Thousands of Filipinos and international tourists have been evacuated from towns south of Manila as the Taal volcano continues a large and unpredictable eruption.
In a new stage of activity, lava has begun to cascade into the volcanic lake creating dramatic plumes of steam and ash.

In spite of a heightened warning that this could be a prelude to a more explosive eruption and possibly lethal tsunami, some tourists are ignoring the government notices and finding places to watch the spectacle.

"It's a once in a lifetime experience for us," an Israeli tourist Benny Borenstein told Reuters as he took up position with a camera in the nearby Tagaytay City. Just 32 km away from the volcano it is one of 132 administrative Batangas that the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) have identified as in the path of a potential volcanic tsunami.

The eruption which began on Sunday has belched tons of ash over the nearby Manilla and suspended flights from the capitals airports. Although flights resumed yesterday airlines were seen washing layers of black ash off of airplane wings and fuselage in an effort to keep aircraft in operation.


Volcano tourism after Whakaari

Manilla is ringed by volcanoes some of which have been the site of calamitous eruptions within recent memory.

Visitors flock to a viewing area during the 2018 eruption of Mt Mayon. Photo / Jes Aznar, Getty Images
Visitors flock to a viewing area during the 2018 eruption of Mt Mayon. Photo / Jes Aznar, Getty Images

Mount Pinatubo just 90 km from the capital and on the side of the San Fernando-Angeles conurbation killed 800 when it erupted on June 15 1991. In spite of this there is a thriving tourism industry that advertising trekking and other activities up to the active volcanic lakes.

Trekking Pinatubo, which has a sister company Hike Taal Volcano, has been leading groups up the infamous seismic peaks since 1998. The company calls Taal and Pinatubo some of "the most visited tourist spots in the Philippines" with the appeal of visiting an "active" volcano central to the thrill.

In less than a decade the site of one the deadliest eruptions in living memory has become one of the county's most visited attractions.

On the other side of the Philippines, the conical shaped Mt Mayon is another picturesque and high-risk hike. Local adventure tourism company Trail Adventours advertises the breathtaking hike on "the thrill that it can erupt anytime." In spite of increased volcanic activity the Adventours is still advertising a trek to Taal for the end of February on their website.

While Philippine authorities have raised the alert level for Taal, news networks are reporting tourists travelling to get a closer view of the eruption.

The thrill of visiting areas of seismic and volcanic is something that is very difficult to balance against the risk. This is something New Zealand's domestic tour operators have also struggled to manage. Just a month after the Whakaari White Island disaster, which caught up 47 people on day trip to the island in the Bay of Plenty, it is clear that risks of volcano tourism are no easier to predict or manage.

The tour companies Trail Adventours and Trekking Pinatubo were contacted for comment