BROMO TENGGER SEMERU NATIONAL PARK
The Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park covers a massive area of 800 square kilometers in the center of East Java, the largest volcanic region in the province. Here you can see plumes of smoke coming from Mt. Semeru, an active volcano which rises 3676 meters above sea level, and experience the remarkable Tengger Caldera, Java's largest, with its 10 kilometers barren desert-like sea of sand. Within the caldera rise the deeply fissured volcanic cones of Batok and Bromo, the latter is still active with a cavernous crater from which smoke blows skyward. Temperatures at the top of Mount Bromo range about 5 to 18 degrees Celsius. To the south of the park is a rolling upland plateau dissected by valleys and dotted with several small scenic lakes.
The 16-kilometer-wide Tengger caldera is located at the northern end of a volcanic massif extending from Semeru volcano. The massive Tengger volcanic complex dates back to about 820,000 years ago and consists of five overlapping stratovolcanoes, each truncated by a caldera. Lava domes, pyroclastic cones, and a maar occupy the flanks of the massif. The Ngadisari caldera at the northeast end of the complex formed about 150,000 years ago and is now drained through the Sapikerep Valley. The most recent of the Tengger calderas is the 9 x 10 kilometers wide Sandsea Caldera at the southwest end of the complex, which formed incrementally during the late Pleistocene and early Holocene. An overlapping cluster of post-caldera cones was constructed on the floor of the Sandsea Caldera within the last several thousand years. The youngest of these is Bromo, one of Java's most active and most frequently visited volcanoes. [Source: Volcano Discovery]
The Tengger sandy area has been protected since 1919. This is believed to be the only conservation area in Indonesia, and possibly the world which possesses a unique sand sea at the attitude of about 2000 meters above sea level. There are several peaks inside the caldera: Mt Watangan (2,661 meters). Mt Batok (2,470 meters), Mt Kursi (2,581), Mt Watangan (2,661 meters), and Mt Widadaren (2,650 meters).
Many hikers take in the spectacular view of the sun rising over volcanic peaks with an early morning trip to Mt Bromo. From the lookout point at Penanjakan there is a spectacular vista. Cross the desert on a pony, climb the steep stairs right up to Mt. Bromo’s crater rim, then watch the sun spectacularly rise over the horizon. Mount Semeru is the highest peak in Java. This mountain, also known as the Great Mountain, is regarded by Indonesian Hindus as their most sacred mountain. Getting to the peak is a tough three day trek. Mt Semeru is one of the most active volcanoes on Java and regularly explodes. These gases and belching lava make Semeru dangerous, so stay well away from the vent.
On the fourteenth day of the Hindu month Kasada — usually around November or September — the native people of the area, the Tenggerese, gather at the rim of Mount Bromo's active crater to present offerings of rice, fruit, vegetables, flowers, livestock and other local produce to the God of the Mountain. The Tenggerese are adherents of a religion which combines elements of Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism. In this Kasada ceremony the Tenggerese ask for blessing from the supreme God, Sang Hyang Widi Wasa.
Mount Bromo (near the town of Probolinggo, four hours from Surabaya) is a 2,329-meter-high, very active volcanic peak. One of Java’s most popular tourist destinations, it lies at the top of a massive volcano known as Tengger with other volcanic peaks inside a "Sea of Sand” — a huge 9-kilometer-long and 7-kilometer-wide (5½-mile-long and 4½ -mile-wide) caldera filled with fine black volcanic debris. Although Bromo doesn't erupt with the deadly force that Mt. Merapti does it is still dangerous.
Mt. Bromo (meaning "The Fire") is a 210-meter-high (650-foot-high) cone striped with yellow sulphur deposits. Smoke is constantly spilling out of the crater. Periodically it erupts small amounts of ash and debris. Bromo is one of three major craters and many more minor ones that emerge from the Sea of Sand. One is called Bataok ("The Bride"). It is 2,440 meters high. The quiescent one with the perfect cone is Kursi ("The Cup"). It is 2,581 meters high. Mount Bromo is a part of the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park. From a vantage point on Mount Penanjakan (2,770 meters), 2.5 hours from Malang, people watch the sunrise with Mt Bromo in the foreground with Mt Semeru smoking in the distance and the sun rising in the sky.
