A Visit to Malajog Ridge Nature Park & Zipline

Calbayog City, Samar, Philippines

For well over a year, and since this tourism project began construction here in Barangay Malajog, the public has been anxiously awaiting the opening of the Malajog Ridge Nature Park and Zipline. At the time of this writing, the Nature Park has been opened to the public, but the Zipline platform is still in the final stages of construction. Although it has already been functionally tested by project engineers, the completion of the tower and comfort room facility at the top is near at hand. The park attendees at the trail entrance stated that the Zipline is scheduled to open to the public on the 23rd of April, 2016. (I recetly visited the Zipline Park on the April 24th and was told the opening was delayed until after the elections on May 9th.) In any case, we just had to check it out. I had always wondered what was taking so long to complete this project, and it only took a trip along “The Ridge” to know why. A lot of work went into this project and it turned out better than anyone could have imagined.

In the mornings when the low tide arrives at our shoreline around sunrise, my wife and I like to take an occasional early morning walk out over the Sands of Tomaligues, but today I offered up another idea. I suggested we jump on the bike and head up to the Malajog Ridge Nature Park for our early morning walk. After we woke-up with our coffee, we packed a couple of bottles of water, a towel, and my camera and headed the 6 kilometers west of where we live to barangay Malajog. The entrance to the Nature Park is just alongside the main highway, at the same entrance to Malajog Beach. We parked there, paid our 20 pesos each to enter, and we began our climb.

 

Malajog Beach, Samar

Malajog Beach, Samar

Malajog Ridge Nature Park

The Nature Park Trail is well planned and designed, with little destruction to the natural surroundings. The trail is completely paved with concrete. Concrete railings have been placed along much of the trail for public safety. The rails are constructed of concrete and look like logs and timber and add an additional natural element to the park. The hike to the Zipline platform is said to be roughly 1,850 meters in length, or 1.85 kilometers (1.15 miles). Not so bad… if it wasn’t for the 855 stair steps required to get to the top! The steps were not all going up. Because the hike is along a rugged volcanic and limestone ridge, steps actually go in both directions. Sometimes you have to descend only to climb higher on the next set of steps. While it is an up and down journey (mostly up obviously), it is not for the faint of heart. If I were to rate this hike at my age (61), I would have to say the difficulty level should be placed at overall “Medium.” And I am in fairly decent shape for my age! For anyone who is not in good physical shape, or has weak joints such as knees or ankles, some portions of the trek could be considered “difficult” with steep stair segments coupled with some occasional tight maneuvering through, over and around sharp rocks, and around and over tree limbs and large vines blocking the pathway. In some places along the trail, there is an absence of railings and you must grab and hold onto sharp rocks to stable yourself. I would also highly recommend a pair of gloves to those trekkers who are not so nimble and need to use their hands. Some of the concrete posts have sharp steel rebar protruding from the top that could easily cut one’s hands, so I advise some caution. And watch your head!

They put these here for good reason!

They put these benches here for good reason!

All in all, it is a beautiful place to spend part of a day and to observe some of Samar’s most unspoiled natural beauty. One of the most intriguing sites along the trail are the huge serpentine looking “Strangler Fig” trees (maybe the Balete tree or a close relative).  These strange trees send their “tentacles” off in every which direction and can get very large. Some will find their target and will cling on to their victim like an octopus (watch video). They are interesting to say the least. Along the climb, there are several picturesque overlooks that peer out over Malajog Beach and also to the south towards Marble Rock and the beach at barangay Malopalo. Once at the top at the Observation Deck, you can enjoy the view of Malajog Beach, the Mother Mary Shrine (Malajog), and the distance, the Port of Mangino-O and the Western Samar coastline. There are approximately 5 picnic or rest areas along the way with I Calbayog tents that offer protection from the elements. Many parts of the trail are well shaded due to large rock formations and trees. There are also stone and concrete benches incorporated into the trail and along the way for those who may become weary and need to sit down for a spell (I broke them all in!). There is an alternative way off the ridge from another set of steps that lead directly down to Malajog Beach. I have not yet travelled this path yet so I cannot describe the decent, but it [park exit] is located approximately about three-quarters of the way to the top of the Ridge. It is clearly a “fork in the road” [to the right] and you cannot miss it. While it might be a quicker way down, I can only surmise that because it is a much steeper decent, it could be a bit more hazardous with already tired legs. Once you hit the beach however, you must then make the return walk all the way to the park entrance, which is nearly one kilometer.

Large Vines along the Nature Trail

Along the Nature Trail. A Strangler Fig? Or an Octopus?

 

If you have ever made the trip up to the Observation Hill at the Chocolate Hills in Bohol, you know how strenuous 214 stair steps can be, especially in the heat of the day. Again, this is about 837 steps (give or take) and if you make the return trip down, plan on about taking 1,674 total steps, up and down, both ways. But, unlike the Chocolate Hill climb which is in full sun, there is a lot of shade along the way. The quickest and easiest way down of course will be the Zipline, if one can make it to the top! If you are not up to making the entire trip, then relax, there is much to be enjoyed no matter how far you can walk. Even if you only trek along a quarter of the way along the trail, there is much nature to see and enjoy, and it will still be well worth the entrance fee. There is bottled water sold at the park entrance, but it is warm and not very refreshing. The one woman attendant explained to me that it is not good to drink cold water when you are hot. Fool me!

One sad note to make here: While the park is absolutely beautiful, people have already begun throwing empty water bottles and trash along the trail. There are NO TRASH RECEPTACLES located anywhere along the trail, and even at the Observation Deck, there is no place to deposit trash. My suggestion is if you pack it in, then pack it out!  It is unfortunate to think ahead to the future, and how this beautiful place could somehow be destroyed through careless management and public ignorance. Maybe this message will make its way to someone who holds the power to be proactive, and who can implement common sense procedures to prevent it. As one who truly appreciates nature’s beauty, I can only hope.