Masungi Georeserve is a conservation area and karst rock garden hidden in the rainforests of Baras, Rizal. Its name comes from the local term “masungki” which translates to “spiked” – describing the jagged limestone landscape found here. The discovery trail offers a unique outdoor experience where visitors get to hike through karst landscape, with limestone formations, sinkholes, caves and natural trails and forests. The geological park has eco-friendly conservation areas, rest stations and obstacles including hanging bridges, rope ladder descents, view decks, and a giant hammock where you can enjoy views of the amazing natural landscape.
Most of the trail is lined with rock and concrete block stairs, making it relatively easy to hike. But while it may look like a fun and chill place, some of the areas are quite challenging to get to. I was expecting it to be an easy walk in the park, but was pleasantly surprised to find that the trail requires hiking through rolling terrain, climbing steep stairs and descending down a rope bridge from dizzying heights. We covered roughly 5-7 kilometers in total, with lots of photo op stops. Masungi is one of the most unique nature trail hikes I’ve done in the country, with its numerous trails and obstacles. It almost feels like a real life puzzle platformer for open world exploration.
Masungi Georeseve is located in the mountainous region of Rizal, Philippines. According to DENR cadastrate, the area where the park is (300 hectares under Masungi Georeserve) falls under Baras. The entrance to the park is Garden Cottages at Km. 45 Marcos Highway in the border of Baras and Tanay, a popular pitstop for riders and mountain bikers going up the Marilaque route. I’ve been regularly passing this gate’s entrance during weekend rides and have been wanting to climb these rock formations for years now, but only recently got to visit since the whole area was closed to the public due to reforestation efforts and park development. Since it opened to the public in December 2015, the place has been met with much public interest among outdoor enthusiasts.
According to Ann Dumaliang, Masungi Georeserve’s Project Officer, Garden Cottages was originally intended to be a housing complex, but because of its remote location and lack of transportation, the area isn’t really ideal for residential purposes. This would have also caused possible damage to the karst formations due to quarrying and other housing development. The management decided to turn the area into a geological park and leisure destination instead, showcasing the beauty of the natural terrain and maintain the place as a sanctuary for wildlife.
Masungi Georeserve offers a combination of hiking and conservation appreciation. The trail normally lasts for 3-5 hours, but may be shortened or lengthened depending on the guests preference and capacity. All trips to Masungi Georeserve require a park ranger to guide guests through the trek providing a deeper understanding of the area. The park employs guides and park staff from locals from the indigenous Dumagat communities who live in nearby barangays like Cuyambay, providing them an additional source of income.
Jennifer, one of Masungi Georeserve’s park guides
Unique flora and fauna
Along the trail, you can see beautiful flora and fauna including the jade vine, a rare and beautiful flower, which is under threat by deforestation in its natural habitat in the Philippines. Normally emerald green, the flower was blooming purple in the limestone forest. There are also fruit-bearing trees and medicinal plants traditionally used by the Dumagat tribe for minor ailments.
Throughout the trail, you have to pass through cave like formations, hanging bridges, and stone walkways integrated into the karst terrain with balete trees growing from the rocks and sinkholes by the caves. The area is great for birdwatchers. Other animals that can be spotted here include monitor lizards, snakes, civet cats, cloud rats, and monkeys, among others.
Ditse at Patak
This area contains an already existing cactus garden and patak, a raindrop shaped air house connected by a hanging bridge.
Sapot: Spider Web
A spiderweb-style viewing platform set over the karst formations where you can get a spectacular view of Laguna de Bay, the biggest lake in the Philippines and rock formations. This is a great spot to just relax and catch the breeze. If you hike in the afternoon, it offers the best view of the sunset.
Yungib ni Ruben
A cave formation that is part of a karst landscape, where you can see a good example of cave characteristics or simply seek a cooler shelter away from sun.
The first and taller one among the two peaks is a natural sculpture and formation composed of several rocks seemingly piled on top of one another.
The second peak features five limestone rock peaks interconnected by bridges.
One of the most interesting features of the Georeserve is duyan, a giant rope bridge that resembles a hammock. Getting here requires a steep descent, but once you get down, you’ll just want to lounge around. The breeze makes it a great place to relax.
One thing I appreciate about the Georeserve are all the rest stops. There are a lot of benches and hammocks where you can rest along the trail. Near the end point of the hike, there’s a valley-like area with a reflection pond designed for relaxation and a lot of hammocks and swings you can rest in prior to the final ascent back to the visitor sheds.
According to the Masungi Georeserve management, works are underway for a new improvement at the end of the trail called the ‘Dahon’ village. Here, you will find hammocks of different shapes and sizes inspired by leaves and fruits. Guests will be be able to rest on these hammocks after a long and winding trek.
WHO SHOULD JOIN:
Due to the nature of the trail and security purposes, the discovery trek is limited to persons 13 years of age and above. This is best for outdoor and nature enthusiasts, but can be completed by regular and beginner hikers. It’s also ideal for barkadas, groups and families (with kids above 13 years old) who are looking for a unique experience together away from the city. This is not recommended for people who have a fear of heights.
Weather in the georeserve is generally tropical and humid, with average temperatures hitting from 24 degrees to 31 degrees celsius. The dry season runs from November to April, while the wet season is from May-October. January is often the coolest month, while May is the hottest. Tours are still run even if it rains, though they may be cancelled in the event of a typhoon. Slots are available starting 5:30 in the morning up to 1:30 pm, with groups allowed to enter in hourly intervals. According to guides, the best time to go is 5:30 in the morning, so it’s not so hot during the trek. If you go in the afternoon, you can end your hike at sunset.