Mt. Bromo is sacred to the Tenggerese people of eastern Java, many of whom live on Tengger’s slopes. During the Kasada Festival they make offerings of animals, meat, money and vegetables to encourage the volcano to keep it calm (See Festivals). When the volcano starts to rumble, the local population doesn't try to escape, instead they go to the top to make offerings to placate the volcano God. The Tenggerese inhabiting this area are believed to be direct descendents from the Majapahit aristocracy. They are adherents of a religion which combines elements of Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism. During their annual Kesodo festival, known as Yadnya Kasada, they thank the supreme God, Sang Hyang Widi Wasa, for a good harvest and appease the god of Mount Bromo.
The Tenggerese and other people in the region have attached a number of myths to the mountain. According to one Tenggerese story the caldera was created by an ogre—in love with a princess—who dug out the whole thing with half of a coconut shell. The Tenggerese believe that the childless rulers of a small kingdom—King Joko Seger and Queen Roro—asked the god of the volcano. He fulfilled the request with 25 children but demanded that the youngest and most handsome one, Dian Kesuma, be offered as a sacrifice. When the queen refused to go along, Dian bravely offered himself to save the kingdom.
Climbing Mt. Bromo
Climbing Mt. Bromo is popular with tourists who try to reach the peak at sunrise before the clouds set in. The crater can be quite crowded at this time especially when school groups make the trek. Some suggest getting a good night’ sleep, reaching the crater when the crowds have thinned and the visibility is still generally good. Javanese make the trek during August or October to make offerings during the Kasada festival. Westerners generally make the hike in the dry season from April to October.
There are a number of different routes to the top. The most popular is via Probolinggo and the village of Ngadisari, where it possible to hike by foot or take a pony trek to the top of the mountain. Probolinggo is two hours from Surabaya and eight hours from Yogyakarta). The next town, Sukapura, us 28 kilometers further and 14 kilometers up Ngadisari and an another three kilometers to Cemero Lawang, which is situated at the edge of the caldera. Trips can be arranged from Yogyakarta. Public transportation is available almost all the way, with regular minibuses running to Cemero Lawan.
From Cemero Lawang it is a three kilometers walk down the caldera across to the Sea of Sand to the 250-step climb up Bromo. Many venture on up 2777-meter-high Gunung Penanjakan, where there is a spectacular view of Bromo, with Semeru smoking the background. For information in some of the other routes check the Lonely Planet Book.
When at the crater probably wise to keep your distance. In June 2004, two hikers, including a boy from Singapore, were killed and seven other were injured by rocks expelled from the crater during an eruption that sent smoke rising 3,000 meters into the air. Rescue teams were sent to look for hikers who might have been trapped.
Necessities for the trip include a flashlight (torch), warm clothing, comfortable trekking shoes, and glove as a protection against the freezing temperature which hovers between zero to five degrees Celsius (33 to 41 degrees Fahrenheit) If you buy or rent something remember to bargain. Sunrise occurs between 5.00 and 6.00 am (if it’s not cloudy), so you should leave from your hotel or guesthouse by 3am. The best time to see the sunrise is in the dry season from April to October. Before you start trekking or climbing, be sure that you have already eaten, or bring some food and drink with you.
The temperature at Mt Bromo generally ranges from 3 to 20 degrees Celsius but the temperature may be several degrees below zero during the dry season. You should bring a jacket, gloves and a head cover or cap. After the sun rises, the weather becomes hot pretty fast. Ponies can take you across the sand sea to the bottom of the steep stairs that leads to the crater.
Visit in the month of Kasada (usually in September-November) and witness the annual Kasada festival where the local Tenggerese come to Bromo to throw offerings of vegetables, chickens and money into the crater of the volcano.
Mt. Bromo Eruptions
When at the crater of Mt. Bromo it is probably wise to keep your distance. In June 2004, two hikers, including a boy from Singapore, were killed and seven other were injured by rocks expelled from the crater during an eruption that sent smoke rising 3,000 meters into the air. Rescue teams were sent to look for hikers who might have been trapped.
