When you think of the Philippines, you would be forgiven for imagining a tropical paradise, white sand beaches and almost endless perfect islands to hang up a hammock and sip mango juice on, but the Philippines is far more than just that. A recent short stay in the province of Albay and the city of Legazpi showed me that the country has a lot to offer adventure seekers and adrenaline junkies too, and makes raising your pulse more fun than you can imagine!
This is a paid article written in partnership with the Tourism Promotions Board Philippines and TBEX with products or services supplied by them. Full editorial integrity is maintained at all times. The views and opinions expressed are entirely the authors own based on personal experiences when travelling and are honest and factual without any bias.
I’m no stranger to adventure travel. After trekking up more than my fair share of volcanoes, crashing my way through tropical jungles, camping in deserts, hiking and climbing in the Alps and getting altiutude sickness in the Himalayas, and a whole host of other exploits during my twenty plus years of hopping the globe, I think I’ve probably earned a few belated boy scout badges or two and I think it is safe to say I love adventure travel. So when I got the chance to visit a part of the Philippines that claims to put the fun back into adventure and experience a whole host of adventure activities on offer there, I couldn’t resist!
I have travelled through a large part of the Philippines many times over the years, but like most people my experience is largely focused on the beaches and tropical islands! And for good reason, there are well over 7000 islands in the Philippines and exploring them all would take a lifetime! Unfortunately thaat means like most people, exploring inland is something I haven’t done much of, until now, and the region of Albay was determined to showed me just what I had missed out on.
With activities ranging from kayaking, trekking, ATV riding and volcano hiking to name just a few, Albay is not just the fastest growing tourist destination in the country, it is also growing into the adventure capital of the Philippines. A huge range of active exploits and daredevil activities are springing up around the near perfect cone of Mount Mayon, an active volcano along the infamous ring of fire that is so perfectly formed into a cone shape that Japan is partnering it with Mt. Fuji and itself the focus of much of the regions adventurous exploits.
But don’t let the term adventure travel fool you. There is enough to do in Albay to keep the most ardent of adventurers filled with adrenaline for weeks, but this is not a destination focused solely on the Bear Grylls traveller types looking for their adrenaline fix. Albay doesn’t offer up a series of hellish endurance trials in the middle of nowhere, but instead invites everyone, of all ages and abilities to find their own level of adventure, to move just slightly out of their comfort zone and enjoy the spectacular scenery and activities that are available in this true tropical paradise. Adventure may be on offer, but wouldn’t be the Philippines without their signature layer of easy, laid back fun and smiles liberally plastered over every activity imaginable.
Adventure is easy in Albay, and there are a whole smorgasboard of natural attractions to keep anyone of any aility entertained.
Mount Mayon may be the signature attraction in Albay, but the mountainous terrain has been formed into a nature lovers playground for adventurers and travellers alike. The twin peaks of Mount Malinao and Masaraga challenge climbers and mountaineers to scale them, the unique landscape is filled with lush forests, ecological parks and lush, enchanting waterfalls filled with folklore and just waiting for you to come and play, and I got to experience it all!
An Easy Family Adventure.
If hiking through a rainforest up a seven tiered waterfall to do a spot of bathing in a tropical lagoon sounds like your thing, and frankly if it isn’t then there is something wrong with you, then you’d be a fool to miss out on a trek up the Busay Falls, just a short distance from Legazpi.
Anyone who loves jungle trekking or wants to feel the burn of a good hike without too much strain will love the rough trail that leads to the top of this true area of natural beauty.
Unlike other tiered waterfall hikes such as the extremely crowded and overdeveloped Erawan national park in Thailand, there is very little in the way of easy man made pathways or steps, in fact there is almost nothing at all to assist ardent travellers up the trail, and some people will find some of the steeper sections of the climb and the loose, slippery rocks at least a little challenging, especially the higher up they get, but this is a part of its charm!
