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visiting mount bromo, Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, caldera, volcanic activity in indonesia (1)

Sunrise over the volcano

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This is the website of travel writer, Michael Turtle. After working in broadcast journalism for a decade in Australia, Michael left Sydney to travel the world indefinitely and write about his discoveries.

Mount Bromo, Indonesia

There aren’t many reasons tourists take the road south from Surabaya. To be fair, there aren’t many reasons tourists would even be in Surabaya in the first place, but let’s overlook that for now. Because the city is the staging point for the 120 kilometre journey down East Java to one of Indonesia’s most beautiful natural attractions.

I’m talking about Mount Bromo, the active volcano that lies in the middle of a large valley. With its top blown off, it appears more crater than mountain, while putrid sulphurous gas and smoke billow out from within.

visiting mount bromo, Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, caldera, volcanic activity in indonesia (10)

One of the reasons it has become such a popular site for visitors is that Mount Bromo doesn’t exist in isolation. The valley is actually a ‘caldera’ – an enormous cauldron-like pit created by the ground collapsing after a major eruption. And all through and around this caldera are the remnants of volcanic action of the past… and the ominous signs of more to come.

visiting mount bromo, Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, caldera, volcanic activity in indonesia (6)

Most people start their visit well before the sun is up, in preparation for the sunrise. In a convoy of jeeps (the road is too bad for anything else, so the jeep cartel owners tell me), we head towards a nearby mountain, Mount Penanjakan. From the end of the road, it’s a twenty minute climb to the viewing area, although dozens of locals with horses will gladly accept some money for a ride up. I had been warned that it would be cold at the top, but I think that must have been by Indonesian standards because, although the rays are yet to reach out across the terrain, it is far from chilly.

visiting mount bromo, Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, caldera, volcanic activity in indonesia (8)

Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park

As the sun rises, the clouds are the first to catch the colour. Red. Pink. Orange. Then the valley starts to glow. The shadowy outline of the mountains come into the focus and vista across the whole area is suddenly bathed in light. It is a good way to start the morning, indeed.

visiting mount bromo, Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, caldera, volcanic activity in indonesia (9)

An hour later, down at the base of Mount Bromo itself, I am confronted with the ‘sand sea’. It was hard to get perspective from the viewpoint but now, as I am forced to quickly shield my face as a wind gust tries to blast grains into my eyes, it feels like something from Africa or the Middle East. The only vegetation is up on the cliffs around the caldera, watching fearfully down at this barren landscape. These are the wastelands of East Java, the plains poisoned for eons by volcanoes, a dangerous ghetto of sulphuric solitude.

visiting mount bromo, Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, caldera, volcanic activity in indonesia (7)

visiting mount bromo, Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, caldera, volcanic activity in indonesia (3)

But again, there are horsemen here. While many visitors choose to walk the 30 minutes or so to the top of Mount Bromo, there is once more the option of going on horseback. The riders, covered up to protect themselves from the sandstorms, have an eerie and romantic ruggedness to their appearance. A Hindu temple set against the grey landscape demonstrates their connection to this region.

visiting mount bromo, Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, caldera, volcanic activity in indonesia (2)

At the top itself, there’s only so much to do. The gases coming from the crater are quite overpowering and at times it’s a bit uncomfortable to stand at the edge and look down. Sudden bursts of strong wind blow a concoction of smoke and sand right into my face. But to look down into the volcano makes me feel a bit insignificant.

visiting mount bromo, Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, caldera, volcanic activity in indonesia (5)

This is a unique part of the country. It’s more than just a volcano – it is a whole tract of land which has evolved over the millennia from the geological activity beneath it. It’s created a natural phenomenon much larger than any tour can do justice. It just feels… special… to be here.

Time Travel Turtle was a guest of the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.

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34 Comments
  • BlogDaz | Nov 27, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    That reminds me of a place (I think it was in Indonesia) I saw on a documentary, they were mining sulphur, certainly not the healthiest career but they made good money by local standards.
    BlogDaz recently posted..Thailand Land Of FaceMy Profile

    • RandyIsmail | Nov 27, 2012 at 6:06 pm

      I believe the place you mention is Kawah Ijen, there are a lot of sulphur miner over there and even if the pay is good they still living life barely above the poverty line. But still Kawah Ijen is also one of the main tourist destination in East Java.

      • Michael Turtle | Nov 28, 2012 at 12:29 pm

        Sounds interesting. Would you recommend people visit there as well as Mount Bromo? Or are they similar enough if you only have time for one?

