Wondering where to go for an outdoor activity near Manila? Masungi Georeserve in Baras, Rizal, Philippines will probably be familiar. I am sure you can picture that Facebook or Instagram shot of people sitting on a rope cobweb hanging above a karst mountain. More than the unique experience, get to know why this Rizal tourist spot deserves a place in your must-visit sites.
A Rizal Tourist Spot With a Heart for the Environment
Today’s Masungi Georeserve is a product of a two decade of hard fight against illegal logging and quarrying in the forest around Masungi Rock. It is located in the southern section of the Sierra Madre mountain range. The people behind the georeserve defended the area and took strides to regain the forest.
The conservation area was eventually opened to the public in December 2015 as a recreational area in order to sustain maintenance of the georeserve. The fruits of their conservation efforts slowly began to take shape with trees growing and wildlife sprawling back to life.
Innovative Engineering for the Environment
Masungi Georeserve’s Discovery Trail will take you through the karst formations and restored forest along a 4 to 5-hour trail. What is special about this trek is the series of unique rope courses, hanging bridges and hammock areas. Living up to its name as a georeserve, the trail was designed to be non-intrusive of the 50-60 million year old limestone rock formations and the forest.
Here are some of the highlights of the Discovery Trail.
Sapot or cobweb is a network of interconnected steel wires which forms the shape of a cobweb. It is suspended above limestone rocks, giving hikers a viewing platform at a high vantage point without actually stepping on the landform below.
Those who are afraid of heights might get jittery, but rest assured that the assembly is structurally safe. Besides, the 360-degree view of the Sierra Madre mountain ranges and Laguna de Bay will be all worth it.
Ever been to an airhouse? Patak or water droplet is a suspension house in the shape of a…you guess it right, water droplet (except that it’s a giant droplet)! It is connected with a hanging bridge to another rock formation called Ditse (female elder sister). Patak also looks like a cable car, with seats on the side and is made of indigenous wood material. Its roof resembles that of a sombrero (hat with a wide brim).
Duyan is Masungi Georeserve’s version of a giant hammock hanging above green canopies. Just like a true hammock, it is a perfect place to lie down and relax for a quick rest. Don’t get too excited to get here though, because you have to descend on braided rope course before you reach Duyan.
Aside from a giant hammock, Masungi Georeserve offers resting places strategically located along the 3-4 hour trail. They have smaller hammocks and swinging chairs where you can relax a bit or regain energy by eating your trail food.
Whatever you felt while going down to Duyan, will be magnified when you descend through Bayawak. This is the final rope course in the Discovery Trail, named after a large lizard that can be found in the georeserve.
Like the other rope structures, Bayawak is structurally designed to have the least impact to the limestone rocks. Unfortunately, I do not have any photo at the Bayawak. The rain during our descent has kept me from bringing out the non-weather sealed camera I borrowed from my friend.
Sawa, the Filipino term for python is a snake-like suspension bridge made of sturdy ropes. Entering the sawa’s head will lead you to a path back to where you started the trek.
Conservation of Biodiversity
The 1,600-hectare conservation area provides refuge to various species of flora and fauna. Some of which are endemic and endangered species like the Northern Luzon Giant Cloud Rat (a nocturnal rodent), Jade Vine (a leguminous vine) and Titan Arum (No, it’s not a Starwars character, it’s a corpse flower).
Land grabbing and illegal logging, marred with political issues, had threatened the sustainability of the Masungi forest resources. Environmental protection prevailed through the persistence of Blue Star Construction & Development Corporation (BSCDC), the private owner of the conservation area.
Various organizations and government agencies had helped in biodiversity conservation through planting and nurturing native plant species and providing research support. Likewise, BSCDC exerts effort to communicate the importance of respect for nature.
