Saturday, June 29th

The Island of Krakatoa lies in the Sunda Straight between Java and Sumatra. It has probably been the most famous volcano in the world, ever since its cataclysmic eruption in 1883.

We decided to visit Krakatoa as a day trip from Jakarta, which made for quite a long day, as it takes about 5 hours by car and boat each way. The drive from Jakarta to the coast near Labuhan takes about three hours. The first part towards the west coast of Java is quite fast on a large highway, but once off the highway it takes another 1 to 2 hours on small congested roads along the coast. There is a lot of large heavy industry out along the coast here.

Our trip was made a bit more complicated by the fact that the driver we had booked to pick us up at 5 am did not show up. When we called the tour company, they did not seem particularly apologetic and just said that the driver somehow couldn’t make it. We were lucky to be able to book a car through the hotel on short notice. Unfortunately we had the whole trip including the boat and guide booked through this tour operator, and so we didn’t really know whether we even had a chance to get to the island, but we decided to take a chance anyway.

It took our driver a while to find the little harbor, where the boats leave from. But once we got there it all became quite easy. We were able to book a small boat with a guide straight away, and it took about 45 min for them to organize the boat, get us lunch, and we were off.
This was a really small boat on very rough seas. For someone like me, who is quite vulnerable to seasickness, this was not a  particularly pleasant boat trip, but I survived it without any major nausea issues.
It took about 2 hours on the boat to get to Krakatoa. After about an hour we started to see the mountains of the islands appear in the distance. But only once we got fairly close did we start to see the new Island, the Son of Krakatoa, which is a bleak smoking pile of black lava on top, but already has a lush green forest growing around the bottom.
Our captain anchored right in front of the completely black beach. We get off the boat and walk around on this amazing black sand beach, while our guide goes and checks with the ranger station to see if we can climb up the mountain.
A little history about the 1883 eruption:
Up until 1883 Krakatoa was a fairly large island (about 5 by 9 kilometers in size) with three volcanic peaks, the highest of which was just over 800 meters high. The volcanoes, which had been quiet for several hundred years, started to come to life during the spring and summer of 1883. It started with a few ash and smoke eruptions and a number of minor earthquakes, which became more frequent and intense as the summer went on. Until - after another series of smaller eruptions and earthquakes over a few days - on August 27th 1883 the entire island exploded in a huge cataclysmic event, which to this day is one of the largest and loudest explosions ever seen or heard by humans. The explosion caused a tsunami that killed at least 35,000 people along the coasts of Java and Sumatra (some estimates put the death toll at over 100,000). It completely obliterated the island leaving just one small and completely lifeless piece of land standing on one side (now the island of Sertung). The rest of the island disappeared into the ocean.

The explosion was reportedly heard over 3,000 km away as far as in Perth, Australia. The pressure wave from the event was recorded on barometric equipment circling the globe up to 7 times. Krakatoa’s eruption is estimated to have been a VEI 6 event (with the explosive power of the equivalent of 13,000 Hiroshima nuclear bombs). It ejected approximately 25 cubic kilometers of rocks and ash up to 30 km high into the atmosphere which lead to a drop in global temperatures and caused chaotic weather patterns around the globe for several years afterwards.
The Krakatoa eruption was also one of the first global news events broadcast around the world via newly laid telegraph cables. (In contrast the even larger eruption of Tambora on the Eastern side of Java in 1815 had barely been reported anywhere in the Western World.)

(To learn more about the eruption and the history of the Island I can recommend a very good book by Simon Winchester called “Krakatoa – The Day the World Exploded”.)
Anak Krakatoa:
Apart from its history, what makes this place so fascinating today is the brand new island that has since grown out of the caldera. In 1927 a small piece of lava rock rising from an underwater eruption appeared above the water line. Over the following years this steadily grew into a new Island, which was named Anak Krakatoa (“The Son of Krakatoa”). This small piece of land has in the last 87 years grown to a height of over 300 meters.

Our guide comes back a few minutes later with the exciting news that we are allowed to walk up the mountain of Anak Krakatoa. Before we got on the boat we had initially been told that we are probably not even allowed to land on the Island, since it had recently been erupting again and it was considered unsafe, but the ranger stationed here said that the mountain currently is quite calm and it is safe enough to walk a little higher up.  Our guide leads us through the narrow strip of forest, that is already amazingly lush and dense, given that it has only been here for a few decades. Soon after we get a little higher, vegetation stops and we are in a black moonscape with no sign of life above us.
We see a couple of huge boulders that had been thrown out during one of the more recent eruptions. Our guide points out a large crater left behind by one of these boulders and we are hoping none of those will come flying down in the next hour or so:
On one side of the island we see the huge lava flow from the most recent eruption. The rocks from this lava flow are still reddish and clearly distinguishable from the rest of the black mountain side. 
We cannot walk near the summit, since it was smoking with hot gases. The rocks feel warm to the touch up here.

The island in the background in the following pictures is Sertung Krakatoa, which is the only piece that was left standing after the explosion. It is expected that Sertung and Anak Krakatoa will grow together and form a single Island again some time over the next hundred years or so.


We see bright yellow pieces of sulphur lying around.
After getting back down we have our boxed lunch of Nasi Goreng by the beach and then get back on the boat for another 2 hours of bumpy ride back to Java. 
The long drive back in the dark is fairly uneventful, and we get back to Jakarta around 11pm, by which time even the traffic is somewhat bearable. It was a long and exhausting but also beautiful and fascinating day.

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