The world's smallest active volcano is the Taal Volcano in the Batangas province in Philippines. It is an island within a lake, which is situated on another island within a lake on yet another island. I call it Inception Island!
Do not be baffled by its size, its eruptions have caused massive loss of lives and property on the island. The latest one took place in January 2020, due to which the water in the lake inside the main crater of Taal Volcano evaporated.
During my last visit to Manila we planned to visit the volcano, which was less than two hours from there by bus.
Along with a local friend, we began our journey one afternoon. On the way I read several travel blogs about Taal Volcano and got to know about a fishing village on its slope.
The writer said that he was surprised to see people living on an active volcano. I thought the same; it must be a tough life for them.
He also mentioned Alfonso, a tuk-tuk (local auto-rickshaw) driver, who was his guide. I called Alfonso beforehand to meet us at the bus terminal and take us to the dock to see the big volcanic island from a distance.
While sipping tea at one of the cafés, I was looking at the beautiful green hill and suddenly had the urge to spend a night on that island, among the locals.
I spoke with Alfonso about it, but he told me that tourists were not allowed to stay there, and there were no hotels or lodges.
But I was determined and promised to hide from the authorities the fact that I stayed the night. Then one of the locals made some phone calls and after some time, he informed me that an arrangement has been made. I was also told not to expect much as it was just a fishing village.
We started our journey by boat after dark and reached the shore in an hour. The village was just a two-minute walk and our host, the lady of the house, received us by saying "we never have tourists here after sunset, you are the first one to dare".
It was a tiny village with some huts and a couple of restaurants for tourists which were closed. You could see poverty everywhere, but the ambiance was peaceful.
The host said they would give us rice and eggs for dinner. A room next to the cow shed where they store firewood had been cleaned for us. The only thing I asked for was a mosquito net, which they gave.
It was thrilling to stay so close to an active volcano. But I could not help but think what if an eruption took place right then? Would we get on a boat to escape or wait for a rescue team?
When morning came, rays of sun peeped through our window and somehow, we felt relieved.
We went for a short walk around the village and had breakfast at a local restaurant. It was open already as many tourists come early in the morning to hike or ride horses.
One shopkeeper insisted that we buy raw eggs which we can boil in the volcano!
Then we began hiking and the surrounding was like a green heaven, full of colorful birds and flowers.
The path was like a slope and the higher we got, the more we were blown away by the natural beauty of Taal. We could also see more of the crater around the lake.
Smoke was pouring out from some of the places and we saw few locals put potatoes and eggs in them to be cooked by the natural heat. But the air also smelled of sulphur, which was not very pleasant.
Soon we entered one edge of the crater and here the scene was different. It was no longer as green as before and the smoke was denser.
The elevation was around 1,000 feet and at one side of the lake, we saw the tiny green island, the smallest active volcano of our planet.
We could see two other lakes and three other islands, one inside the other. If we could have gone a little higher, we could have seen more islands and more lakes.
Thick white smoke was coming out from several cracks of the crater. There were small cafés, souvenir shops and even flower gardens just on the crater.
On that sunny day, no thought of ferocious lava eruptions came to my mind. Instead, I thought of the strange combination of fear and beauty that Taal Volcano possesses. Then I took a pause and thanked life for giving me the chance to make it here.