A guide to volcano hiking in Indonesia

With more than 120 active volcanoes, Indonesia is a hive of seismic activity. An archipelago dotted across an area the width of the United States, every vista is backed by the profile of a nearby volcano. Audley Travel specialist Mat Hall shares his memories of hiking some of these volcanoes and experiencing the volcanic geology first-hand.

Mat Photographing Mount Bromo, Java, Indonesia Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Mat Photographing Mount Bromo, Java, Indonesia

After first visiting Indonesia, I compared my photos to a friend’s pictures, taken a few years before. They both showed the same landscapes, but their features differed dramatically. For me, this really piqued my fascination with a country that is continuously being altered by volcanic activity.

Why go volcano hiking in Indonesia?

It’s possible to see volcanic peaks all over Indonesia. Rather than simply enjoying the scenery, I’d argue that you can’t fully appreciate them without setting foot on one. Standing on volcanic lava rocks, surrounded by scattered ash, you can sometimes feel the movement of the earth below. Up close, the rumbling of a volcano sounds like a million old cars trying to start up at once.

Mat at the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park viewpoint, Java Indonesia Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Mat at the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park viewpoint, Java Indonesia

Each volcano has its own unique geological features, so I’d suggest combining a few. For example, there’s a stark contrast in topography between the sprawling volcanic complex at Ijen and the perfect cone of Krakatoa. The calderas (volcanic craters caused by a collapsing magna chamber) can vary in size from a few metres, to hundreds of miles.

The smoking crater of Mount Bromo

Mount Bromo viewpoint Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Mount Bromo viewpoint

Waking up at 3am, my guide picked me up in a 4×4 and drove me into Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park on the island of Java. En route we passed a checkpoint informing us there was no volcanic activity occurring. We were safe to continue. Driving up to a viewpoint, we find a position and wait for the sun rise over the four volcanic peaks of the park. Semeru, the highest peak, erupts every ten minutes, almost to the clock, with a puff of smoke.

Mount Bromo viewpoint, black smoke eruption Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Mount Bromo viewpoint, black smoke eruption

From here, I began the one hour hike up to the rim of Bromo. The volcano itself lies in a vast sandy plain known as the sea of sands. Walking along this dusty grey moonscape, the side of the volcano looms up ahead, with steps cut into the side of the rock. On reaching the rim, I could see right down onto the smoking plateau of white ash. The smoke continuously billows from its depths and some of the rumbles were so loud they startled fellow visitors.

Mount Bromo, Sea of sands Hindu temple Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Mount Bromo, Sea of sands Hindu temple

Nearby is a simple Hindu temple. It’s easy to miss – built out of volcanic rock, it blends into the landscape beyond. The volcano is worshipped by local Hindus who celebrate Yadnya Kasada each year in June. Pilgrims line the edge of the crater, throwing offerings into its depths to appease the god of the mountain.

Visit the highest acidic lake in the world at Mount Ijen

Perched right on the eastern point of Java, on a clear day you can see Bali from Mount Ijen’s peak. Part of an extensive volcanic landscape, Mount Ijen is the active volcano within the Ijen caldera, the largest on Java.

It was another early start. I woke at 5am and my guide drove me to ‘base camp’, nestled at the base of the volcano. Climbing at full moon, the path was so well lit I didn’t turn my torch on. I’d suggest planning a trip around the full moon if you have the flexibility: hiking by the cool light of the moon is quite surreal.

Ijen - view from Ijen Resort over to volcanoes Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Ijen – view from Ijen Resort over to volcanoes

After an hour’s climb, you’ll come to a group of enterprising locals who have set up a camp offering tea, coffee and biscuits. You can refuel here before heading on to the rim. A final push to the top takes another hour before you’re on a narrow ridge overlooking the tumult below.

On my visit, smoke covered the caldera completely, making for a very spooky atmosphere. If you’re lucky, the smoke will clear and you’ll be able to see the turquoise lake filling the crater. Its unreal shade is caused by its acidity levels. The extreme acidity, sometimes with a pH as low as 0.5, is caused by hydrothermal waters rising from the magma chambers below.

Ijen, Blue Flame Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Ijen, Blue Flame

The most unique feature is the lake-side solfatara. This is a geological phenomenon where sulphurous gasses emerge from vents in the caldera and, on meeting oxygen, burn with a neon blue light.

