Climbing The Highest Peak In El Nido, Philippines
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Our recent trip to the Philippines was nothing short of incredible. We were constantly in awe of the beauty and nature surrounding us. The Island of Palawan has so much to offer. We found ourselves in El Nido for 10 days and fell in love with the serene paradise.
From island hopping to sunset chasing, incredible diving and a picture-perfect landscape, El Nido is an ideal paradise for everyone who visits.
If you are looking for something a little bit more adventurous, you may consider climbing up the limestone cliff to Taraw Peak giving you the most incredible views of Bacuit Bay below.
Before our trip, we had read online about ways to get to the peak and different tours we can book through. However, upon further research, we discovered that in 2006 there were a few horrible incidents that took place on the trek up the peak. Due to this, it has been closed off the tourists and completely banned and forbidden (I think it is actually illegal? We did not get in any trouble - the locals climb the peak every morning).
We weren't ready to let this stop us as we had all hopes and intentions of watching the sunrise over the bay.
From the 1st day we arrived in El Nido, to the 7th day, we asked EVERY single local we saw if they could provide us with any information regarding the hike.
Every single person shook their head, told us we were crazy and turned us away without any information. They all explained to us that it is too dangerous and banned and that no one is allowed to go up the peak.
We were completely unable to find ANY recent information online regarding the hike, and we were ready to give up. We also tried everything we could to find our own way up, but we knew this was not possible.
On day 7 we did the Island Hoping tour A - which we got a super good deal. Upon our arrival to El Nido, we befriended a local tuk-tuk driver named Ryan. He hooked us up with EVERYTHING during our time in El Nido. For the island hopping tour, he got us a special price of 1000 pesos each (usually is 1200 per person).
*I highly recommend talking with the locals and getting to know a tuk-tuk driver and exchanging contact information. Ryan helped us out with SO many things and saved us an incredible amount of money.
At this point, we had already given up on Taraw Peak, but we got chatting with our tour guide on the boat and decided to give it one more chance. We asked him if he knew ANYONE that would be willing to take us up. To our surprise, he climbs Taraw many times a week and knows the hike like that back of his hand.
He was also happy and very willing to take us up the next morning! We couldn't believe it. Another Australian couple from our tour would be joining us as well.
Now, before I get into the next part, I have to tell you that I am 100% NOT A CLIMBER. I have actually never really climbed in my life, and also had no idea what to expect. Based on our experience asking all the locals to take us up, we knew that it was incredibly dangerous and intense.
The next morning our guide picked us up on his motorbike at our hotel at 5:00 am. We were really set on catching the sunrise, so we gave ourselves some extra time to climb.
WHAT I WAS WEARING:
Good quality Adidas runners
Lulu capri pants
Sports bra & tank top
WHAT I BROUGHT:
One big water bottle
To say the least, I was VERY unprepared for what was ahead of me.
Once we arrived, we parked the bike and walked through a small residential area to access the main entry point. At this point in the morning, it was pitched black, and everyone was still sleeping. Between the 5 of us, we had ONE flashlight and ZERO equipment. Our guide was even wearing little sandals - we couldn't believe it.
So, there we were beginning our trek up the side of the limestone mountain. We would go in segments as our guide would direct us with the flashlight.
It was INCREDIBLY difficult. Honestly the most strenuous activity I have ever done IN MY LIFE. I am actually very thankful that it was so dark while we were climbing up as we couldn't see anything. We were surrounded by unknown animals and bugs and every single step I took I was getting covered in spider webs. (*If I could see all the animals and insects surrounding us, I would have probably lost my mind).
This is not your average climb/hike. You are literally climbing up the limestone rock, in the dark, gripping on to the sharp rock wherever you can. You have to follow your senses and be aware of your surroundings.
The limestone rock is insanely sharp, and it is easy to cut yourself with. At one point you have to balance yourself between two rocks over a considerable drop and slowly make your way across.
In the end, it took us closer to an hour to make it all the way up to the top. Once we arrived, all the sweat and pain was TOTALLY worth it. You can't beat this view. It is completely breathtaking. Something to keep in mind, at the top there is no actual place to sit and rest, its only rock. We tried to find a not so sharp area to sit and relax our legs and catch our breath. We watched the sunrise from behind us and made its way over the bay... incredible.
Here is all the information you need if considering to hike up Taraw:
Duration: 1.5-2.5 hours. This is totally dependent on many different factors. Our guide told us he normally climbs up in 35 minutes. It took us closer to an hour, and we were moving pretty fast. We also spent around 25-30 minutes at the top to catch our breath and take in the views and the beautiful sunrise.
Difficulty level: VERY INTENSE! Like I mentioned, definitely not your average climb. You really need to be physically and mentally prepared for the trek. I WOULD NOT recommend this hike to anyone that is even slightly afraid of heights. The way up was incredibly difficult as we couldn't see a single thing. The climb down was also insane as you are scaling the side of a limestone mountain with no equipment.