Typical eruption style: Explosive. Frequent small, phreatic eruptions at Bromo cinder cone on the bottom of the caldera. Bromo volcano eruptions: 1804, 1815, 1820, 1822, 1825, 1829, 1830, 1835, 1842, 1843, 1844, 1856, 1857, 1858, 1858, 1859, 1860, 1865, 1865, 1866, 1867-68, 1877, 1885, 1885-86, 1886, 1886-87, 1888(?), 1890, 1893, 1896, 1906-07, 1907, 1907-08, 1909, 1910, 1915-16, 1921, 1922, 1928, 1930, 1935, 1939, 1940, 1948, 1950, 1955, 1956, 1972, 1980, 1983(?), 1983, 1984, 1995 (March-May), 1995 (Sep-Dec), 2000 (Nov)-20001 (Jan), 2004 (June), Dec 2010 - 2011. [Source: Volcano Discovery]
On the 2004 eruption that killed the two hikers, the BBC reported: “The two men - one Indonesian and the other from Singapore - were hit by hot rocks expelled from Mount Bromo. An eyewitness on Mount Bromo told the BBC she was forced to scramble down from the crater when the volcano began spewing rocks and dark smoke. Few people live in the immediate vicinity of the volcano, but visitors to the region often climb its slopes to watch the sunrise.
Accommodation and Getting to Mt. Bromo
There are a number of guesthouses and basic hotels located around Mt Bromo. The Bromo Guest House is located at Ngadisari and lies about three kilometers from the crater rim. At Cemoro Lawang there are some hotels situated at the crater rim. Visitors can also stay at Tretes, Pasuruan or in Malang, the nearest towns to Bromo, and cool mountain resorts, where there are a number of good hotels with spectacular views on Mt. Semeru and Mt.Arjuna.
If you forget to bring food, the restaurants near Mount Bromo open from 3 am. They generally provide various types of Indonesian traditional dishes such as Ketoprak, fried rice, Rujak Cingur, Bandrek, etc. But of you arrive ib the area in the evening, ost of the warungs (local food stalls) in this area close after 7.30 pm so be sure to eat early. If you’re in Wonokitri area, there are some warungs in Tosari market, which are usually open between 7-9 pm.
Bromo Tengger Semeru can be reached by private and public vehicle from Surabaya or Malang in East Java. Mount Bromo and Mount Penanjakan are 2.5 hours from Malang. To reach Mount Bromo, you can fly to Juanda international airport in Surabaya. There are direct flights to Surabaya from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hongkong, Jakarta and Bali. Sriwijaya Air flies twice daily from Jakarta to Malang.
In From Surabaya — or Yogyakarta — or before they arrive visitors generally book transportation to Mount Bromo through a travel agent, If you drive the Surabaya-Pasuruan-Wonokitri-Mount Bromo route, the journey will take 2 to 3 hours. It is best for you to leave Surabaya at around 11:00pm or midnight to arrive in time for sunrise. Or you can stay overnight at one of the hotels at Prigen, Tretes, .to make sure that you are on the crater rim before sunrise.
There are multiple ways to get into the park. Visitors can come from Probolinggo, in the north west arrive through the village of Ngadisari. Or take the north east approach via Pasuruan and the village of Tosari. The third, the more difficult approach is via Ngadas, which is best travelled on the way down. The Probolinggo approach is the easiest and by far the most popular route, especially if traveling by public bus. Wonokitri is the closest and the easiest approach if you are coming by private vehicle from Surabaya (5 hours journey). To get closer to Mt. Bromo you must rent 4x4 vehicles (there are many 4x4 vehicles available for rent there).Most tour groups from Surabaya stay overnight at Tretes, where there are a number hotels, as there are in Malang, which has the added advantage of having an airport. Alternatively, you can contact a travel agency to arrange your trip.
Gugung Semeru (a few kilometers from Bromo) is the highest mountain in Java at 3,676 meters high. It is often puffing out smoke and regarded as one of one of the most dangerous volcanos in Indonesia. Hindus call it Mahameru, a reference to Mt. Meru, the center of the Hindu universe. It is also regarded as the father of Gunung Agung in Bali. Semeru’s first recorded eruption was in 1818. In 1981, an eruption killed 250 people. In March 2002, two pyroclastic flows traveled 2½ kilometers down the mountainside and access to the crater was closed. In the early 2000s it was erupting about every 30 minutes, sending out smoke, gas and molten rock.