        • RandyIsmail | Nov 30, 2012 at 2:19 am

          I would recommend you to visit both Bromo and Ijen. I guess both of them are pretty similar if you’re talking about volcanoes, sulfur and crater but the feeling and the experience are different, mainly because of the sulfur miner. You gotta talk to them to understand why are they doing such dangerous work, I think they have a story or two to tell you. Also you can go further into the crater to see the turquoise-colored-sulfuric-acid-lake in the middle of it,

  • Chris | Nov 27, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    Some nice photos there mate, especially that eerie one looking down into the crater at the end.
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    • Michael Turtle | Nov 28, 2012 at 12:31 pm

      Thanks, Chris. You wouldn’t want to have stayed up there too long, though. It was pretty uncomfortable with all the smoke and sand. And, after such an early morning, I was ready for some coffee by this point! :)

  • Cathy Sweeney | Nov 28, 2012 at 9:00 am

    Very interesting story and fantastic photos of your experience at Mount Bromo. I can understand how you’d feel special to be there.
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    • Michael Turtle | Nov 28, 2012 at 12:32 pm

      It’s hard not to feel special when you’re surrounded by the enormity of nature. And I really didn’t expect the sand sea to look like that so it kind of took me by surprise a bit.

  • ANGLO/Dale | Nov 28, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    Terrifying place to find yourself in should the ground start shaking & the heat start spiraling up. But, I’d have stood next to you all the same with views like that to oggle at.
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    • Michael Turtle | Dec 7, 2012 at 10:21 am

      Ha, thanks mate. Yeah, if there had started to be a little bit of ground shaking, I would’ve been out of there as fast as possible!!

  • Angela | Nov 28, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    Great photos, not the usual landscape that comes to mind thinking of Indonesia!
    Angela recently posted..Exploring beautiful, medieval, shady ViterboMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Dec 7, 2012 at 10:28 am

      I know – it was quite a strange area in the middle of Java, which is normally quite green. But that’s what made the experience so surreal, I think.

  • D.J. - The World of Deej | Nov 29, 2012 at 12:01 am

    Great post and pictures as always…Love the one looking into the crater. Plus, my absolute favorite time of any day are the minutes before the sun comes over the horizon…
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    • Michael Turtle | Dec 7, 2012 at 10:33 am

      I very rarely see the minutes before the sun comes up (unless I’m on my way home) :) So, yes, it was quite a treat to see sunrise from such a beautiful location!

  • Lillie - @WorldLillie | Nov 29, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    Very poetic piece, both in words and images. Lovely!
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    • Michael Turtle | Dec 7, 2012 at 10:38 am

      Thanks. It was a really pretty place. Especially with the contrast to the rest of the countryside.

  • The Guy | Nov 30, 2012 at 3:50 am

    Such a stunning, varied and dangerous place all in one! Your photos are stunning and it is a great story. I can only imagine what it would be like to climb a volcano.
    The Guy recently posted..Is Battleship The Movie Any Good?My Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Dec 7, 2012 at 10:40 am

      Thankfully this was a relatively easy one to climb. If you really want hear about a difficult time to get up, then check out my story from Chile about the ice-covered one!! :)

  • Stephanie - The Travel Chica | Dec 2, 2012 at 1:37 am

    Incredible photos! Now i want to go :-)
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..The best way to learn about history and culture in NYC? … Food!My Profile

  • Sam | Dec 4, 2012 at 9:14 am

    Looks amazing. Love the dawn photography of the volcano.
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    • Michael Turtle | Dec 7, 2012 at 11:26 am

      It’s such a beautiful time of day.

  • Jennifer | Dec 4, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    Active volcanoes fascinate me! This will be one to add to my bucket list.
    Jennifer recently posted..Splish-Splashing at Aquaventure at Atlantis The PalmMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Dec 7, 2012 at 11:33 am

      If you like volcanoes, this is a good one. I’ve climbed a few and this had the most smoke and stuff coming out of it, I think.

      • Laricya | Jul 3, 2013 at 8:26 pm

        talking about mountain, you should try Mahameru in Indonesia too!

  • Laurence | Dec 8, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Seriously epic photos. Indonesia clearly has a lot going for it!
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    • Michael Turtle | Dec 11, 2012 at 1:02 am

      Oh man, it has SO much going for it. I can’t wait to get back there and explore even more. But imagine what you could do with your camera skills there!!

  • Anisha Shah | Dec 8, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    I climbed up to the viewpoint at dawn to watch sunrise here…spectacular! Did you learn about the temple on the ground? When Bromo last erupted it caused much devastation, but somehow not one drop of lava touched the temple at its foot! Amazing place

    • Michael Turtle | Dec 11, 2012 at 1:03 am

      Oh wow, I didn’t know that about the temple. It seemed like a really special building and looked so impressive with that backdrop!

  • Ally | Dec 17, 2012 at 9:36 am

    Love the photos! What type of camera do you use?
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    • Michael Turtle | Dec 17, 2012 at 9:13 pm

      Thanks, Ally. I use a Canon 600D… it’s a nice camera but I just use the standard kit lens (and don’t really take it off automatic too often…)

  • Andrea Amanda | Jun 27, 2013 at 9:12 am

    You must try to climb Semeru Mountain :)

  • Bromo Sunrise and Everything More | IndohoyIndohoy | Aug 14, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    […] Time Travel Turtle: Sunrise Over the Volcano […]

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