When to go: I definitely recommend catching the sunrise from the top. It is a once in a lifetime experience. To do this, you need to begin shortly after 5:00 am (also depending on the time of year). Make sure you check out the average sunrise time for the time of year. Climbing in the dark is also incredibly dangerous. If you are not feeling up to the risk, any time of the day will still give you a beautiful view.
We made it up no problem, and none of us got hurt, but there are many things I wish I had brought along. To help you prepare I have made the following list.
THE ULTIMATE TARAW PEAK ESSENTIALS LIST:
WATER! - I cannot stress this enough. I only brought a one-litre bottle, and it was not nearly enough. You will be sweating as you have never sweat before. It is super important to stay hydrated during the whole climb. I also got tons of bugs in my face, so I needed extra water to clean myself so I could see.
BUG SPRAY - Bring along a good quality insect repellant. Super important to spray your body entirely before you begin. Respray yourself before arriving at the top. Once the sun rises and you are sitting there at the top, you can literally see the thousands of mosquitoes rising in the air. I have never seen so many mosquitoes in my whole entire life, and they LOVE me. I applied bug spray 4 times on our climb, and this wasn't enough. Once we returned to our hotel afterwards, we discovered that my whole entire backside was eaten alive. I had OVER 100 bites. They were painful and sore for almost 2 weeks following, I couldn't even sit down or lay on my back on the sand.. awful.
A SMALL BACKPACK - super helpful to have a small backpack to hold all your belongings. You will need to have both hands free 100% of the time, so a backpack is best. I highly recommend bringing a little first aid kit if possible - some rubbing alcohol pads and band-aids. You never know what could happen - this way you are prepared if you get a cut.
A TOWEL - It is one of those things we never really think about but would have been incredibly helpful. 10 minutes into the climb we were already sweating like crazy. I had put on some sunscreen before we left and at this point, ALL of it was dripping down into my eyes. I couldn't see at all and had to use my boyfriend's t-shirt to keep my eyes clean. Just a little hand towel will do!
GLOVES - if possible. Gloves would have been incredibly beneficial for us. The whole climb up my hands were incredibly sweaty, and it was difficult to grip onto the sharp rock. Anything to give you a little bit of extra traction is super helpful. I got all these tiny small cuts on my hands from grabbing the rock, and the sweat on the cuts was super irritating. *little gym gloves would be ideal.
HEAD LAMP - this is something we hadn't even thought about. Between the 5 of us, we only had one flashlight - this made it super difficult to see anything at all. One of us tried using our cell phone flashlight, but it is impossible to do the climb with only one hand, and the chances of your phone falling are very high. A headlamp would be the best as you can see your path and have both hands free.
CAMERA - super important. Our guide told us that there have been many times he took tourists to the top and they realize they left their cell phones at the hotel and are left with no camera. TRUST ME.. you are going to want to take photos at the top. The view is absolutely breathtaking, and you will want to capture the moment.
WHAT TO WEAR:
Depending on the weather at that time of year, your clothing choice may differ. I highly recommend wearing light, breathable clothing. I wore Lulu capris, so my legs were covered. If wearing shorts, please be cautious as its super easy to cut and scrape your legs.
Wear clothes that are really easy to move in. At some points, you are literally climbing the side of a mountain. You need to be able to pull your legs up and move freely.
I highly recommend wearing proper runners. Once again, having your feet exposed, it is easy to hurt yourself. You want to have your feet protected and good quality runners for climbing.
This is entirely dependent on who you go with. Our guide charged us 500 Philippine Pesos each, which is a great deal! Once we completed the climb, we also had to pay the women living at the entry point 50 Philippine Pesos each.
IS IT WORTH IT?
100%. I HIGHLY recommend climbing Taraw Peak to anyone visiting El Nido. You definitely have to be up for the adventure and ready to take on anything.
The view at the top is unlike ANY other view on the whole island. This is the highest peak in El Nido, and you get the most incredible unobstructed view of the entire bay.
This day will always hold a special place in my heart. So many times during the climb I told myself “ I can't do this, wtf was I thinking, this is insane, I am out of my mind, don't fall.” At one point during the hike, I was physically exhausted with cut hands and sunscreen in my eyes scaling the side of the mountain. I literally went into fight or flight mode and pushed myself so physically to continue with the climb.
Once arriving at the top and watching the sunrise over the peak, I felt so much love and appreciation for my body like I never had before. I faced so many fears and accomplished something that I never thought was possible. It was so incredibly rewarding, and I wish this feeling and sensation upon everyone.
If you are currently reading this blog post and either in the Philippines now or planning your trip, PLEASE reach out to me. I am more than happy to share our tour guides contact information with you or connect you together on facebook.
Have you climbed Taraw before in the past? I would LOVE to see your photos. Please comment and share below.
To anyone about to take on the trek - CHEERS TO YOU! What an incredible experience you are about to have.