They strictly implement the no picking/collection of animals, plants and rocks policy. A fine of Php 3,000 (~USD 59) will be imposed for violators. In addition, speaking aloud and shouting are prohibited while inside Masungi so as not to disturb its resident animals. Rather than having an ordinary hike, the Masungi Georeserve experience is much like being on a responsible safari tour (like what we experienced in Sri Lanka’s Bundala National Park).
Apart from being one of the ecotourism sites in the Philippines, Masungi Georeserve boasts of jagged limestone formations surrounded by lush forest. In fact, the name Masungi is derived from the term masungki, which translates to jagged or spiked.
Our guide even pointed to us Haring Bato, one of the rock formations that resemble an image of Christ the King. Apparently, Masungi Georeserve’s logo is patterned after it. The karst reminds me of “The Face of Jesus” rock formation in one of the beaches of Virac, Catanduanes.
Here are the three peaks that you will encounter in the Discovery Trail:
Meet Tatay (father), the tallest of the peaks. You can enjoy a panoramic view of the georeserve at Tatay’s viewing deck at the top. By the way, the hike in Masungi Georeserve is relatively an easy one. Trails are often lined with rock steps and isn’t that steep. The more difficult trails are those involving rope courses.
Here is Nanay (mother), the second tallest peak. From Tatay, you can have a view of Nanay, and vice versa.
Ditse (elder sister) can be reached through a hanging bridge from Patak. It is also your start-off point down the rope course leading to the Duyan.
One of the reasons why Masungi Georeserve is one of the successful ecotourism sites in the Philippines is community involvement. Continuous conservation efforts were made possible through the contribution of the locals, including the indigenous Dumagats, who have helped in the reforestation activities in Masungi.
Locals are also employed as guides and staff who help in the park’s operations and maintenance. Their involvement in the area’s conservation and management has given them a sense of collective responsibility to protect this Baras, Rizal tourist spot.
Even more inspiring is that some of the illegal loggers then who earn money for cutting trees now serve as park rangers who now consider forest conservation as a way of life.
You will receive an email from Masungi Georeserve once your booking has been confirmed. This initial communication is not only intended as an affirmation of booking but also seeks to orient visitors of their policies when visiting the site.
Prior to starting on the trail, visitors are also provided an orientation about the environmental advocacy of Masungi Georeserve. Among the policies encouraging visitors to travel responsibly are as follows:
- No smoking
- No littering
- No shouting or loud conversations while on the trail to avoid disturbing wildlife
- Bring reusable water bottles
- No personal tipping among park rangers to ensure that the spirit of environmental conservation will always be top priority. If visitors wish to provide tip, they may drop their tips at a communal bucket, which will be equitably distributed among rangers.
Visitors are likewise enjoined to take part in what they call the Legacy Tree Project. Each group will be given a certificate to represent one legacy tree planted per day in the name of the group. Their goal is to sustain the rehabilitation of the forest.
Regulation of Number of Visitors
Walk-in visit is not allowed in Masungi Georeserve. You need to make a reservation to visit this ecotourism destination. Slots are limited for tours in a day, which ensures that the number of visitors are regulated. Hence, unlike other popular hiking destinations where you have to line up for a chance to get that Instagram pose at the peak, your experience at Masungi Georeserve will be much quieter and more exclusive.
Where to Go in Rizal: Masungi Georeserve, an Ecotourism Site in the Philippines
I hope that the story of Masungi Georeserve has inspired you to travel responsibly and support tourism activities that promote environmental conservation. It is not just another Rizal tourist spot but an ecotourism destination in the Philippines, as well. So if you’re looking where to go in Rizal in your next Luzon adventure, look no further.
Check out other Rizal destinations:
Check out other ecotourism sites in the Philippines:
Love this post? Pin this article!
Note: This post contains Affiliate Links. This means if you book hotels, flights, or purchase product or services using the link(s) in this article, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your continued support!
Get a free e-book to learn the Hows and Whys of Traveling Green. Every little act counts.
Download by entering your details here:
* indicates required