Semeru is a stratovolcano that has been erupting in almost continuously since 1967. It lies at the southern end of a volcanic massif extending north to the Tengger caldera. Semeru, a favourite mountain trekking destination. It is known for its regular ash explosions that typically occur at intervals of 10-30 minutes. The steep-sided volcano rises abruptly to 3676 meters above coastal plains to the south. Gunung Semeru was constructed south of the overlapping Ajek-ajek and Jambangan calderas. A line of lake-filled maars was constructed along a N-S trend cutting through the summit, and cinder cones and lava domes occupy the eastern and northeast flanks. Summit topography is complicated by the shifting of craters from northwest to southeast. Frequent 19th and 20th century eruptions were dominated by small-to-moderate explosions from the summit crater, with occasional lava flows and larger explosive eruptions accompanied by pyroclastic flows that have reached the lower flanks of the volcano. [Source: Volcano Discovery ~~]
Typical eruption style: Explosive. Near constant strombolian activity, occasionally stronger explosions, lava flows and pyroclastic flows. Semeru volcano eruptions: 1818, 1829, 1830, 1832, 1836, 1838, 1842, 1844, 1845, 1848, 1849, 1851, 1856, 1857, 1865, 1866, 1887, 1887, 1888, 1889-91, 1892, 1893, 1893-94, 1895, 1896, 1897, 1899, 1899, 1900, 1901, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1907, 1908, 1909-10, 1910-11, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1941-42, 1945, 1946, 1946-47, 1950-64, 1967-ongoing (as of 2013). ~~
Byron Spice wrote in the Post-Gazette, “Semeru has erupted at least 55 times since 1818, sometimes producing lava flows, pyroclastic flows — swiftly moving, deadly clouds of hot gas and rock fragments — and mudflows that have killed hundreds of people over the years. For several decades, however, Semeru has been a "popper," sending up 1,000-foot plumes of steam and ash every 20 minutes or so. Molten magma isn't visible from the crater, but water seeps down through the crust of rocks and ash at the bottom of the crater until it hits hot rock. The water flashes to steam, building up pressure under the crust until an explosion occurs. "It's just this big pit and every so often it blows," scientist Michael Ramsey said. A national park surrounds the mountain and, despite the dangers, the crater has become a popular hiking destination. The crater at the top is inactive; the steam-and-ash explosions occur in a smaller crater that is about 200 to 300 feet below the summit and connected to the summit by a curved ridge. [Source: Byron Spice, Science Editor, Post-Gazette, August 27, 2000 ]
When Semeru is open the crater can be reached via a rough three day trek from Tumpang, where you travel by jeep to Ranu Pani, for the start of the trek. Alternatively you can hike 12 kilometers from Ngadas to Jemplan and then another six kilometers to Ramu Pani. At Ramu Pani there is a homestay where you can get a guide or directions for the hike.
According to the Jakarta Post: “The scenery around Mt. Semeru was strikingly beautiful, yet the challenge to reach the summit was so demanding that it seemed some divine spirit had forbade humans to ascend to the mountain’s top, promising severe punishment for those who disobeyed. Hikers can enjoy heavenly vistas even without climbing to the mountain’s summit, as the surrounding area boasts Ranu Kumbolo Lake, which is famous for its turquoise blue water and the stunning green hills that surround it. Only a 15-minute walk from the lake is a breathtaking view of the Oro Oro Ombo meadow, a 100-hectare savanna. [Source: Jakarta Post, September 28 2013]
“A two-hour walk from the meadow takes hikers to the Jambangan field, which is blanketed by countless edelweiss flowers. But for those that choose to climb, it is not only leg ache that you must contend with. Hikers need to avoid the poisonous gas regularly emitted from the volcano and, as such, hikers must reach the summit before noon as the change of wind direction wafts the poisonous gas onto the climbing route.
“As the climb to the summit from the lowest camp takes roughly seven hours, hikers performing the so-called “summit attack” must start ascending at midnight, in the face of strong winds and minus-zero temperatures. The seven-hour climb was painstaking as a 60-degree climb on sandy terrain offers unstable footing, which is energy-sapping, as well as the constant fear of falling rocks from above. Still, the reward from watching sunrise from the summit of Mt. Semeru was worth the pain, with Java’s coastline, the nearby mountains, cities and the crater all joining to create a panoramic, picture-perfect view above the clouds.
