Waiting for the Right Light, Mount Penanjakan view of Mount Bromo, East Java, Indonesia.
Bright and early, just before the sun comes up over Mount Bromo, Mount Semeru and Mount Batok, with ample rolling fog and an epic eruption for good measure.
We climbed Mount Penanjakan in our Toyota 4x4 pre-dawn in the headlights of some 1,200 other vehicles. Once at the viewpoint my travel partner and I decided against the same shooting vantage as everyone else - all 3,000 tourists, gah - and climbed down the hill for a better look (and a few square feet to dig in our tripods). As soon as the sun started to shine and illuminate the volcanoes in the distance, all the nuisance and discomfort of the day, all the pain and suffering associated with actually making the trip to Bromo, it vanished. We spent the next hour shooting one of the most incredible sunrises I have ever witnessed. Getting here is a bit of a package-tour nightmare, but so very much worth it in the end.
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The concentration of volcanoes that form the spine of Java, Indonesia is spectacular and nowhere is that volcanic nature better explored than Gunung Bromo. Being at Gunung Bromo is literally being "on top of the world". You can also stay "on top of the world" at the Lava View Lodge, which is located on the edge of the caldera and has spectacular views of the volcano huffing and puffing "on top of the world".
Watching the sunrise "on top of the world" at Gunung Bromo in Central Java is almost a spiritual experience. The best place to stay is right on the volcanic crater at Lava View Lodge. They offer jeep tours that take you to the best vantage points for viewing the volcano, as well as a beautiful waterfall on the slope of the mountain.
With a group of travel bloggers, we ascended up to sunrise platform on Mt. Pananjakan (2,775 meters asl) to see the first light of the day. I was mystified by the fact that we are all at the rim of a really huge dry caldera. We could see how the lava had etched the landscape into one of the world's grandest natural carvings.
The foremost mountain is a growing volcano named Mt. Batok, a local name for coconut shell. The one behind it with fuming white smoke is the crater of Mt. Bromo, and the one that seems to be the leftover of a really huge volcano should be Mt. Semeru (3.676 meters asl). Mt. Semeru or also Mahameru means The Great Mountain. It's a crazy sight.
Go to Jakarta directly, or Surabaya INDONESIA. From Surabaya, take a bus going to Probolinggo. Hire a chartered 7 seater to Sukapura or directly to your homestay or hotel. In the morning at 03.00 you will have to be ready and rent an 80's Jeep (Land Rover) for a roundtrip adventure, for around IDR 650,000 (for 5 persons), so sharing is the best practice.
If your budget is not a problem, stay in Java Banana that offers you all the luxury you need in a mountain resort. If you go shoestring, many convenient homestays are available (sometimes they don't offer hot shower).
Last fall, a friend and I traveled through eastern Java. Our first destination was Mount Bromo. It is one of three volcanos that is located in the Tengger Caldera, a vast volcanic area filled with volcanic sand. Just after sunrise, we made the trek towards the volcanic range in an effort to make the ascent to the top of Mount Bromo and see what the inside of an active volcano looks like. What seemed like a simple task proved to be anything but as the winds were strong that day, blowing the sands in all directions. The landscape made the experience seem otherworldly, as if we were crossing the desert on some unknown planet. As we started the steep ascent up Mount Bromo (where this shot was taken), the dust storm grew stronger and it became quite an effort to see the path before us as we pushed our bodies against the wind. When we finally made it to the top (at over 2,000 meters high), the winds reached their peak and the view inside the volcano was nearly impossible to see. By the end of the whole experience, our faces and clothes were covered in sand, and I guess you could say we were unsuccessful in achieving our mission to see inside the volcano. However, the trek through that unique landscape and the weather conditions that seemed to be unique to this particular day proved to be quite memorable and is by far one of our highlights of Indonesia.
We got up before sunrise to go to a viewpoint (Cemoro Lawang) to watch the sun rise at Mount Bromo, an active volcano in East Java. The volcano sits in a vast sea of rock and sand with other volcanoes in the distance. With morning mist and clouds it can be a incredible site. This photograph taken just before sunrise with a long exposure captured the "desolate beauty" of this site.
Thinking about Lord of the Rings the whole time while on the way up to the ACTIVE volcano. Well, before the tiring climb kind of wipes every other thought from your mind.
Firstly, the view is worth it. Secondly, hire a driver. Having a driver is essential as you'll be driven over volcanic ash to the foot of the mountain where you'll begin the 2-2.5hours climb to the crater lip.
Wear proper shoes and have a scarf to cover your face as you'll walking over volcanic ash which feels like sand but more dusty and makes the journey more tiring because it's hard to walk on.
Also, it's cold when you start early in the morning, so a jacket is essential, first to protect from the cold and after, to shield yourself from the unforgiving rays of the sun. SPF50!
After climbing the slopes, or you can hire a horse for about 50k IDR from many of the locals who will approach you, you'll find yourself at the foot of some stairs. If you go during the off peak season, the climb up should be quite smooth.
But if it's peak, be prepared to climb a few steps and wait while the line moves slowly. Daredevils can take the slope beside the stairs. Not advised but some locals were doing it in slippers!
When you get to the crater lip, there is a very narrow ledge enough for only 1.5 people to walk at once! Sends an adrenaline rush through you. There is a barrier facing the volcano mouth so don't worry.
The more adventurous can venture further along the crater lip where there's no barrier!