Ijen, Sulphur miner in crater Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Ijen, Sulphur miner in crater

I thought my wake-up call was early, but my guide explained that sulphur miners arrive at 2am to begin work. Descending steep paths right down into the volcano, they hew chunks of sulphur before carrying it away in baskets on their shoulders. It’s dangerous work. Many miners carry more than their own bodyweight in sulphur on the return leg.

Hiking back down the volcano in daylight, I surveyed the surrounding landscape. It was covered in a lush blanket of trees and shrubs. Mineral-rich volcanic ash breaks down into the soil creating some of the most fertile land on earth.

Enjoy a volcano-cooked dinner at Mount Batur

On the island of Bali, Mount Batur juts above a landscape pockmarked with craters from countless previous eruptions. It currently sits between two merged calderas containing a crescent-shaped lake. From the viewpoint you can see numerous small villages and roads weaving their way around the lake, drawn by the populous fish and clean water.

Mount Batur - start of the ascent Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Mount Batur – start of the ascent

Bali attracts more visitors than any other Indonesian island, so Batur can get quite busy. My guide suggested we visit at sunset rather than sunrise. The volcano also steams more in the evening, adding to the ambience. The climb is more gentle than other peaks, taking about two hours to reach the summit along well marked paths. From the top you can see the lake and villages stretching across the caldera – a real contrast to more desolate volcanoes.

Mount Batur - Summet, eating volcanic vent cooked dinner Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Mount Batur – Summet, eating volcanic vent cooked dinner

Whilst waiting for the sun to set, my guide prepared a meal. Gathering handfuls of grass, he placed them into a nearby vent, creating a traditional oven. Gingerly putting my hand in, I could feel the heat from the earth below. A couple of eggs were popped in and, in minutes, we were enjoying hard boiled eggs with our pre-cooked rice and noodles. For dessert we enjoyed cooked bananas served with chocolate.

Sleep at the foot of an active volcano on Krakatoa

Krakatau, view from beach to neighboring island Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Krakatau, view from beach to neighboring island

In my opinion, Krakatoa is the most unique volcano you can visit. On the hour and a half boat journey from Java’s mainland, my guide explained the history of the volcano. Once a large island, in 1883 a massive eruption split the island of Krakatoa into four small islands. The noise of the eruption is considered the loudest sound recorded in human history, and the pressure waves were recorded on barometers all over the world.

We were in fact visiting Anak Krakatoa, the ‘little child’ of the original Krakatoa volcano. As we rounded Rakata, another island fragment of the original volcano, Anak Krakatoa came into view. For me, it’s the very image of a stereotypical volcano – a neat cone shape jutting straight up from the sea.

Krakatau - Anak Krakatau base camp on the beach Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Krakatau – Anak Krakatau base camp on the beach

Pulling up onto the beach, my guide began setting up camp. The island is completely undeveloped so we were staying in tents on the coast. Most of the island is covered in barren black volcanic rock but on the east side of the island, a small forest has managed to grow.

Krakatau, walking up Anak Krakatau Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Krakatau, walking up Anak Krakatau

Hiking up the side of the volcano, we followed a safe, set route. Aside from a few scraggly trees at the base, we walked through a desolate wasteland. Volcanic rock changes shade with age, scarring the sides of the volcano with lines, marking each eruption. About halfway up, we stopped. We’d reached a viewpoint, the highest we could safely go. Any further, my guide tells me, and my shoes would melt.

We stopped with the smoking peak in the distance, steam coming off the ground a little way in front. For me, the view is one of the best I’ve seen – a completely undisturbed panorama of Anak Krakatoa’s sister fragments dotted in the ocean, with no signs of life.

Krakatau, viewpoint Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Krakatau, viewpoint

A worthwhile addition to hiking the volcano, the nearby island of Rakata shelters some dazzling coral. Taking a short boat ride from Anak Krakatoa, we pulled up to the coast of Rakata, which is edged with steep maroon lava walls. Above the water, the lava rock is barren – below the surface, the contrast is stunning. Lava is particularly nutritious for coral, encouraging the vibrant array of coral hiding underwater. Turtles glide over the coral whilst neon stripped angel fish dart in-between.

Add a visit to Singapore

It’s possible to fly straight into Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, but I’d suggest flying into Singapore. The array of flight options make it more convenient for most, but it also makes a wonderful introduction to southeast Asia. A modern, English-speaking city with a slick transport system, it’s an easy place to explore. If this makes it sound a little sterile – it isn’t.