Small But Deadly Semeru Eruption
On a small Semeru eruption that killed two Indonesian volcanologists and injured three American scientists who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, Byron Spice wrote in the Post-Gazette, “As molten rocks the size of softballs rained down around him, geologist Michael Ramsey concentrated on advice he had heard from a survivor of a volcanic eruption seven years before. Falling face down on a ridge that shielded him from the direct blast of the 12,000-foot volcano in Indonesia, the 33-year-old volcanologist from the University of Pittsburgh held his camera bag across the back of his head and tried to flick away the hot, glassy pebbles that pelted him and melted into his parka. [Source: Byron Spice, Science Editor, Post-Gazette, August 27, 2000 ]
“The July 26 eruption of the Semeru volcano in eastern Java had caught Ramsey and a small group of fellow volcanologists by surprise. It lasted just 40 or 45 seconds and was by most standards a minor volcanic event, little more than a hissy fit of Nature. Yet when Ramsey stood and surveyed the aftermath, he was aghast at the power Semeru had just displayed. Two Indonesian colleagues lay dead. An American scientist was unconscious, bleeding and seriously burned. Ramsey and another American were both injured. And, as they learned as they made their way off the mountain, this was only the beginning of their ordeal.
“At Mt. Semeru, the American scientists were accompanying Volcanological Survey staff members on a routine, weekly monitoring tour. On July 25, Ramsey and the rest of the group drove to a small village near the mountain and hiked 12 to 13 miles into the park, setting up camp about 1,000 feet above the tree line and 1,000 feet below the summit. They rose at 2 a.m. the next day to begin their climb, planning to reach the crater by dawn, take some photos, make some measurements, and, after a couple of hours, make their way back to camp. Ramsey, a former Grand Canyon river guide with training in field medicine, usually carries a first aid kit, but he tossed it back in his tent before leaving, figuring he could do without the extra 2 pounds on the short trek. Then he thought better of it and retrieved the kit.
“About 20 people were at the summit at sunrise, including Ramsey, the two Smithsonian volcanologists, an Israeli student and four scientists from the Indonesian agency, as well as a couple of porters and a Dutch tourist. After watching three or four eruptions, the group decided to venture down the ridge to get a closer view. The summit was cloudy that morning and the fog became thicker as they reached the active crater. Ramsey, Kimberly and the Dutch hiker got discouraged and headed back up the ridge. About halfway up, the clouds rapidly dissipated. Someone at the crater called out a good-natured taunt to the departing trio: "Thanks for leaving, guys — now we've got a clear shot." Kimberly took the hint and began running back to the crater, perhaps 100 feet away.
“Ramsey stayed in place fiddling with the telephoto lens on his camera. He felt a tremor beneath his feet. "That's when I got a little nervous because we hadn't felt that before." That low vibrational motion most likely was caused by fresh magma pushing up through the rock, cracking it. Unlike the usual steam-and-ash eruptions, which are caused by water seeping down from above, this movement originated deep within the volcano, maybe a mile beneath the volcanologists' feet. Perhaps a new batch of gas-rich magma had flowed into the chamber below Semeru; when it mixed with the existing magma, its gas would decompress and begin rising like bubbles in a glass of champagne. The sudden dissipation of the fog, Ramsey realized later, may have been caused by the heat of the hot magma as it pushed to the surface.”
Deaths and Injuries from the Small Semeru Eruption
Byron Spice wrote in the Post-Gazette, “But none of that was evident before it was too late. Looking back toward the crater through his camera, Ramsey saw a wall of rock and ash shoot straight up toward the group gathered at the crater. "I immediately knew we were in big trouble," Ramsey said. The Dutch hiker started to scream. Ramsey shoved him toward a rock outcrop about 20 feet away down the side of the ridge opposite the crater. Rocks were starting to fall. The rocks — molten when they hit the air — were nearly 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit, and Ramsey knew it was important to remain conscious so that he could extricate himself from any scalding masses that struck him. He threw himself to the ground and positioned his camera bag behind his head. Small gobs of glassy stone pelted him, sticking to his clothes until he could flick them off. Something big hit the camera bag, knocking it off his head and out of his hands. Something hit his left boot, melting all its rivets. [Source: Byron Spice, Science Editor, Post-Gazette, August 27, 2000 ]
“And within 40 or 45 seconds — 60 seconds at most — it was over. A minute later, Ramsey clambered to his feet. Ten feet away lay a smoldering rock the size of a basketball. He found his camera case, which was melted in one corner. "That's when I started hearing the screaming and wailing," he said. Kimberly had been knocked unconscious. Unable to protect himself from the nearly molten projectiles, he suffered third-degree burns to his arms and legs. Making his way to the crater's edge, Ramsey found the two senior Indonesian volcanologists, who had been caught in the direct blast of the eruption. He barely knew them. The man he knew as Willie, named Asep Wildan, and his colleague, named Mukti, were both dead, killed instantly from blows to their heads.
