Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park is in East Java, Indonesia.
The national park is named after its two mountains, Mount Semeru (the highest in Java at 3,676 metres), Mount Bromo (the most popular) and the Tengger people who inhabit the area.
Mount Semeru also known as Mahameru ("Great Mountain"), is one of Indonesia's most active volcanoes. What stands out most about this mountain is the fact that it erupts periodically (and very reliably so). Every 20 minutes or so, the volcano belches out a huge cloud of steam and smoke, sometimes interspersed with ash and stones. Climbing Mount Semeru requires some planning and a permit from the national park authority. The mountain is often closed due to its highly active nature.
Mount Bromo (2,329 metres) is easily recognized as the entire top has been blown off and the crater inside constantly belches white sulphurous smoke. It sits inside the massive Tengger caldera (diameter approximately 10 km), surrounded by the Laut Pasir (Sea of Sand) of fine volcanic sand. The overall effect is unsettlingly unearthly, especially when compared to the lush green valleys all around the caldera.
The major access point is Cemoro Lawang (also Cemara Lawang or Cemora Lawang - blame the East Javanese accent!) at the northeastern edge of the caldera, but there are also trails from Tosari (northwest) and Ngadas (southwest). The village of Ngadisari, on the road from Probolinggo about 5.5 km before Cemoro Lawang, marks the entrance to the national park. Both Cemoro Lawang and Ngadisari are rather picturesque, with brightly-painted houses and flower beds outside.
Temperatures are refreshingly cool during the day but outright cold at night as temperatures can drop close to zero in the summer and are rarely much above 5°C in winter. Daytime temperatures anywhere in the park never exceed 20°C with low teens being normal.
It can rain at anytime and the mean average rainfall is 6,600 mm. Most of that comes in the wet season though - November to March. During periods of heavy rain in January and February especially, many parts of the park are inaccessible due to flooding. Landslips are also a real issue at these times.
Javanese folklore has it that during the 15th century, Princess Roro Anteng (daughter of the Majapahit King Brawijaya) and her husband Joko Seger fled marauding Islamic forces and ended up in safety at Mount Bromo. Here they developed a new kingdom and named it Teng-ger using parts of their respective surnames.
The Kingdom of Tengger prospered and their religion flourished but the royal couple were unable to produce an heir to the throne. In desperation they prayed and meditated on Bromo for many days before the crater opened and the almighty god Hyang Widi Wasa announced that they would be given children with the condition that the last borne was to be sacrifcied back to the mountain.
No less than 25 children were produced but many years later Roro and Joko broke the condition and refused to sacrifice their last borne, Prince Kesuma. A dreadful eruption of Bromo followed and swallowed Kesuma into the crater. To appease the great God, Kesuma's brothers and sisters held an offering ceremony at the crater once every year and this still happens today - theUpacara Kasada**held on the full moon of the 12th month (Kasada) of the Tenggerese calendar.
The area in and around the park is inhabited by the Tenggerese, one of the few significant Hindu communities left on the island of Java. The local religion is a remnant from the Majapahit era and therefore quite similar to that on Bali but with even more animist elements. The Tenggerese are believed to be descendents of the Majapahit prices and were driven into the hills after mass arrivals in the area of devoutly Muslim Madurese in the 19th century. These Madurese immigrants were labourers working for Dutch coffee plantation owners and the native Hindu people of the region soon found themselves outnumbered and either converted to Islam or fled to the inhospitable high mountain tops where they remain today.
The religion is quite low key though (certainly when compared to Bali) with the most visible manifestation of faith being the rather austere Poten temple in the sea of sand. The Tenggerese number about 600,000 and they reside in 30 villages scattered in and around the park with smaller communities elsewhere in East Java.
For many visitors, the sight of the angular-faced, sunburned, moustachioed Tenggerese wrapped in poncho-like blankets, trotting about on ponies with craggy mountains as the backdrop, more resembles Peru than Indonesia!
If ever a landscape were need to demonstrate the meaning of the phrase desolate beauty, then this is surely it. Rugged, barren volcanic peaks, gravel plains and that sea of sand. Truly unworldly.
