Geocaching is Like Pokémon Go for Travelers
Let’s face it—sometimes there’s just not a whole lot to do in Manila, aside from eating out, hitting the mall, or bumming around at home. If you’re looking for adventure but don’t have time to go out of town, try Geocaching, or outdoor treasure-hunting using GPS.
The way it works is that experienced members of the Geocaching community hide items in containers or “caches” in public places, then log the GPS coordinates of their cache online for other members to find. To get started, all you have to do is download the Geocaching app on your phone and choose a cache. Once you’ve found it, sign the logbook in the cache, and tap the “Found It” button along with a couple of comments for the cache owner. If you like the item, you can also trade it for something of equal or greater value.
The practice of geocaching started way back in 2000, when GPS enthusiast Dave Ulmer hid a black bucket filled with videos, books, software, and a slingshot in the woods near Beavercreek, Oregon and posted the coordinates in a GPS internet users’ group. The game grew in popularity, and today there are approximately 3 million active geocachers all over the world.
While geocaching is still relatively new in the Philippines, there are a good number of caches hidden in Luzon and Visayas. In Manila, most of them are located around Makati and BGC. Properly hiding a cache in an urban space requires a certain amount of cleverness to prevent Muggles (the community term for non-geocachers) from accidentally finding and tampering with it. In fact, the Geocaching site has a list of “cautionary tales,” or caches that have been mistaken for bombs and destroyed by authorities. So if you’re searching in a public place, it’s best to employ a certain degree of stealth and discretion.
However, it’s worth noting that local guards are probably more chill about caches than security officers in other countries. For example, the guards of The Podium have grown accustomed to people looking for a cache in the vicinity of the mall, and, in an attempt to be helpful, have taken to showing them where it is.
If you do have time to venture out of the city, hunting for caches in forests and mountains can be a great way to discover scenic spots. In fact, an EarthCache is a type of cache which marks the coordinates of a “special geological location people can visit to learn about a unique feature of the Earth.” An earthcache page will contain educational information about that particular geological feature. Some people even make a point of geocaching whenever they visit a foreign country—after all, it’s a great way to explore a new place and see it through the eyes of locals.