“Amit Mushkin, the Israeli student, was largely unscathed, but Siebert, the other Smithsonian scientist, was bleeding from his head and had a large chunk of skin missing between the thumb and forefinger of his right hand. Ramsey and the other survivors helped get Kimberly to his feet and back to the summit, where two other Indonesian scientists had remained. The Indonesians radioed for help.
“Within a half-hour, Kimberly became coherent again and Ramsey assessed his injuries. He had a broken arm and a smashed hand. His pants had burned off and he had third-degree burns on the tops of both thighs. He was bleeding from a rip in the upper left arm of his jacket; closer inspection showed a hole almost the size of a half dollar that continued down to his fractured collarbone. "I wanted to get him off the summit," Ramsey said, so they headed down the mountain, past their tents to a base camp 2,000 feet below the summit, where there was a small hut and room for a helicopter to land.
“As they waited to be evacuated, Ramsey took out two suture kits from the first aid kit he had almost left behind and began to stitch up the gaping wound on Kimberly's shoulder. "I had learned to do sutures on a big slab of roast beef," he said, but had never done it on a live human being before. "About halfway through, Paul said, 'Are you going to begin soon?' so I guess I wasn't too bad." By 5 p.m., it was obvious that no helicopter would be coming that day. "None of us got much sleep that night," Ramsey said.
“The next morning, word came that a helicopter rescue had been approved, but that clouds and rain would make it impossible. So villagers, who had hiked up with supplies through the night, constructed a gurney for Kimberly and suspended it by ropes to a single pole supported on the shoulders of two men. The village men were small, skinny and usually barefoot, but they expertly moved Kimberly down the hill, with replacements taking over as each set of porters tired.
“Ramsey, his left foot swollen from the impact of the flying rock, limped along in the procession, a tree limb serving as a makeshift crutch. Siebert, who had worked in Indonesia before, took the lead in communicating with the Indonesians and Mushkin aided with Kimberly's transport. "All of us were kind of the walking wounded," Ramsey recalled, "so we didn't have much energy."
“It was about 9:30 p.m. on July 27 before they arrived in the trailhead village of Ranupane, where Kimberly, Siebert, Ramsey and Mushkin piled into an ambulance headed for the next major city, Lumajong. When they arrived about 2:30 a.m., almost two days after the eruption, 30 or 40 reporters greeted them. Siebert and Kimberly were flown to a hospital in Singapore. Siebert, now back at work at the National Museum of Natural History, declined to be interviewed for this story, explaining, "This tragedy is still much too close at hand for me." Randall Kremer, spokesman for the museum in Washington, D.C., said Kimberly continues to undergo treatment for his burns and is expected to make a full recovery. Ramsey said doctors in Lumajong found nothing wrong with his bruised foot, though it still bothers him a month later. Covered in bruises, he returned with Mushkin to Semeru to gather up the camping gear. Ramsey then returned to the United States.”
Kawah Ijen (near Bondowoso, which is two hours from Probolinggo, and four hours from Surabaya) is a 2148-meter-high (7,500-foot-high) volcanic lake in eastern Java. Inside the kilometer-wide crater is a turquoise lake made of sulfuric acid, one of the largest hot acidic crater lakes in the world. Great plums of acrid smoke rise from the lake and vents in the earth around it.
The Ijen Plateau ("Kawah Ijen") is situated on a once active caldera that covers 134 square kilometers. On this plateau are there three major volcanos: 2368-meter-high Ijen, 2800-meter-high Merapi and 3332-meter-high Raung. Ijen erupted violently in 1936 and has erupted with plums of smoke and ash periodically since 1952. The lake bubbles when the volcano is especially active. Much of the western part of the plateau is covered by coffee plantations.
