Mt. Pinatubo Day Tour: DIY or Travel Agency?
There are countless options for weekend activities and day trips from Manila. Last time, I really enjoyed my excursion to the top of the Mt. Taal lake on horseback. Remembering this experience, I couldn’t help but think of another similar trip.
Fun facts about Mt. Pinatubo
One of the youngest lakes, Lake Pinatubo, is the deepest lake in the Philippines at 800 m (2,600 ft) and is said to be the third largest lake after Laguna de Bay and Lake Lana. This wide jewel of blue and green is a popular hiking destination, especially among adventure-seekers and mountaineers.
Trekking Mt. Pinatubo
The trek takes an average of 2 hours to complete depending on your pace as well. If you are a fast hiker, you can probably do it in an hour. But if you will take your time like us, stopping over by an Aeta village and taking pictures along the way, it will take you more than 2 hours.
There are no shop or restaurant at Mt. Pinatubo but there are some vendors though selling snacks and drinks when you reach the summit of the lake, but you may want to bring your own picnic and enjoy it !
List of things to bring
- sunscreen/cap/hat/dust mask (expect a dusty road due to the lahar?
- trekking sandals/comfortable shoes
- packed lunch, trail food (dried fruits, nuts)
- water (advisable 2L )
- small beach mat (picnics at the lakeshore)
- personal first aid/medications
- copy of a national ID (or copy of your passport for non-Filipinos)
- small backpack
0200 – Meet up. Met our tour coordinator. Paid the 25% balance. Had a quick tour orientation, Signed the waiver form. Bought water and ate at the restaurant where the meet up was held.
0600 – Arrival at the base camp. Had a free, quick coffee break while listening to the instructions of tour guides and on queue for the off road adventure.
0630 – Transfer to the 4X4 (or 6X6) vehicle for the off road adventure which was shared with other group.
0830 – Did warm up before the hike. Start trekking after 2 hours of bumpy and dusty ride. Along the way, passed by the Aeta village.
1100 – Arrival time at the crater lake of Mt. Pinatubo. Took photos, had picnic lunch, relaxed.
1230 – Start return trek. Another more 2 hours of hard wallking.
1500 – 4X4 (or 6X6) return ride
1700 – Back at base camp. Took a brisk shower at an available toilet in the camp. Grabbed some merienda. Got our ” Certificate of Conquest”
1730 – Departure from the base camp to Manila
2230 – Arrival in Manila
DIY vs Travel Agency
With Travel Agency– 2,050 Php total cost (excluding meals) which includes the following:
√ round trip aircon transfer (Manila-Pinatubo base camp-Manila)
– 10 to 12 passengers maximum per van
√ round trip off road adventure through the lahar canyons (4X4 or 6X6 ride)
√ with a local guide
√ all the fees included (no additional fees like “aeta fee” or “botolan fee” to pay on site. All the fees are already included in the tour package)
√ certificate of conquest
√ assistance of a tour coordinator from team TRIPinas
DIY (how to get to Mt Pinatubo independently) – 5,300 Php approximate total cost. If you share it with someone, 2,650 Php.
Bus Fare- 190 Php (From Pasay or Cubao to Capas,Tarlac for the 2-3 hour ride)
Jeepney fare- 30 Php ( Capas junction to Patling)
Tricy fare- 60 Php (Patling to Tourism Office/Starting Point in Barangay Santa Juliana )
Off-Road vehicle with driver rental- 3,500 Php ( 5 passengers max)
Required local guide fee- 500 Php
Entrance Fee- 300 Php
Botolan fee – 700 Php ( Botolan government mandated fee in Zambales which includes 100 php for eco-tourism, 350 php- environmental protection, & 250 Php- ancestral domain preservation fee)
Aeta fee- 100 php (may also be charged)
Return fare – 190 php + 60 Php +30 Php
The downside of traveling alone & independently, especially to far areas is the need to pay more since expect that transport cost may come in with a hefty price. Unless, you share the cost with one or more people, or you travel in group, large group, then you may save. In bullets, here are the disadvantages of DIY travel to this type of bushwalking destination:
- pay more for the transport cost
- scam fram drivers who will tend to charge you more
- may end up paying more for the additional fees ( ensure that they are an official tour operator or tourism official and never fail to get the receipt )
While getting a travel agent to do everything for you may cost more, there are instances that they may not, to add that you already have the pre-knowledge understanding of what to get and expect from your travel agency which results to peace of mind and security. In this trip, you can see that booking through this travel agency cost us less than if ding it by ourselves since we shared the cost with other fellow hikers. Nevertheless, there can be also some disadvantages if you book through an agency as follows:
- controlled time and activities
- have to follow rules, laid out itinerary and time schedule
- you may not get your refund back in case you miss the tour or if you’ve got an unreliable travel agency
The tour went smooth and comfortable , so I cannot complain more. Last time when I went to Mt. Taal on my own, it cost me around 3K, and in every corner I got, there was always someone who asked you for a tip. So, this time I preferred to do it with a travel agency than DIY cause in the end it seems to cost the same and to get away with scammers.
Whether you do it by yourself or through an agency, there’s one thing for sure on your Mt. Pinatubo tour. You will get to see the spectacular view as you traverse some creeks and ride across the desert, dusty wide plain.
You might end up tired and hungry after hours of hard trek, but once you reach the summit, seeing the refreshing green landscape is rewarding. Between December and February, the lake color is more of a cyan. If you trek up Mt Pinatubo on a May, this color changes to green. But still, an enchanting sight to behold!
Are you a hiking enthusiasts, mountaineers or adventure-seekers? Check out the following top 5 day hike tours from Manila:
- Taal Guided Day Hike
- Mt. Pinatubo Hiking Day Tour
- Mt. Daraitan Guided Day Hike
- Mt. Batulao Day Hike
- Mt. Maculot Day Hike