It’s a city I’m particularly fond of. Singapore may be a modern metropolis, but its skyscrapers are intertwined with temples and colonial architecture. Visit the pastel rows of restored colonial mansions, wander the botanical gardens or sample some of the local dishes in food halls nicknamed ‘hawker markets’.

Visit one of Indonesia’s beaches

I’d recommend finishing a volcano hiking trip to Indonesia with a few nights on the beach. The beach of Sanur, in the south of Bali, is sheltered by a reef, creating a calm cove. This feeds into the area’s general ambience, with relaxed beach bars and some serene sunsets. The food stands out for me, with freshly caught fish sold on tiny stalls dotted along the coast.

If you’re looking for a longer beach stay, I’d suggest islands hopping to Lombok, to the east of Bali, with quieter beaches and some luxe hotels.

Mount Bromo viewpoint with my Guide Anwar Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Mount Bromo viewpoint with my Guide Anwar

When is the best time of year for hiking volcanoes?

For the best experience, late April through to October works well as the skies will be clear and there’s little rain. The months of July and August can be quite busy, especially at weekends when locals take day trips out to the volcanoes.

What do you need to bring?

When visiting a volcano for sunrise, it can be chilly first thing in the morning, with temperatures dipping to 5C (41F). I’d recommend a warm jacket and lots of layers – it gets warmer quite quickly once the sun is up. A scarf or balaclava is also handy to protect your face from ash in the air if it’s windy.

Lava rock is very smooth so can be a little slippery. I would suggest walking shoes with a good grip, and climbing poles to help with steep, uphill sections.

Of course, having your camera close to hand is vital as you’ll have the opportunity to capture some incredible images.

Mat Hall is a Travel Specialist for Audley Travel. Audley trips don’t come off the shelf – they’re tailor-made down to the finest detail. When planning a trip with us, you will speak to a destination specialist who has either lived or travelled extensively within the country or region that you are visiting. They will create a bespoke trip based on your tastes, interests and budget and with an absolute commitment to providing quality travel experiences.

This article was brought to you in partnership with Audley Travel

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This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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A dangerously beautiful hike in British Columbia

July 25, 2015 by  
Filed under Canada, featured, Guest post, Leisure, Misc, Nature, Photography, World

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Our guest author, Dana Sibilsky takes a hike in the beautiful woods of British Columbia that proves more dangerous than she anticipated when she finds signs of bear activity along the trail.

In 2013, my husband and I made the mutual decision to spice up our lives together and really venture out to see what the world has to offer. With this decision, we agreed to travel at least twice a year; one place within the first half of the year (January-June) and another place within the second half of the year (June-December).

In our journey to explore the world together, we have visited nearly all of the United States and only half of Canada. The world is big and we aren’t even halfway through yet! If you were to ask what is the most beautiful place we’ve been to, it would without a doubt be British Columbia, Canada. If you have ever seen pictures, no photo nor video does this incredible place justice because you simply must be there to FEEL the atmosphere.

Beautiful British Columbia

The air seems cleaner, fresher and easier to breathe with a certain natural “crispness” to it that my husband and I have not found anywhere else in our travels. The water seems to be more pure, more fresh with the same crispness that makes you say to yourself, “This is the way it’s meant to be. What have we done to our world in other places?”

Sunset over British Columbia mountains Photo: danasibilsky.com

Sunset over British Columbia mountains

Through our travel in British Columbia, we hiked until we came to our destination at the well-known and popular Three Valley Gap Hotel. Oh my, if you could just see the scenery of nature that surrounds this place. There’s a saying that we kept hearing while visiting that went something like, “Out here, you are normally no further than 20 feet from a bear at all times.” I’m not sure how true it is or if they were just trying to scare us knowing we weren’t locals from around the area.

The wildlife is just as spectacular as the surrounding scenery. My husband and I (but honestly mostly my husband) wanted a closer look at the the wildlife. “What is the point of coming 2000 miles out here if we are just going to sit in a hotel?” he questioned. “Let’s venture out to see what we can never see at home.” With that said, we got a nature tour guide and began to explore the surrounding wooded area at least 3 miles away from the comfort of our hotel. At first, walking through the thickness of the brush and woods was intimidating. What if we saw a bear? What if we ran into a pack of wolves or coyotes? I remembered hearing stories from our friends in Toronto and Mississauga about coyotes running freely through the city in 2010. The more we tracked through the woods, the more comfortable I became until the tour guide stopped us in our tracks.