The park also includes large areas which are very lush and green fed by rivers from the high tops. The medium elevations are clad with much thinner forest before this gives way to the barren plateau and peaks.
In the parts of the park which most interest visitors (the caldera and mountain tops) flora and fauna is limited - a general lack of vegetation. At lower elevations and away from the sea of sand there are though lush green valleys with a typical tropical forest flora. The higher elevations before the tree line ends are largely clad with casuarina (cemara) forest.
Down in the valleys, a few leopard cats are present but rarely seen. Java rusa deer, muntjac, marbled cat and wild pig are amongst the mammals more likely to be glimpsed by casual visitors. This park is not so renowned for birdwatching as others in Java but up on the plateau you often see hawks and eagles soaring over the valleys below.
East Java Tourism Office, +62 31 8531815 or 8531820, +62 31 8531815 or 8531820, Jalan Wisata Menanggal, Surabaya, East Java
East Java Tourism Office, +62 341 323966, Jl Jendral Basuki Rachmat 6, Malang, East Java
Office of the Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park, +62 341 491828, +62 341 491828, Jl Raden Intan No6, Malang, East Java
Mount Bromo is the perhaps most accessible of Java's active volcanoes and for that reason it does get a lot of domestic tourists, often in package groups. It is also a popular destination for high school groups who camp in the area. For that reason, those visitors seeking a quiet appreciation of the park should avoid major domestic holiday periods. That being said, this is a large park and providing you get away from the main watchpoint areas, quiet enjoyment is possible at any time.
The nearest major airport is in Surabaya, three to four hours away by car (and more by bus). Surabaya is well served by regular domestic flights from Jakarta and Bali and some other countries in Asia.
There is a small regional airport at Malang with flights from Jakarta only and access from here makes sense if you intend to enter the park via the Tumpang/Ngadas route.
There are three established routes into the park.
The nearest larger town is Probolinggo, on the north coast of Java about 45 km as the crow flies from the park (but it feels a lot further). This is by far the commonest route used to access the park as it is the most straightforward (but not necessarily the most interesting). About 6 km west of Probolinggo on the main coastal highway, turn south at the village of Ketapang. From there the road snakes up for 40 km through Sukapura (not a bad idea to stay the night here as the hotels are good) to Ngadisari and finally Cemaro Lawang on the edge of the caldera. Total journey time about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
To get to Probolinggo from Surabaya, take a Damri shuttle bus from the Juanda International Airport in Surabaya to the Bungurasih bus terminal (also called Purabaya) in the city. Then take an express Patas air-conditioned bus for the 2 to 3 hour journey from Surabaya to Probolinggo.
This route is only a little harder than the Probolinggo option and Pasuruan has the benefit of being closer to Surabaya. From Pasuruan on the main north coast road between Surabaya and Probolinggo, take the road 45 km south to Tosari via Pastepan. Irregular buses ply this route or you can drive it in a regular car. From Tosari to Wonokitri it is another 3 km via a local bemo or on the back of a truck. From Wonokotri up to Bromo it is a really nice three hour 14 km trek, so you do need to start very early if you want sunrise. Alternatively you should be able to hire a 4 x 4 with a driver for that journey. There is accommodation in both Tosari and Wonokitri.
This route approaches from the south east and is seldom used due to the lack of facilities. Certainly the most off-the-beaten-path way to approach the park. Take a microbus from Ardosari bus station in Malang to Tumpang and then a 4WD vehicle or a heavy truck from Tumpang to Ngadas. There are no facilities to speak of at Ngadas but you will find informal accommodation in family homes in the village. At Ranupani up on the top there is very simple homestay accommodation avaiable - ask at the park office there. The route from Ngadas on to the caldera is interesting because it transverses the Sea of Sand and directly passes Mount Bromo. A dirt road leads across the flat bottom of the caldera, up to Jemplang on the southern rim and on to Ranupani where you should check in at the park office. You have to take a 4WD vehicle (unless you prefer to walk).
From the village of Cemoro Lawang, you can easily hike up Mount Bromo and Mount Penanjakan and the best time to do this is pre-dawn. Villagers offer horseback rides to the top of Mount Bromo and you can also hire a jeep to take you around the area. The whole area is a hiker's dream though - walk if you possibly can.
