You don’t need to fly to another country for an adventure. If you’re looking for one near Metro Manila, all you need to do is travel for an hour and half to reach the perfect one-day getaway.
Tucked in the forests of Baras town in Rizal Province is Masungi Georeserve, a discovery trail and nature conservation site that has become a go-to destination for those looking to quench their thirst for adventure.
Thrill-seekers and nature lovers, especially young urbanites wanting a respite from the rat race, have been visiting the 1,600-hectare forest reserve since it opened its doors late last year.
Expect your jaw to drop as you discover Masungi’s lush gardens and forests, rainbow-colored blooms, wondrous caves, breathtaking views atop not one but two limestone rock formations and mind-blowing engineering marvels that you have to see (and experience) to believe.
Super got the chance to visit the adventure nature park earlier this month. Our verdict: It. Was. Paradise.
Here’s what to expect when you visit Rizal’s nature sanctuary:
Step into a jungle
The park is first and foremost a forest reserve. Ryan, our park ranger, said the area where Masungi is located used to be beset with large-scale, illegal logging operations back in the ’90s. According to the georeserve website, there were mining and quarrying activities in the area, too.
However, thanks to almost two decades of conservation and reforestation efforts, the area now seems to be straight out of Eden.
After a two-minute walk from the car park, we were directed to the waiting area, a series of open, shed-like huts surrounded by limestone formations and hundreds and hundreds of gorgeous flora.
Our hut even had this pocket garden at the back, bedecked with multicolored impatiens and fenced in by a natural rock wall—one of the many picture-perfect spots in the park.
Aside from all sorts of trees and plants (including cacti and rare shrubs), the georeserve is also home to a variety of fauna, including different kinds of birds and insects, cloud rats, monitor lizards, snakes, monkeys and civets.
Ryan added that a species of scorpion (!) was recently found in one of the park’s caves.
Royland, another guide, said that if you really wanted to experience all that the park could offer, schedule your visit in the afternoon, when the forest creatures are up and about.
Hike your heart out
Masungi’s eco-trail is, pardon the pun, no walk in the park—particularly for the nonathletic types. Prepare yourself for a three- to four-hour trek. And make no mistake, you’ll surely work up a sweat.
There are steep hikes along and around limestone rock formations, narrow squeezes between rocks, frog walks (or crawls) to pass tiny cave entrances, climbs on a number of rope ladders (called Lambat, or net), seesawing walks across long stretches of hanging bridges, and a hours-long, meandering forest trek on challenging terrain.
But don’t worry, stone steps and concrete tiles have been placed on certain sections of the ground trail to make it easier. Plus, your designated park rangers will make sure to keep the hike on a manageable pace.
If you need a quick break, Masungi has a number of unique stops where you can take a breather, like a giant basket swing, hammocks and a number of rock benches.
One of the best stops is the air house, Patak (“water droplet”), a wooden, cable car-like shelter. Situated at the middle of a long hanging bridge, Patak is suspended high above the forest.
Marvel at the majesty of Mother Nature
The georeserve got its name from the word “sungki,” meaning crooked or jagged, a nod to the limestone landscape found in the area. Tatay (“father”) and Nanay (“mother”) are two limestone peaks, the highest ones in the forest reserve, which you will get to climb during the hike.
Tatay, the tallest peak, has a viewing deck on its summit where you can see gorgeous vistas of mountains and rainforests. Nanay, on the other hand, is a smaller rock formation of several limestone pillars connected by bridges.
Atop one of Nanay’s pillars is a huge boulder that you can also climb to get to see a 360-degree view of the forest reserve and its neighboring mountains.
If spelunking is more to your taste, prepare to feast your eyes on the beauty of the cave formations found in Masungi. One of them is Yungib ni Ruben, named after the man who discovered it.
Ruben, a man in his 50s whom we met during our visit, has been living in the area for more than a decade. According to our guide, he was the one who discovered some of the trails and cave formations at Masungi.
Our guide said the Masungi organization is also thinking of including other activities to enrich the georeserve experience, like bird watching and stargazing.
Conquer your fears
The georeserve is not a mere nature park. There are manmade structures inside that will force you to confront your fear of heights and challenge your sense of balance.
The highlight of our Masungi experience is Sapot (“cobweb”) a construction marvel made of rope and steel cables atop jagged rocks that mimics the spider’s woven silk trap.
It is the most popular spot in the whole forest reserve, judging by the hundreds of photos on social media that display its scary beauty.
There are no harnesses or handles to help you walk on Sapot. One wrong move and you may just slip through the gaps and fall headfirst to the rocks below. Our guide said it’s perfectly safe and Sapot, along with the other structures at Masungi, is inspected daily to ensure its security.
The challenge, however, is worth it. Sapot offers a 360-degree view of the area, including the Sierra Madre mountain range and Laguna de Bay.
Another memorable experience is Duyan, which is—as its name suggests—a giant hammock. It’s a long rope course suspended high above the Masungi forest. You need to climb up and down several net ladders to reach it.
Royland said Masungi is preparing to open more rope courses, like B’waya (a giant net shaped like a crocodile), and several wooden structures he called “wrecking balls,” huge cage-like swings suspended in the air that you can ride.
Internalize the importance of protecting our planet
Offering a thrilling adventure aside, the georeserve’s top priority is educating its guests in environment protection.
The Masungi organization’s main purpose in opening the forest reserve to outsiders is to instill in them a deep appreciation for Mother Nature. Our guide emphasized the many problems and challenges the Masungi organization has encountered in protecting the area.
At the end of the day, Masungi Georeserve is a forest sanctuary where people can commune with nature, appreciate the beauty it can offer, and learn that protecting and respecting our planet is vital to our life and survival.
Masungi Georeserve is a joint project of Blue Star Construction and Development Corp. and Masungi Georeserve Foundation. It is at Kilometer 45, Marcos Highway, Baras, Rizal Province.