The look on our guide’s face was the look of fear and nervousness he was trying his best to hide for our sake. “Is everything ok?” I asked him, touching his arm gently in concern. “You look like there is a problem.” With a shaky hand he was trying to control, he pointed to the tree in front of us roughly 10 feet away and said, “Bear.”

Bear sighting

My eyes widened as my head quickly snapped to the general direction he was pointing. The tree had claw and teeth marks on it and was missing chunks of bark. Bears do this to mark territory and possession of their favorite trees. These marks usually are present on other trees given by the same bear in a trail. This helps the bear find its way back to wherever it came from.

Signs of bear activity Photo: danasibilsky.com

Signs of bear activity

I was stone cold in fear and to tell you anything different would be a complete lie! I couldn’t move. The thought that I could possibly be standing in or near a bear’s nest shut down all of my motor mechanics such as my ability to walk and open my fear-clenched fists into open palms.

In the distance, I could hear my husband calling me. “Dana!” I heard him say. I wanted to look at him, but the fear was overpowering me. I heard him shout in a louder, projecting voice. This time, my head jerked toward him as the guide and I let out a harsh “SHHHH!” toward him simultaneously. “Are you out of your mind?!” said the guide, “We are in the danger zone of a bear’s or group of bears’ territory! Keep quiet!” he instructed my husband. “We need to go. Now!” the guide said. We didn’t hesitate! The tour guide, my husband and myself double-timed it to the hotel as quickly, quietly and safely as we could.

Make lasting memories

Fast forward 2 years later. Isn’t it interesting that the worst moments in our lives at that particular time turn out to be the most memorable? The moments we believe are the downfall of our day, the ones we say we could do without at the moment they are happening are the very same moments that become the memories we wouldn’t change for anything. The moments we look back on months or years later and can’t help but to laugh and smile to ourselves. Being in a dangerous position having trespassed through bear territory was one of those moments.

Lasting memories in British Columbia Photo: danasibilsky.com

Lasting memories in British Columbia

If you haven’t visited the British Columbia side of Canada, what are you waiting for? It is, without a shadow of a doubt the most beautiful, refreshing and enlightening adventure you could ever take no matter if you’re alone or with those you love. Just a word of advice: Don’t go exploring without an experienced nature tour guide!

Author bio: Many thanks for this article to Dana Sibilsky, a stay-at-home mother of three prides and joys. When she isn’t giving her family their needed attention, she enjoys traveling and blogging her art on her sites.

Visit the #explorecanada official Canada Tourism Website for more information on things to do in British Columbia and Vancouver Island as well as their social media channels on Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

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For more Canadian adventures:

Where to Watch Wildlife in British Columbia, Canada
Vancouver Island – A Nature Lover’s Paradise
How to Enjoy a Great Day in Victoria, BC

Photo credit: Dana Sibilsky

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Where to Watch Wildlife in British Columbia, Canada

In this article our guest author, A J Walton shares his love of British Columbia in Canada and the best places to watch wildlife such as seals, whales, eagles and grizzly bears.

British Columbia has some of the most exciting and diverse wildlife habitats in all of North America. As a child of the Canadian prairies, I fondly remember yearly summer trips to BC, where hiking & camping became familiar friends. Nothing has changed as an adult adventure seeker. In fact, I still consider British Columbia my top outdoor travel destination in the world.

In BC, with its sprawling forests, expansive coastline and mountainous peaks, you can expect to see all kinds of animals even just driving along in your car. For adventurous travelers who are ready to get a bit more up close and personal, these 7 wildlife watch tours will open your eyes to a world of natural beauty and the wonders of the animal kingdom.

Whale watching from Stevenson

This unique whale watching tour gives you a stunning view of the BC coastline. It’s the perfect way to watch the world’s largest creatures at home in their natural habitat. The tour meets in the historic fishing town of Stevenson, just South of Vancouver. From there, expert guides take you on a day trip in their 40-foot cruising vessel through the Gulf Islands in search of orca whales, sea lions, aquatic birds and much, much more. Tours from Stevenson Seabreeze Adventures are available from April 1st through October 31st.

A chance to view Sea Lions off the coast of BC, Canada Photo: Richard Gould on Flickr

A chance to view Sea Lions off the coast of BC, Canada

Nature Discovery Tours from Whistler

Offering a range of private and semi-private land rover excursions, Whistler Discovery Tours lets you experience the beauty of the Coastal Mountain Range like never before. With so many natural wonders to choose from, it’ll be difficult to pick just one. They offer morning and evening bear watch tours that let you get up close and personal to these gentle creatures. You can also take a ride through a 450-acre ancient rainforest, where you’ll see massive century-old trees and a host of indigenous wildlife. Any tour you choose, you’re bound to see stunning wildlife and rarely seen views in some of the most remote places on Earth. Tours from Whistler Discovery Tours start on May 1st and run until November 15th.