WHAT TO WEAR:
For the hike, wear casual, lightweight and comfortable clothes suitable for the outdoors. Because of the hot weather, shorts or leggings and dri-fit shirts are recommended. Wear non-slip, closed shoes because you will be climbing over rocks. Do NOT wear slippers. It can get hot towards noon, so arm sleeves, a cap or hat and shades are recommended. There are clean and well-maintained restrooms near the briefing area where you can change clothes before or after your hike. There are no bathrooms anymore in the rest of the trail.
WHAT TO BRING:
It’s best to travel light for the hike. You will be issued a trail kit – a sling bag which contains bottled water, a whistle and binoculars. You’ll also be issued a helmet, which you need to wear because you’ll be crouching through narrow cave openings.
I suggest you bring a fully charged smartphone and powerbank. It helps to have a phonecase with a carabiner you can clip on to your clothes, because there have been a lot of cases of phones and cameras falling to the rocks while hiking. I brought an SLR, but ended up using mostly the smartphone because it can take wider shots and it was hard to take out of the bag while climbing down in some spots. Some parts of the trail and cave are very tight, and it would be better if you have a wide lens or GoPro.
WHERE TO EAT:
There is no place to buy food or drinks while you’re on the trail, so bring light snacks like skyflakes, peanuts and trail food. Be sure to take back all wrappers and empty bottles. Light refreshments are served right after the hike, but if you want to eat lunch/ dinner somewhere after, the nearest options are:
- Park, Rest and Dine
- Pico de Pino
- Sierra Madre Resort
- Ten Cents to Heaven (Camp Cafe Restaurant)
- Cafe Katerina
- Paseo Rizal Mayagay
- Pranjetto Hills Garden Restaurant
- Mang Frank Bulalohan Silog
READ MORE: Road Trip Restaurants along Marilaque
RATES: (*UPDATED November 25, 2016)
In order to maintain the quality of the place, Masungi Georeserve only entertains private group bookings. New fees are for January 1, 2017 effective November 26, 2016. Guests who have reserved before November 20, 2016 for visits December 1, 2016 onwards will not be affected by this price change:
- Weekdays (Mondays to Fridays): Php 1,500 per person
- Weekends (Saturdays and Sundays): Php 1,800 per person
All tours are inclusive of a ranger dedicated to the group, rental of helmets and backpacks, water refills and complimentary light after trail snacks.
There’s a minimum of 7 people to maximum of 13 people per group. To reserve slots, visit their reservation page, and go to trail, for the request process and complete information. Choose your group size, date and preferred time slot in their calendar. Prices, terms, and conditions are subject to change without prior notice.
For groups less than 7 people, you can still be accommodated, but you will still have to pay the minimum group rate retained (for 7 people) as the total price. The rate may seem expensive, but the fees go towards conservation efforts and preserving the place. I’ve seen beautiful destinations in the country that are open to the public or are readily accessible that have become degraded by vandalism, littering, quarrying and overcrowding. By limiting the number of guests per day and requiring a park guide, the management ensures that all visitors have a quality experience.
HOW TO GET THERE:
The easiest way to get there is by private transportation. Marcos Highway is reachable by all types of vehicles. Just look out for the Garden Cottages landmark along the highway. From the gate, there’s a winding road going down and another drive to the parking near the jump-off area for the hike. There is a secure parking area inside for vehicles. By car or motorcycle, it’s roughly 1-1.5 hours away from Quezon City with no traffic. Though not as efficient, it’s also possible to commute via jeep but travel time may take longer.
By private vehicle (car/motorcycle):
- Coming from Diliman, head to Katipunan, turn left on Aurora Boulevard heading to Marikina.
- The highway forks to a bridge heading to Marikina town proper on the left. Stay on the right side of the road heading towards Marcos Highway instead.
- Just go straight and follow the route of Marcos Highway.
- You will pass through Masinag, Cogeo, Boso-boso Resort and Palo Alto before you get to Garden Cottages. There is a white picket fence and a guardhouse stationed right along the highway at Km. 45 Marcos Highway.
- From the gate, there’s a steep road going down to the briefing area. Then you’ll drive up again to a parking area near the jump off point.
- Alternatively, there’s another unmarked exit gate at Km. 47, Marcos Highway near the parking area for the jump-off point for the trek.
By public transportation/commuting:
- From Cubao, ride a jeep or FX going to Cogeo Gate 2 / Padilla.
- From Gate 2 (near the market), ride a jeep going to Sampaloc, Tanay.
- This is a long and scenic route on a zigzag road. You will pass through Masinag, Cogeo, Boso-boso Resort, Palo Alto and Garden Cottages.
- Get down at the gate of Garden Cottages and walk down to the entrance.
- The georeserve is meant to be a sanctuary and home for animal and plant life. All visitors must treat the area with respect and follow all rules and regulations in the area.
- Guest entry to the area is accommodated on a per reservation basis only to ensure minimal disruption.
- Absolutely no littering or vandalism of any kind allowed.
- The park is strictly a non-smoking zone due to the air and health pollution that it causes.
- Boisterous noise is not permitted as these may post strain on the area’s wildlife.
- Picking up of flowers, rocks, and other specimens are prohibited. All of these are here for everyone to enjoy. Ensure that permission is sought from the management should this be necessary.
- Should you be fortunate to encounter wildlife, do not feed or touch the animals you encounter in the park.
- The management reserves the right to deny access to the trail for failure of compliance to the information stated herein.
ADDRESS & CONTACT INFO:
Masungi Georeserve is located in Garden Cottages, Kilometer 45 Marcos Highway, Baras, Rizal, Philippines.