Hiking Trails: Mt. Bira-bira and Nagsasa Cove

Summer is officially here! It felt like that when I visited Mt. Bira-bira and Nagsasa Cove last 25th of February. It’s one of those adventures where you sweat it out first with a hike then reward yourself after with Vitamin sea.

How to get there:

By Bus + Rented Jeep: You can take a Manila-Olongapo route which is a regular to most bus terminals in the metro for just P200+. From Olongapo, a jeep may be rented to the jump off area of Sitio San Martin. You’d have to get a guide from there and secure a permit prior. To save me the hassle of these steps, I went with TrailAdventours. Their itinerary is on point and no fuss as shown here. Sweet!


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Bahay Pamahalaan ng Subic
Bahay Pamahalaan ng Subic

Meetup was at the usual McDonald’s in El Pueblo Ortigas then we’re off to Zambales. During the 4 hour trip, we had some slight delay passing through Subic due to a traffic violation.

TIP1: Make sure you or your drivers are keen on the traffic rules when going through Subic.

We made 2 stops, one at Petron Service Station KM 23 along NLEX and then at the city gov’t office of Subic.

TIP 2: It is required to have your mugs taken at the city government office. Don’t worry; the photo will be taken as a group to ensure safety when scaling Mt. Bira-bira.

At the jump off point in Sitio Cawag, we learned it’s a Smartbro Trip adventure. That means free wifi, freebies and a Smartbro wifi device give – away to the most unique shot during the climb. Adventure posts in real time? Check.

Trivia: At 450 MASL, we learned that most people mistake Mt. Bira-bira and call it Mt. Nagsasa because of the cove. The locals are used to it but are happy to educate us.

I find the climb challenging at first as you’ll pass through a path of thick vegetation – mostly tall grass, bamboo shoots and rocks. It’s unnerving to do that in the wee hours of the morning while listening to the odd sounds of fauna. I was assured by our guide there’s no frogs on the path to my relief. TIP 3: Have a trusty headlamp with you so your hands are free to help keep your balance and pace.

River crossing dilemma – Jed Sazon
River crossing dilemma – Jed Sazon
Hooray for bright lights – Tina Chan
Hooray for bright lights – Tina Chan

There are also a few river crossings though it’s not obvious due to the draught as shown:

liza river crossing Photos by Liza Lorenzo
liza river crossing Photos by Liza Lorenzo
liza river crossing Photos by Liza Lorenzo
liza river crossing Photos by Liza Lorenzo
liza river crossing Photos by Liza Lorenzo
liza river crossing Photos by Liza Lorenzo

Trivia: Currently dried up river called “Malakas”. The current there is strong when it’s raining, you may need a rope guide to cross.

Malakas river
Malakas river

Trivia: Along the way you can see silhouettes of nearby mountains such as Mt. Cinco Picos and Mt. Balingkilat.

Mt. Cinco Picos
Mt. Cinco Picos
Mt Balingkilat
Mt Balingkilat
Sunrise
Sunrise

Good morning from Mt. Bira-bira

Ascent was manageable and we were able to make it to the summit in 2.5-3 hours , bonus for being on the trail to see the sun rise. The sunshine illuminated the picturesque beauty of the place. You can see the cove from the summit which got us really excited.

Spot the cove and that’s where we are headed
Spot the cove and that’s where we are headed
A Father-daughter moment – winning photo by Ronald & Isabella Ang
A Father-daughter moment – winning photo by Ronald & Isabella Ang
On the viewing deck Photo credit: Jeric Tugaff
On the viewing deck Photo credit: Jeric Tugaff

Summit is done, on to the beach. TIP 3: Re-apply sunblock, wear all your protective gear (hat, arm sleeves, shawl/scarf and umbrella) and get your hydration (water, jelly and trail food) ready upon descent. The trek to Nagsasa Cove is no joke at 3 hours of flat lands sprawling with trees, rocks and dried up rivers. There was never a dull moment as everywhere you look is awe inspiring.

Trivia: Agoho trees with their pine-like needles abound even at the beach front. It gave the ‘Marlboro country’ feels to the place.

Hiking Trails
Hiking Trails
Relaxing View photo by Marl
Relaxing View photo by Marl

And just like that, we’re in Nagsasa Cove. It’s spectacular. The shoreline was a beautiful ash-gray volcanic sand that turns almost white when the afternoon sunlight hits it. When the summit and the sea kissed, it made Nagsasa Cove.

Gray Sand photo Credit - Liza Lorenzo
Gray Sand photo Credit – Liza Lorenzo
White sand photo Credit - Tina Chan
White sand photo Credit – Tina Chan

We had lunch there, basked in the sun and swam. It was cut short because of debris and ash flying all over the cove. It has littered the sand and sea.

It was from a forest fire nearby caused by ‘kaingin’(a portion of the forest land subjected to shifting and/or permanent slash-and-burn cultivation.) It is still common place here though I’m hoping it’s fairly controlled / regulated.

It was our queue to leave for Pundaquit and wash up. TIP 4: Be prepared with a sick bag and water proof your gear. The boat ride is an hour and a half long and the waters are more excited to meet you. Get yourself distracted with the view from nearby Silanguin & Anawangin coves, sea cliffs and rock islets.

Pundakit
Pundakit
Take me back
Take me back

The sight in Pundaquit was equally stunning and inviting.

Sunset at Pundaquit beach - Tina Chan
Sunset at Pundaquit beach – Tina Chan

Alas, it’s time to go home. We made a stop to a local food joint in Olongapo but before that, the winner for the Smartbro Trips has been announced.

Congratulations to the winners
Congratulations to the winners

Kudos to Ronald & Isabella Ang! I have yet to nab that prize for myself.

The mountain loving part of me got to enjoy the beach thanks to the awesome guides and fellow travelers with TrailAdventures. Till next time and happy trails!

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