The trail isn’t a man made cake walk, but it isn’t totally inaccessible either.
With expert direction from local guides, the hike up the fall is a little challenging but reasonably doable for most people of average fitness. It is also infinitely more natural, more responsible and more sustainable. Plans are in place for some small modifications to make the climb easier for tourists and travellers alike, but I for one hope they don’t overdo it. A few simple via ferrata style ropes just to give hikers a hand across the steeper parts will be more than adequate, as the more natural the adventurous trail is left the better.
Of course a little development is needed to ensure the trails are safe and to open at least the first few pools up to less physically able travellers, after all no one wants to admit that more than one traveller has come a cropper on some of the less stable or more difficult parts of the trail, but I hope they do it in a naturally sympathetic and sustainable way. No one wants another overdeveloped, unsustainable tourist attraction.
But just when you thought this was an attraction best left for Bear Grylls types who are happy spending three weeks lost in the jungle somewhere, the Philippines natural convivial charm shines through when you realise this isn’t just an adventure travel destination, but a major spot for local families to come and play in the natural swimming pool.
This is an attraction not just for adventure, but for fun too. The lower pools are as much for day trippers looking for a fun day out as some of the higher tiers are for adventure seekers looking for a good hike, and the staged pools the waterfalls provide make sure that everyone can enjoy some fun in the water.
The lowest level lagoon is filled with families and children having a great time, and the sounds of laughter and children splashing carry through the air as the waterfall provides them with a perfect natural playground without any effort needed to get there. Those looking for more of a challenge can climb to the different tiers, with each one getting progressively harder and more deserted, and although you leave the families and day trippers behind as you climb higher and higher, that level of fun carries through to every level, all the hard work it takes to climb your way to the top is infinitely rewarded by stripping down to your swim shorts and diving into the cool, refreshing water.
I turned up honestly expecting – and prepared for – a more difficult hike, and although I didn’t get that, I didn’t really care once I reached each lagoon and stripped down to my swimwear for a refreshing swim! Recent heavy rains had made the ascent to the furthest and highest pools impossible, but that didn’t stop a cool, refreshing waterfall shower turning into the perfect morning of relaxation and fun that the Philippines is famous for.
Adventure And Amusement In The Philippines.
The water sports don’t just stop at swimming though. Albay’s islands are renowned for their diving and snorkeling, with stunning coral reefs, and of course what seems to be the national pastime of skimboarding, but the Philippines waterways don’t stop at the coast.
For more serene bit of water action for a bit of R&R between adventures, travellers can head to the inland Sumlang Lake to enjoy a sustainable tourism project promoting soft adventure at the base of mount Mayon, where local villagers all have a stake in the working and success of the tourism industry of the area.
As adventure travel goes, it is a little more relaxing than other options in the area which in and of itself is extremely enjoyable. Whenever you have had enough of leisurely floating on the bamboo rafts, you can kick it up a slight notch and you can choose to take out a Kayak for a more sedate adventure activity.
I loved the more relaxed side to the adventure activities at Sumlang lake. I have to admit I’m totally out of my depth on the water, and my surfing and stand up paddle boarding attempts in the past have usually ended in me faceplanting the water in spectacular fashion a number of times! But despite this I still chose to take a kayak out for a spin, and the easier conditions worked in my favour as I didn’t end up almost drowning myself!
Accessible Adventure Travel.
As nice as it was to relax for a while and have some easy going, laid back fun mixed in with the adventure, these activities couldn’t hold a candle to the real draw for adventure travellers in the region, Mount Mayon.
As if the idea of hiking up an active volcano on the infamous ring of fire isn’t exciting enough for you – and make no mistake Mayon is still a very active volcano with regular ash eruptions – how does riding an All Terrain Vehicle into the permanent exclusion zone sound?
Now The Adrenaline Can Really Start Pumping!