By far the most common activity in the park is visiting the collapsed but still smouldering Mount Bromo, located in the huge, unearthly moonscape of a caldera known as the Sea of Sand (Pasir Lautan). The much photographed view of steaming Mount Bromo surrounded by the Sea of Sand, its rather serene neighbour Mount Batok and mighty Mount Semeru as the southern backdrop, is one of the great iconic images of Indonesia.
Mount Batok (2,440m) is a brown volcano at the north centre of the caldera. Unlike the other nearby peaks it is no longer active and actually has some vegetation growing on it, mostly casuarina (cemara) trees that somehow manage to survive even on volcanic ash.
The wonderfully coloured and immaculately tidy Tenggerese houses. The Tenggerese culture is unique and an effort to understand these fine people, where they have come from and how they live in this sometimes difficult environment, will be rewarded.
The Upacara Kasodo (also Kasada) is held every year at the full moon of the 12th month of the Tenggerese calendar and it is the most demonstrable Tenggerese religious ceremony. The Tenggerese invoke the approval of the gods to ensure a successful harvest, to be spared from any natural calamities and to be cured of disease. Selected Tenggerese men climb down to precarious ledges on the Bromo crater wall and catch the offerings thrown down by their excited neighbours above. A scramble ensues for possession of the offerings and whole thing is both exciting and rather terrifying as it is not unknown in all the mayhem for a "catcher" to slip off his ledge and fall. You can check the date of the next Upacara Kasodo at the East Java Tourism Office in Surabaya (+62 31 567 7219).
Madakaripura Waterfall. These spectacular falls in the foothills of the park are easily reached by anyone visiting with their own transport. From Sukapura take the north-heading road towards Tongas and after about 6 km close to the village of Sapih the turning to the falls is signposted on your left. Continue down this small road to reach the car park for the falls. There are often lots of hawkers in the car park waiting to hire or sell you umbrellas to protect from the spray. There are actually seven waterfalls here some of which drop over the access path during the wet season, so an umbrella is not as silly as it sounds. Legend abounds here: bathing in the chill waters is said to be an elixir of life, the water is regarded as holy by the Tenggerese and is used in their important ceremonies, and the great Majapahit prime minister Gajah Madah is reputed to have meditated here. A very attractive and relaxing spot.
The Poten. This is the Tenggerese Hindu temple that sits looking eerily beautiful in the sea of sand close to Mount Bromo. There is something quite magical about this place and the frugality of its decoration and austere design seems very appropriate for the location. Easily found, you really cannot miss it.
Lakes Ranupani and Ranu Regulo. These small, serene and always misty lakes are adjacent to the village of Ranupani on the south side of the crater. The village is the usual start point for ascending Mount Semeru and there is a park office here. Most visitors to this side of the crater will be happy though to take in the beauty of the small highland lakes and leave climbing Mount Semeru to the professionals. Ranupani is an extremely mystical village even by East Javanese standards and the rather ghostly lakes only add to the feelings of spirituality here. If this side of the crater appeals to you, it should be possible to arrange some simple homestay accommodation in Ranupani - ask at the park office.
When timing any activities in the area, bear in mind that sunset is soon after 5 PM and sunrise is correspondingly early at around 5:30 AM. This means you will usually need to get up by 3:30 AM or so to get to a watchpoint in time for dawn.
For the keen hiker, this park is a dream come true and you can make your own schedule. There are so many possibilities once you are away from the obvious well known area at Mount Bromo.
Mount Bromo edges tinged with sulphur and always bubbling, is the main sight here and sadly, for some tourists it is the only sight. To reach it on foot, pick the left fork at Cemoro Lawang's solitary crossing, then head down the ramp into the caldera and then across the caldera to the Hindu temple (Poten) at the foot of the mountain. From the temple a steep path of 250 concrete steps leads to the edge of the crater and a precarious meter-wide ledge from where you can gaze into the steaming crater. Local jeep-hirers will often try to persuade tourists that the journey to the mountain is not within walking distance in order to hire them jeeps or ponies, but the walk from the tourist centre to the top of the mountain should take no longer than 90 minutes and is about 3km.
