Day tours close to Manila
There is no doubt in my mind that the Philippines is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Set in the Western Pacific Ocean, it is a true tropical paradise. The country is blessed with outstanding natural beauty that includes white sand beaches, tropical rainforests, waterfalls and rivers, mountain ranges carved into the landscape, volcanoes, caves, unbelievable marine life and corals – and these places can be reached with day tours from Manila! In my view, you would be crazy to not visit this country at least once in your lifetime.
When you are an expat, or you are living and working in this country, there can be a tendency to take all this natural beauty for granted. We tend to get caught up in the concrete jungle that is Manila. We can all get busy with work and then when we go home, we just want to spend time with our family, relax and recover from the cultural grind that we experience on a daily basis. However, life is not all just about work. There needs to be a balance in order to keep our sanity. This country can wear you down over a prolonged period of time if you let it.
What day tours can I go on?
This is one of the reasons why I set up this website and started writing a blog about the best places in the Philippines. Seriously, what better way to see this amazing country than if you are lucky enough to actually live here? There are people from all around the world that literally spend years saving money and planning for holidays to places like the Philippines. Yet we have it in our own backyard and can visit these places with day tours. Where else can you go away for a weekend and chill out on a tropical island with swaying palm trees while sipping cocktails? Or go snorkeling among the amazing coral reefs, or relaxing in a refreshing cold spring in a tropical rainforest, all within driving distance? The Philippines offers this and more – much more.
Having spoken to a number of people who are/were visiting or living in this country, there is one thing that stands out. The main thing that turns these people off visiting some of the far-flung beautiful places in the Philippines, is the difficulty in getting there. This is even more so if you have a family. I don’t want to sugar coat how difficult it can be to get to some of the amazing Philippines destinations. More often than not, you will find yourself having to fly somewhere. Then take a bus or a van, and then possibly a boat and then most likely a tricycle. For some people, it is just too hard. Personally, I enjoy the adventure. However, I know some people who prefer to click their fingers and then find themselves standing on a white sand beach with the beautiful tropical water lapping up against their feet.
In search of day tours
For many years, I have been trawling the internet and have spoken with friends, colleagues, and family. Through this, I have been building a database of various places to visit across the Philippines. One of the things I discovered over time was something that even I had taken for granted. There are so many unbelievable places within driving distance of Manila that you can enjoy on day tours. I think a lot of people feel that in order to find a beautiful piece of paradise in the Philippines, that you need to fly somewhere or spend hours on a boat. This is simply not the case.
At this point in time, I had been living in the Philippines for close to 10 years. Although there are some places close to Manila that I had visited, I hadn’t truly searched my own backyard thoroughly. Through my research, I discovered that there are hiking trails through tropical rainforests that lead to the most spectacular, secluded waterfalls. There are some unbelievable caves full of mystery and grandeur. There are active volcanoes that have caused all sorts of havoc. And more importantly, there are even pristine white-sand beaches that aren’t overrun with tourists. Why hadn’t I explored these places sooner? It was time for the excuses to stop and for the action to start.
So right there and then, I made a commitment to try and visit a new place, within driving distance of Manila, every second weekend. I wanted to mix it up between waterfalls, beaches, volcanoes, caves, and rainforests. And when I say driving distance, I am actually talking about day tours. Trips in which you don’t even need to book accommodation for an overnight stay. The only cost is for petrol, food, and beers. A $50 dollar day trip in a tropical paradise? I am amazed more people don’t do it!
Day tours without the crowds
So over a couple of beers one evening, I suggested to a good friend of mine, Wally, that I was planning to visit a waterfall that coming weekend. I told him that I hadn’t been there before, but I had read on a travel blog that it was about a two-hour hike through tropical rainforest. I had also seen some photos and it looked sensational. The other appealing factor was that I had never heard of the place before. Therefore, this also meant it was unlikely to be overrun with tourists, unlike the more popular and renowned Pagsanjan Falls. What’s the worst case scenario – we get lost and end up drinking beers while driving around listening to music? To us, it was a no-brainer.
So Wally and I began to plan our trip to Buntot Palos Falls, nestled in the Pangil area of Laguna province. Soon enough, word got around and before we knew it, there were several other friends who were interested in coming. So we agreed to meet near one of our regular drinking holes on the morning of January 10, 2015. We loaded up an esky full of beer and some sandwiches and away we went. We didn’t know it at the time, but this later developed into a regular trekking group. Our numbers grew exponentially week by week. People were genuinely eager to go on day tours close to Manila and experience places they didn’t know existed.
The birth of Deztiki Tours
It was amazing to see the interest for these day trips within our circle of friends. Although most of the guys knew there were amazing places to visit in this country, they just needed some motivation to get moving. Over the next 24 months, we did 12-day tours and our trekking group became affectionately became known as “Deztiki Tours”. The word Deztiki came from an intellectual giant friend of mine who combined my nickname (Dezza) with Contiki Tours. In the end, the day tours became so popular that we had to hire a bus in order to accommodate all of us!
I didn’t make an official business out of this. I decided whether I went by myself or with a busload of friends, I was always still going to visit these places. But of course, in true Aussie fashion, the more the merrier became our motto. So over the coming weeks, I am going to write a feature on each of the places we went to. I want to share the fun we had and the experiences we enjoyed on these day tours. Keep your eyes open for the next instalment next week.