With thoughts – or hopes, depending on your need for adrenaline or common sense – that the volcano could erupt again at any time, travellers are lured to the burgeoning adventure travel industry that is building up around the volcano with the promise of being able to rev their ATVs through some rough terrain right up to the edge of a solidified lava field.
The route is still accessible enough for anyone not completely used to riding ATVs, but does have enough sections where you can let rip and really enjoy yourself. There really is nothing like reaching a stream and deciding to rev the engine and crash through it instead of doing the sensible thing and taking it slow! There doesn’t seem to be much point in doing an activity like this if you come out of the other side completely dry and clean!
Maybe that’s just me.
I love ATV riding, it is a perfect mix of blood pumping fun and adventure, especially when you have to dodge stray cows running at you and avoid crashing into a gully as you are distracted by the stunning scenery in the distance (a short attention span and borderline ADD is not an ATV riders friend!)
The volcanic terrain makes for a perfect natural assault course as you drive through the lush fauna providing by the volcanic soil, and try to avoid the rocks, boulders and dried lava spewed out from the crater every time it erupts.
If that isn’t enough adrenaline for the thrill seekers out there, adventurous travellers can ditch their ATVs at a rest stop for a short hike up the lava wall itself, a spectacularly cool thing to do at the best of times, especially when you remember the helipad you find yourself standing on at the end of the trail is also the helipad used for emergency first responders when Mayon blows her top!
The view from the helipad is stunning and worth the short hike as you can take your time to let the dramatic landscape and the realisation of where you are sink in. It is easy to forget with the fun and adrenaline coursing through you that you should take the time to appreciate that this is a truly special moment. You are stood as close to an active and very destructive volcano as it is safe to get, in the middle of a stunningly beautiful region, enjoying some incredible views and – according to local legend – even bearing witness to the love story of Daragang Magayon and her prince as the clouds meet the mountain top and make love.
Albay truly is a stunning region of the Philippines, and as much fun as I was having taking part in all the soft adventure activities on offer here, it was important to step back and remember that too. It is an appreciation however that is short lived, as all to soon it was time to climb back down the mountain again.
The descent wasn’t your typical hike back down though. Oh no. A simple walk down won’t do for the adventure capital of the Philippines. You have to zip line down!
I love zip lines but being a fairly big guy I’m not overly fond of the necessary safety harnesses that always seem to be designed by an overly sadistic midget, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to zipline down an active volcano and submitted myself to being strapped up by the safety instructors. With a harness hitched so tightly around my groin it left nothing to the imagination and any bloke over a certain size physically unable to have children again, I threw myself down the mountainside with wild abandon and images of an exploding lava flow behind me!
Okay, again, maybe that last part was just my imagination.
But even without that image it’s a pretty awesome thing to do!
In just a few short days in Legazpi I squeezed in more adventure travel than most travellers do in weeks, and I barely scratched the surface of this truly stunning and largely overlooked destination. One thing is for certain, I had a hell of a time doing it!
Legazpi and the areas surrounding Mount Mayon have managed to strike the perfect balance between adventure, accessibility, a tentative sustainable tourism industry and sheer all out fun. I know it is difficult to tear yourself away from the 7000 plus tropical islands and beaches in this paradisiacal archipelago, but the sheer amount of enjoyable adventure on offer makes this surprise filled region a must visit, and if you do, Albay and Legazpi will reward you tenfold for your efforts.
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Hiking The Seven Tiered Waterfall Of Busay.
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Oh wow, Great timing. I’m in Thailand at the moment and will be heading to the Philippines soon, I was so excited about diving and swimming with whale sharks I had no idea you could do all of this. I’ll definitely add albay to my list. Thankyou. xo
Glad to have provided some inspiration Nichola, enjoy Thailand, and I’m sure you’ll have as awesome a time in the Philippines as I did! Come back and let me know how it went. 🙂
I am so jealous of all your adventures! This looks like an amazing trip.