Inside the crater of Kawah Ijen volcano on Java, hundreds of miners collect sulfur by hand amid noxious sulfuric fumes. The use a process widely used in the 19th century but regarded as obsolete today. Ceramic pots collect the volcanic gas and condense it into an amber liquid that dries and forms large stalactites of pure, yellow sulfur. Miners break up the stalgtites with long metal rods and load the sulfur into whicker baskets connected by bamboo shoulder poles. The sulfur is used in refining sugar, processing natural rubber and as an ingredient in pesticides and medications. It is also a natural source of sulfuric acid, in great demand in the oil-refining business and in the production of fertilizers. Around the places the miners work are amorphous blue flames from sulfur fires.
Miners carry 40-kilogram loads balanced on one shoulder in baskets from a quarry on the lakes edge under the shadow of the sheer walls of the crater—a vertical distance of 200 meters— out of the crater to an unloading station on the crater’s edge. The miners have strong back muscles and huge callouses on their shoulders. They typically carry two loads a day and make a few dollars per load. The miners protect themselves form the fumes with handkerchiefs. Some have worked more than 10 years and show no ill affects. The biggest danger for them is an eruption or a sudden overpowering release of gas. [Source: Justin Guariglia, Smithsonian]
Blue Fires at Ijen Volcano
Ijen Volcano is famous for its blue fire which sometimes emerges from a dripping, glowing blue globs. Since National Geographic mentioned the electric-blue flame of Ijen, tourist numbers have increased. The phenomenon has occurred for a long time, but beforehand there was no midnight hiking. A two-hour hike is required to reach the rim of the crater, followed by a 45-minute hike down to the bank of the crater. The blue fire is ignited sulfuric gas, which emerges from cracks at temperatures up to 600 °C (1,112 °F). [Source: Wikipedia]
The flames can be up to five meters (16 feet) high; some of the gas condenses to liquid and is still ignited. It is the largest blue flame area in the world and local people refer to it as Api Biru (Blue Fire), the other location at which the blue fire can be seen is in Dallol mountain, Ethiopia.
According to Fodors.com: There are two gateways to Ijen Crater: Banyuwangi (from the east) and Bondowoso (from the west). Banyuwangi is the recommended starting point, and easily the most popular, thanks to its better roads and closer proximity. To get here, you can fly to Blimbingsari Airport—which has connections to Jakarta and Surabaya—or hop on a train or bus to the center of town. If you’re coming from Bali, make your way to Gilimanuk, the westernmost tip of Bali, and take the ferry to Ketapang Harbour in Banyuwangi. The ferry runs 24 hours and takes around half an hour. From Banyuwangi, the starting point of the hike is around an hour and a half’s drive away (prepare for a bumpy ride!).
Climbing Kawah Ijen
Mount Inje Crater can be reached by a five kilometers walk up to the rim of the crater and then down to the lake along the same route the sulfur collectors use. The fumes by the lake can be overwhelming and dangerous. The trail can be a little dodgy as well. In 1997, a French tourist died when he fell into the steaming lake. It also possible to hike around the rim of the crater. The starting point is the PHKA post in Pos Paltuding, which is usually reached from Bondowoso—64 kilometers away on a mostly good road which takes two hours to traverse—but can also be reached by Banyuwangi—which is closer but the roads connecting it to Pos Paltuding are in much worse condition. Bondowoso in turn can reached by bus from Probolinggo or Surabaya. Trips are organized in Yogyakarta or Surabaya.
Ijen and Merapi lie on the northeastern edge of the Plateau, and Raung is situated on the southwest corner. The magnificent turquoise sulfur lake of Kawah Ijen lies at 2148 meters above sea level and is surrounded by sheer crater walls. The sulfur collectors make the trek up to the crater and down to the lake every day. They generally hike up in the morning and return around 1 pm when the clouds roll in. The sulphur at Kawah Ijen is very pure.
There are a few types of accommodation with varying prices and facilities at Bondowoso or Banyuwangi. Before trekking, hiking or climbing, be sure that you have already eaten, or you can bring some food and drink from your places.of stay. Bondowoso or Banyuwangi don’t offer all that much. It is better to stock up on supplies in a bigger town or city and bring them with you.
The walk starts at Pal Tuding. Its a basic camp where you can stay overnight. There is a block with showers and toilets At night it can be pretty cold up there,(it is suggested that you carry a sleeping bag). Take your own picnic, since the food you can buy at the parking lot isn't up to much. The walk up to the crater rim takes 60-90 minutes. It's pretty steep. Halfway is a small post where the sulphur workers take a break. A cup of tea is available here. The path is just one-way so there is no need for any guidance. An absolute must is a handkerchief to put in front of your mouth and nose to avoid inhalation of the sulphur gases.
