a durable – and cool-looking – piece of engineering.
masungi georeserve
Sapot hovers a cluster of jagged rocks

Ditse

One of the three prominent peaks of the rock spine, Ditse is surrounded with native cacti. There is also a small cavern with a stone mosaic of a rather cute monkey on its floor.
masungi georeserve tanay rizal
A cute monkey is paved inside Ditse's cave floor. 

Patak

Connected by a rope bridge to Ditse is an "air house" in the shape of a raindrop. Ann shares, "We couldn't really call it a tree house because it's not on a tree."
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Held by a length of rope bridges on both sides: Patak the Air House
Largely constructed of bamboo, Patak is suspended high above thick canopies.
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Patak, with Ditse in the background

Duyan

Basically a hammock fit for a giant, Duyan is the most photographed of all the trail features. And it's easy to see why: the white of the braided ropes provide a stark albeit beautiful contrast to the emerald green of the trees, and then there's the spectacular sprawl of rainforest everywhere.
masungi georeserve
Ann and me on Duyan, just chillin'

Yungib ni Ruben

"He's the one who takes care of this cave," replies Ann when I asked who Ruben was.
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The eerie and fantastical insides of the Yungib
Yungib ni Ruben is a fantastical example of a cave formation in a karst landscape. A nesting ground for bats and swiftlets, there is also a number of stalactites and stalagmites in this part. Also, the path to it is lit with oil lamps, and with the slight chill and the slice of sunlight illuminating the dim surroundings, the inside seemed like a site for some esoteric ritual.

Tatay

The tallest of the three peaks, Tatay boasts of the best view of the whole landscape. With rocks piled haphazardly, Tatay looks like a piece of natural sculpture.

masungi georeserve
At the topmost part of Tatay. It gets pretty windy up here.

Nanay

Completing the family of peaks, it features a cluster of five limestones interconnected by bridges. From afar, Nanay looks as if it is about to topple over, but up close it's as steady and firm as all the mothers out there.
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The bridged platform of Nanay

Liwasan

"Not for swimming, just for meditating," Ann assures us. Seeing how barely above-the-ankles the pools were, swimming never really crossed my mind.
masungi georeserve
The water isn't muddy. The flooring is just tan.
Constructed in the summer of 2015, the reflecting pools of Liwasan also serve as a grand birdbath – you know, for birds who are thirsty and want to cool down.

The water comes from the mountains, and the flow is natural – no pumps whatsoever.

Liwasan is designated as the last pitstop before the final ascent back to the visitor sheds.

masungi georeserve
Up high. Bird-watching is also part of the tour, as raptors and other migratory birds sometimes make an appearance.
masungi georeserve
Looking out into the sprawl of forest before going over that rock pillar to get to Duyan

The Discovery Trail, despite being fully paved, offers the challenges of a minor climb, making it perfect for those who want to try mountaineering. Really, though, the trail is for anyone looking to commune with Nature while having a serving of Adventure on the side.
masungi georeserve
Nanay on the left; Tatay on the right

NEW: Dahon

A hammock village where you will find hammocks of different shapes and sizes inspired by leaves and fruits. Guests can rest on these hammocks after a long and winding trek throughout the trail. 


So, how to experience Masungi Georeserve's Discovery Trail? Here are the details:

Reservation

STRICTLY NO WALK-INS!

Book a trip a week up to 4 days before your intended visit. Keep in mind that only a group of a minimum of 7 persons and a maximum of 10  14 can be accommodated; meaning if you're a group of 6 or less, you will not be accommodated unless you are willing to shell out the minimum total. For groups over 14, better split your group into two. Also, only a maximum of two four groups will be allowed to tour per day. This is because the management wants to observe the carrying capacity of the place as well as to facilitate the tour as efficiently and as "intimately" as possible. Wait for a reply in two to three working days.

Go to www.masungigeoreserve.com to reserve a date.

Fees and Payment Procedure

A 1,000-peso (until March; 1,400-peso starting April 2016) trail fee differential pricing scheme for weekdays and weekends will be put into effect for tours on January 1, 2017 onwards. This is to help equalize demand across all schedules and avoid incidents such as scalping and mass booking. 

Guests who have reserved before November 26, 2016 for visits December 1, 2017 and onwards will not be affected by the following price change. For tours starting on January 1, 2017, the following trail fees will be collected:


Weekdays (Mondays to Fridays): Php 1,500 per person 
Weekends (Saturdays and Sundays): Php 1,800 per person
*minimum of 7, maximum of 14 persons in a group

A 50% bank deposit is required to confirm reservation, with the remaining balance to be settled on the date of the visit. You will be issued a receipt for your reference. 

The trail fee includes a dedicated park ranger/guide (yes, a guide is mandatory), guest kit (helmet, binoculars, a bottled water, waterproof pouch for cellphones, a rain poncho, and a whistle) to be returned after the trek, and refreshments.
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The contents of the guest kit

How to Get There

via Private Transport
    Route 1 via Marcos Highway
Course through Marcos Highway. You will pass through Masinag, Cogeo, Boso-boso Resort, Foremost Farms, and Palo Alto. Garden Cottages, the entrance to Masungi, will be on your right.


    Route 2 via Sampaloc in Tanay
Take Sampaloc Road. You will pass by the street to Daranak Falls. Go straight until you arrive at a junction. Turn left. Follow this scenic road. It'll be a 45 minutes to an hour ride. You will pass by Sierra Madre resort on your right. Garden Cottages will be on your left when taking this route.

via Public Transportation
    Route 1 via Cogeo
Ride a van or jeepney going to Padilla/Cogeo Gate 2. Get off at Gate 2 and from here take a jeep bound to Sampaloc in Tanay. It'll be the same route as Route 1 in private transportation.

    Route 2 via Tanay
Take a jeepney to Tanay town proper. Hire a tricycle to take you to Garden Cottages. Fare is 500 one way but can be haggled down to 350. Alternatively, you can hire a tricycle up to the Sampaloc junction. There are jeepneys going to Antipolo/Cogeo that'll pass by Garden Cottages.


Celine's Note: Jeeps, vehicles in general, are rare once you get to Garden Cottages. You could spend up to an hour waiting for a jeepney. Plus, jeeps are often filled to the roof when they pass by here. So take this into account. Of course, you can always hitch a ride from the pick-ups that pass by.


Other Important Travel Reminders

  • Masungi Georeserve strictly observes a No Smoking policy. This includes smoking alternatives like vapes and, erm, weed. If you won't obey, you will be asked to leave the area. 
  • The reserve is also strict to the observance of the Leave No Trace policy in all its forms. That means no littering, no picking flowers or rocks, no catching/chasing/harming/feeding animals, no vandalism, and no loud noises.
  • Strictly no walk-ins. And children below 13 years old (for tours starting February 2016) are not allowed on the trail. 
  • Bring a change of clothes as the weather is a bit temperamental. Bring snacks and extra water, if you like, just remember to mind your trash.
  • There are no restaurants and food establishments inside Masungi. The nearest sari-sari store is a 30-minute ride, while the nearest eatery is Park, Rest, and Dine which is a 15-minute ride.
  • Be sure to read Masungi Georeserve's complete guidelines and policies before your visit.

Masungi Georeserve

Kilometer 47 , Marcos Highway (inside Garden Cottages)
Baras, Rizal
trail@masungigeoreserve.com

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