It really was amazing, one of the best times I’ve had in a long time! There’s no need to be jealous though, I’m sure you can get a good flight deal! ;D
Haha. AMAZING! Great write up. I particularly love the description of you in the zip line harness. Very visual! 😛 haha. It was such a great trip!
Haha thanks Tara, it was an awesome but painful experience! ;D And it definitely was an awesome trip.
It really does look like you had so much fun. That ATV trip looks amazing 😀
It really was a lot of fun. Thanks for commenting 🙂
I have not been to Philippines yet but I know many people from there and they say its beautiful. You have posted some lovely photos
Thank you, your fiends are right it is a stunning place.
The Philippines are definitely on my bucket list. In fact it has just moved up it!
I’m sure you won’t regret heading there sooner than planned! ;D
I’m sure I won’t! Thanks for the inspiration. 🙂
Wow it looks so pretty there, I would love to go there one day!
What’s stopping you? Go! It’s awesome! ;D
I would not have thought of the Philippines as a vacation destination, but it looks fabulous!
It really is! ;D
One day I’d love to go to the Philippines. It looks like a completely different land and there is so much to do there 🙂
It’s an amazing place Lubka, I totally recommend it!
Looks like you guys had fun! I have always wanted to go there.
Looks like you guys had fun! I always wanted to go there!
Thanks Ivellise, it was amazing! You should definitely go!
Thank you for having in my country. Hope you can explore other areas in Visayas and in Midanao.
Thanks so much Jessica, I definitely plan to! Any tips? 🙂
I am so jealous of the weather! Actually I missing the sun all this week 😉 Yes! It’s June but I’m still waiting at the summer in Europe! Need to visit the places like this one! Thanks for posting!
The weather was amazing, even though it was the rainy season (my favourite time to travel here) and it was a little overcast sometimes, it was still hot and sunny most of the time!
Looks like you had an adventurous as well as fun time in Philippines. Thanks for sharing about your trip and pictures with us in this post!
Thanks Anamika, adventure and fun are pretty much synonymous in the Philippines!
Yo should go to my country, Indonesia, cause there are so many beautiful place to go
You should do a search for Indonesia in my search bar, I’ve been there many, many times and it is a beautiful place I agree!
Philippines is definitely on my bucket list ! I have a friends there I really want to see I hope I will be able to visit like a local with him by my side 😉
It definitely makes a huge difference when you have a bit of local knowledge and guidance with you. Don’t put it off! Get a ticket their now! ;D
I love adventures. So holidays and advetures are the perfect match! Great post!
Thank you Kalliopi 🙂
I’ve just read your article on the Busay Falls too, I had no idea the Philippines had so much going on, I just thought of the beaches and islands (which is enticing enough!)
I know what you mean, the beaches in the Philippines are out of this world, but it definitely has a lot more going for it too! Have you ever tried any of these adventure activities?
I’m desperate to go to the Philippines. This post has made my wanderlust so much worse! Diving and zip lining! I’d love to find somewhere to sky dive too.
Haha, I’d love to do that again too! I’m glad you enjoyed the post.
I am bumping up Philipines in my to visit places after reading this post. thanks 🙂
I’m glad the post inspired you Ankit!
So nice to read your adventures in Albay. I haven’t been to the region yet.
I’m glad to also meet you and the rest even just for a short time during the dinner in Manila. I am in the UK now haha 😀
It was great meeting you too, I hope you enjoy the UK! Feel free to ask if you need any hints or tips on where to go! ;D
Looks like you had an adventurous as well as fun time in the Philippines. I must say that those are just a few of a lot more places that Philippines has to offer for those who loves adventure and travelling. Thanks for sharing about your trip and pictures with us in this post!
I really did. Thanks Angela. 🙂
I love the Philippines and it’s people. I love the weather, the food and the night life. The only thing I don’t like is the traffic.
I don’t think many people would disagree Pippa! ;D
Philippines can be very packed and busy but there are also empty spots too. I welcome all to the Philippines