Mount Penanjakan (2,770m), located just north of the caldera, is a mountaintop viewpoint accessible by paved road from Tosari and hence popular with jeeps and even tour buses. Most of the crowd comes to see the dawn at 5 AM and you will likely have the large concrete observation post to yourself if you arrive later in the day. A steady hike from Bromo to Batok and then around the rim to Penanjakan will take about three hours and the last ascent of about 500 metres is very stiff indeed but truly worthwhile. Ancient Javanese Hindu texts tell of how Bromo-Penanjakan-Semeru (or Mahameru as it was then) was the spiritual axis of the universe and the point of all creation. The view from Penanjakan will explain why - it is truly breathtaking. This is where most of those iconic picture postcard views are taken from. After you have had your fill of the views, a hike back across the sea of sand to Cemoro Lawang will take about two hours.
Mount Semeru can be climbed over two days but it is a venture for serious trekkers only and requires a high level of physical fitness. A permit must obtained in advance and would be climbers should be very aware that the mountain will be off-limits during periods of eruptive activity. This is a very active volcano. If you do decide you are up for this you should be able to find a guide to go at least part of the way with you at the park office in Ranupani. That office is also the best source of information for an assessment of the current state of the mountain and for hooking up with serious climbers from around the world.
Viewpoint #2, along the trail from Cemoro Lawang to Mount Penanjakan, is an excellent way to get a stunning view of the caldera without the crowds. To reach it, head west from Cemoro Lawang (past the Cemoro Indah hotel) for 6 km, passing Tenngerese farms and fields. The paved road eventually turns into a twisty mountain trail that ends with a flight of stairs on the right, and the viewpoint (with concrete shelter) is at the top. Allow 90 minutes hours for the climb up at a steady pace and bring along a flashlight if attempting this at night. From here, you can continue onto Mount Penanjakan by following the trail upwards, after which the trail merges onto the paved road to the viewpoint (total time about 60 minutes one way). If planning to return the same way, mark the spot where the trail emerges onto the road (if you pass a stone lantern on the way down you have gone too far!), and note that descending on this section can get slippery due to loose sand and rocks. As of September 2008, the direct route from Cemoro Lawang up to Penanjakan and Viewpoint #2 is severely damaged because of landslides. The path is still passable, but it can be tricky to spot the dangerous parts in the dark — each vistor should have their own flashlight.
Every lodge and hotel has an attached restaurant and there are few independent eateries of any note.
There are simple roadside warungs though selling the regular basic Indonesian dishes and Rp 2,000 mugs of hot Javanese coffee (kopi panas). There is no nightlife in the usual sense of the word but all restaurants are open at 3AM as that is when everybody wakes to see the sun rise.
Bromo Corner Cafe, in Cemoro Lawang right next to the park office, Decent cafe serving the usual Indonesian staples and excellent local coffee.
Waroeng Basuki, Nice eatery at Cemoro Lawang serving many traditional Indonesian dishes such as **tahu tek** (tofu/beancurd), **rujak cingur** (salad with a sweet and spicy sauce and garnished with ox-nose). Also serves Chinese food. Reasonably priced.
Evenings in the park are quiet. A few beers with fellow travellers are in order.
The mulled wine served at some places in the evening seems to be heated Tuak (a palm wine) with soem local spices added. Only those with the strongest constitution should even consider this and frankly, it is not very nice.
Make sure you always have enough water with you during the day as it is deceptively easy to de-hydrate here, despite the fresh climate.
There are plenty of accommodation options around the park. Facilities at Cemoro Lawang and elsewhere close to the caldera are quite basic though and those visitors looking for more comfortable accommodation should stay in Sukapura or Tosari.
Cafe Lava, Cemoro Lawang, very close to the park entrance, This is a good budget option and it does have a rather wonderful name. Famous for its cheery attitude to visitors and notoriously bad food!
Cemara Indah , +62 335 541019, +62 335 541019, Cemoro Lawang, Bad reputation: hard sell of tours and transport, thefts reported, overpriced. Nice views of Mount Bromo and all 15 rooms have hot water. You can sit in the restaurant and view Mount Bromo directly.