The sulphur diggers will approach you to be a guide for fee and try to sell you some nice sulphur statues for Rp5,000 to Rp10,000. If you buy some the statues, they are very breakable so tape them in with toilet paper and take precious care of it. At the rim itself you have a nice view on the lake. You can walk around the rim or approach the lake (about a 40-minute walk).
The Ijen Plateau can be reached through Bondowoso from either the northern or the southern coast. It is closer to Banyuwangi, but the road is very steep and badly deteriorated. A 4 WD is essential, although difficult to hire in Banyuwangi and outrageously expensive. Most people walk the last 8 kilometers (from about 64 kilometers) along the road to Pos Paltuding (the PHPA Post, the starting point or the trek to the crater) from Bondowoso.
Lusi Mud Volcano
Lumpur Sidoarjo (in Porong, Sidoarjo, about two hours from Surabaya) is the cite of the Lusi mud volcano, which killed 13 people and destroyed the homes of tens of thousands of residents in 2006 and is still oozing mud. Data indicates the disaster is man-made: caused by drilling by the gas-exploration company Brantas Lapindo and not caused by an earthquake as Lapindo had claimed. The Indonesian government has said that it expects Lapindo to adequately reimburse all victims (the government itself had allocated more than US$210 million for the purpose in 2008 and 2009), but the case has been increasingly embroiled in legal and political controversy. Lusi—a nickname derived by combining the Indonesian word for mud (lumpur) with Sidoarjo, the name of the nearby town
The seemingly endless torrent of hot, black sludge started oozing from a gaping hole near the country's second-largest city of Surabaya on May 29, 2006. At its peak Lusi spewed up to 180,000 cubic meters of mud per day. As of 2010, the Lusi mud volcano was spewing out about 100,000 tons of mud a day and was showing no signs of letting up. John M. Glionna wrote in the Los Angeles Times: Known as the Lusi mud volcano, its spread is so relentless — burping noxious gas, swallowing communities, killing 14 people and forcing the evacuations of 60,000 — that some say it could star in its own sci-fi thriller.” Out of “a series of fissures, marked by an ominous smoke plume, pump out 100,000 tons of mud. New chemical fires erupt from smaller, gas-seeping cracks in a vision from hell that has closed roads and demolished buildings. Since the flow erupted, 170 new gas bubbles have broken through the surface, spewing unsafe levels of methane. The fissures, where temperatures can reach 140 degrees, have led officials to warn against even lighting matches in the area. [Source: John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times, July 10, 2010 ||]
The damage for the mud volcano was estimated to be in the billions of dollars. As of 2008 it had covered 10,426 houses, 35 schools, 65 mosques and one orphanage. A bridge that developed cracks was dismantled and railway tracks were moved out of line. At that time the advancing mud was largely contained behind human-engineered dykes. In November 2006, 13 people were killed in a gas blast caused by the rupturing of an underground pipe.
Glionna wrote: “The mudflow is slowly gobbling up the countryside. Now covering 2,000 acres, it's 65 feet deep in some places, submerging factories, schools, farms and a dozen villages. Indonesian officials have insisted that the deadly flow was the result of a natural disaster: an earthquake that struck 175 miles away just before the mud began its onslaught in 2006. But evidence from a team of independent U.S. and British geologists suggests that the mud volcano, like the British Petroleum oil disaster, was man-made, the result of a 2006 drilling accident at a nearby gas exploration site. And these geologists say they have no idea when the mudflow will stop, if ever. The accident, many here charge, is just the latest example of corruption and incompetence in the impoverished Southeast Asian nation's attempt to exploit its energy resources.” ||
In late 2013, international scientists who had been monitoring the situation were reported as saying that the eruption of mud at Sidoardjo had was falling away quite rapidly and that the indications were that the eruption might cease by perhaps 2017, much earlier than previously estimated. The scientists noted that the system was losing pressure quite rapidly and had begun pulsing rather than maintaining a steady flow. The pulsing pattern, it was believed, was a clear sign that the geological forces driving the eruption were subsiding. [Source: Wikipedia]
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Indonesia Tourism website ( indonesia.travel ), Indonesia government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Updated in August 2020