Rainbow Lake Trail near Whistler Photo: Iwona_Kellie on Flickr

Rainbow Lake Trail near Whistler

Wildlife spotting along the Fraser River

Perfect for a summertime adventure, Fraser River Safari is the ultimate tour of wildlife on the river. Starting in the town of Mission and ending in Harrison Mills, they take you on a wild ride up the Fraser River to see diverse animal life, scenic riverbeds and breathtaking views. You’ll board a cozy “Safari Craft” that’s perfect for those shallow waters, delicate natural habitats and close range glimpses at bears, bald eagles, seals, and the great white sturgeon. It’s ideal for couples, a small group of friends or adventurous families. You’re free to book a personal tour with Fraser River Safari any time during the year, but the busy season starts in July and runs until November.

Fraser River in BC, Canada Photo: John Bromley on Flickr

Fraser River in BC, Canada

See bears in their natural habitat

Based in Fraser Valley, you’re free to rent ATVs or hop on a guided tour as you explore the vast Coastal Mountain Range of BC. With its remote location and rugged terrain, Bear Country Tours gives you unprecedented access to the deep reaches of this wildlife reserve. You can take a two-hour tour or gear up for a multi-day excursion. They specialize in tracking down black bears, grizzlies, and bear cubs in their natural habitat. Don’t worry; these guides are safety experts. Plus, every tour comes with their famous BBQ lunch. Bear Country Tours are available year round. This is an experience that lasts a lifetime.

Bear watching in BC, Canada Photo: Stephen Mattucci on Flickr

Bear watching in BC, Canada

Explore the sea life around Nanaimo

If you love to scuba dive, then you’re in for a real treat. Sea Dragon Charters lets you explore the magnificent sea life in either Howe Sound or Nanaimo, just outside of Vancouver. You can kayak with the seals, go snorkeling with the fish, or sightsee from the boat. Experts take guests to stunning views of the coastline where you’re bound to see octopus, king crabs, wolf eels, and dozens of species of fish. If you choose to go kayaking, the seals love to introduce themselves by playing with the guests. Get off the boat and discover a world of wildlife up close and personal.

Whale Watching from Victoria

Departing from Victoria or Vancouver, this whale watching tour puts an educational twist on your big sea adventure. Guests get to board a mighty passenger vessel as it sets sail through the Gulf Islands, usually pointing out numerous orcas, humpbacks, and sea lions along the way. They refer to their cruises as floating classrooms with some of the finest wildlife tour guides on board. Every trip with Prince of Whales Whale Watching comes with valuable information that will only enhance your experience and knowledge of these spectacular creatures.

Whale watching in BC Canada Photo: Natalie Tsang on Flickr

Whale watching in BC Canada

See Grizzly Bears in Knight Inlet

Cruising through the Knight Inlet in Northern BC, Tide Rip Grizzly Tours gives you an intimate look at the local wildlife throughout the many uninhabited islands, inlets, reefs, and rocky shorelines. You’ll see plenty of grizzly bears as they feast on salmon jumping upstream, plus dolphins, seals, and bald eagles. As one of the few sightseeing tours in the region, this is a rare experience that’s not to be missed. The action heats up in June, but Tide Rip Grizzly Tours are available from April to October.

Bear watching in BC, Canada Photo: Stephen Mattucci on Flickr

Bear watching in BC, Canada

Visit the #explorecanada official Canada Tourism Website for more information on things to do in British Columbia and Vancouver Island as well as their social media channels on Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

AJ WaltonAuthor Bio: Thanks for this article to AJ Walton – a world traveller focused on traveling, learning languages and entrepreneurship.

More Canadian adventures:

Vancouver Island – Nature Lover’s Paradise
How to Enjoy a Great Day in Victoria, BC
5 Reasons to Put Canada on Your Bucket List

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Where to see wildlife in BC Canada

Photo Credits: Sea Lions by Richard Gould , Rainbow Lake Hiking Trail by Iwona_Kellie , Fraser River by John Bromley , Grizzly bears by Stephen Mattucci, Whale Watching by Natalie Tsang , Grizzly bear and cubs by Stephen Mattucci

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

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