Hotel Bromo Permai, +62 335 23459, Jl Raya Cemoro Lawang, Ngadisari, It is right on top in a fabulous location but it is not cheap compared to the other options. Also reports of the hot water and heating not working.
Lava View Lodge, +62 335 541009, Cemoro Lawang, The most upmarket option in Cemoro Lawang, located at the caldera edge some 500m west of the village and the price is a bit higher than other options here. Looks better from outside than in, but the rooms are clean and have hot water.
Yoschi's , +62 335 541018, This German-run place is a bit of a legend on the backpacker circuit. It is located about 3 km down from Cemero Lawang. Probably the best value option anywhere near the park and serves notably good food. Has 24 rooms and two x 2 bedroom family cottages.
Java Banana Bromo Lodge , +62 335 541193, +62 335 541193, Jl Raya Bromo, Wonotoro, Sukapura, Probolinggo, East Java, A cozy boutique hotel with beautiful views. It is a lodge, cafe and gallery. Also offer mountain bike rental..
Grand Bromo Hotel (formerly Hotel Raya Bromo) , +62 335 581103, +62 335 581103, Desa Sukapura, Probolinggo, East Java, Formerly this was clearly the grandest place to stay near the park but Java Banana may now hold that accolade. Located in Sukapura about one hour down the hill from Cemoro Lawang.
Bromo Cottages , +62 335 515253, +62 335 515253, Tosari, Pasuaran, Despite the name, it is actually a fairly upmarket hotel with 100 rooms. Has a good Chinese restaurant attached and can arrange car hire. Offer a full compliment of organised tours in and around the park as well as catering for the independent traveller.
Bromo Surya Indah Homestay, +62 343 571049, Wonokitri village, Simple place to stay in an excellent location. Popular with budget travellers.
Camping is certainly possible in the park but you must register at the Cemoro Lawang gate (where there is an adjacent campsite). There are many sources of safe, fresh water in the park - ask locally.
Potential campers should be very aware of how cold it gets here though and be thoroughly prepared for that. Heavy duty sleeping bags are essential.
The most popular local product, at least based on the number of hawkers selling them, appears to be the Bromo hat, a colorful wooly hat with BROMO embroidered on it.
Scarfs and extra warm clothing are also popular and useful if you are not prepared for the cold mountain air.
Temperatures on Mount Bromo are refreshingly cool during the day (although sunburn is still a real danger), but outright cold at night, as temperatures can drop to zero in the summer and are rarely much above 5°C in winter. Some of the cheaper places to stay may not provide adequate blankets or heating, so come prepared. If needed, you can rent jackets and hats at Cemoro Lawang and at the Penanjakan viewpoint for about Rp 10,000.
There are cases of Malaria each year in the lower foothills of the park and any visitor planning a long stay or to camp in this area should take necessary precautions. This is not though a problem for those visiting Mount Bromo or the high plateau only.
The "path" at the top of the steps up to Mount Bromo is only about 1 metre wide and in places the drop into the crater is sheer and considerable. Be careful, make sure you have a flashlight for any pre-dawn climb and always have your wits about you.
Bromo is an active volcano, and Semeru is a very active volcano. In June 2004, two tourists were killed at Bromo by rocks flung from a sudden explosion. The Smithsonian Institute's Volcanic Activity Report keeps an eye on both, and is worth checking.
It gets very cold up on the high tops at night, probably colder than anywhere in Indonesia outside of the glacial highlands of Papua. Be suitably prepared for nightime temperatures not far above zero.
To enter the park an official Rp 50,000 permit must be purchased at one of the four entrance gates.
If you intend to climb Mount Semeru (only for serious trekkers and often closed due to eruptive activity) you will need to apply for a permit in advance to:
Office of Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, Jl. Raden Intan No6, PO Box 54, Malang, East Java, Indonesia. Tel: +62 341 491828
Malang is the cultural capital of East Java.
Banyuwangi for ferries to Bali and more national parks.
Surabaya for flights elsewhere in Indonesia and to Singapore and Malaysia.
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Burmesedays, Jani Patokallio, Denis Yurkin, Jane and Felicity T, Texugo
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