Metro Manila · The Pagsanjan Waterfalls (Laguna Province)
Welcome to the Jungle! When visiting the Pagsanjan Waterfalls (official name is 'Magdapio Falls') in the province of Laguna, the journey leading there is just as exciting as the cascade itself.
The Pagsanjan Waterfalls are located in a narrow gorge. Steep, almost vertical walls of rock, partly covered by wild plants, rise about sixty meters high and enclose this paradisaic spot from all sides. Some scenes of the famous Vietnam war movie “Apocalypse Now” where shot here. Visitors have two options to get to this marvelous place, either by hiking or through a wild boat trip. The Megacities Team chose the hike, but already decided to come back again by boat one day.
Option 1: The Hike
A 40-minute hike through the Pueblo El Salvador Nature's Park in Cavinti brought us down to the Waterfalls. Pathways and steep iron stairways lead through a lush forest. The tour is partly guided, as there are also two ladders to either climb down or rappel in a harness. Along the way we encountered camouflaged lizards, butterflies and dark red dragonflies. We nearly walked into a spider web that was was spanned across the way, with a majestic black-yellow spider in the center, big as the palm of a human hand. The contrast of dense vegetation and metal structures gave the hike a surreal touch.
Reaching the canyon, bamboo rafts navigate the visitors under the waterfall and to the small 'Devils Cave' behind. Passing the fall feels like a short massage, but beware, the whole adventure is less romantic than it sounds. The water falls from a height of 30 meters, so the pressure is high and the water quite wild. If you are sensitive, borrow a rescue west and a helmet, and perhaps bring ear plugs for the noise.
We arrived at the falls shortly before lunchtime and it was still quite quiet and peaceful, perfect for a relaxing bath to cool down. Shortly after, big groups of tourists reached the falls in small boats. We looked at the boats enviously, as we knew that our hike back would leave us quite sweaty and exhausted. Next time we would definitely choose:
Option 2: Shooting The Rapids
The 17-kilometer boat ride from Pangsanjan through the beautiful gorge to the waterfalls takes one hour, going back takes 45 minutes. Each small 'banka' can carry two or three tourists and two boatmen. It is a rather rough ride, shooting 16 rapids, and the boatmen in front often get out of the boat to steer it around rocks on the way – a real tropical adventure.
The rate for the guided hiking tour, as of 2013, is 200 Pesos, including the short raft ride to the waterfall. The rate for shooting the rapids is 1250 Pesos per person, plus 90 Pesos for the raft ride. The rates have gone up in the past years. As of 2016, travelers going to this area should prepare at least 250 pesos for the hiking tour.
Buses go from Manila to Santa Cruz Laguna (Green Star or HM Transport, 2.5 hours), where you can take a jeepney to Pagsanjan. Here you can either opt for the boat trip or take a tricycle to Pueblo El Salvador Nature's Park (another 30 minutes) for the hike.
Travel agencies also offer tour packages, including shooting the rapids and a much faster and more convenient round trip Manila-Pagsanjan by van.