Home > Travel > At Gunung Bromo, East Java, Indonesia

At Gunung Bromo, East Java, Indonesia

This article is the second part of my Indonesian trip coverage. In first part I visited and climbed  Gunung Semeru. Since I was in the area, I decided to pay the visit to Bromo as well (Bromo and Semeru are not that far apart). I have been there once in 2009 and I can say it is very nice and photogenic area. It is far more “touristy” as it is easily  accessible by car. There has been an eruption in 2010 and I was quite curious how the place looks like now.

The day after we returned from Semeru, we soon got ready to leave for Bromo. After quick breakfast we jumped into 4WD Toyota and made our way to Tengger Caldera, which is part of Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park.

Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park is located in East Java, Indonesia, to the east of Malang and to the south-east of Surabaya, the capital of East Java. It is the only conservation area in Indonesia that has a sand sea, the Tengger Sand Sea, across which is the caldera of an ancient volcano Tengger, from which four new volcanic cones have emerged. This unique feature covers a total area of 5,250 hectares at an altitude of about 2,100 m. Source: Wikipedia

Crater of Gunung Bromo before 2010 eruption

Gunung Bromo in 2009 eruption. Crater has no lake and big hole that appeared after 2010 eruption.

Soon after leaving Ranupani village we saw the ridge of Tengger Caldera. Car slowly made it’s way down to the bottom of it which is completely flat, partially covered with grass and areas around Bromo with sand and volcanic ash and dust. It took 20 minutes to drive across this giant crater. I soon realised that Bromo feels different. It looks lot more sandy and less rocky. At 10:30am  Sun already high in the sky showing it’s strength. Most of the tourist and local horsemen already left. (Bromo is usually climbed right after sunrise ). It was pretty windy so it really felt like Sea of Sand.

Bromo is very easy to climb. The elevation difference from start point to the edge of crater is not big at all. Cars usually bring tourists right to the mountain. First part is quite flat ascent and later there are stairs built on steeper part for easier access. Local horseman offer you horse transport right to the stairs. I think it is interesting only for ladies who forgot where they are and didn’t bring proper foot wear. On the way up I noticed how damaged the stairs were. The result of recent explosion. Once I looked inside the crater I noticed a big hole with turquoise mini lake in it.  Whole crater was very dusty like the outside part. and there was no steam coming out of the crater as last time. Well, this place will never look same like before. I didn’t spend there too much time and soon I made my way down. My knee still hurts after Semeru descent and I thought it is better to check in to the hotel, have little rest and then come out for sunset.

About 4pm I was out again scouting for a good location to shoot sunset. Bromo is famous mostly for sunrise and I had no idea how the light will play on sunset. But I didn’t want to miss the opportunity. Besides it felt great to be alone away from people. Surroundings were nice and quiet only interrupted occasionaly by sound of Jeep or motorbike. I have found my location and set up for the shoot. Sunset happened very fast. I almost didn’t notice, that is how fast it was. Unfortunately it was not so dramatic as I expected. Sky was completely clear, no dramatic clouds and angle of the setting sun was not ideal from position where I was. I still made few shots and then returned back to hotel with plan to come out after the dark and photograph Milky Way one more time. Unfortunately skies were not favourable for this kind of shot. I decided to have rest and sleep since tomorrow we are off early morning for sunrise.

Crater of Gunung Bromo after 2010 eruption

Crater of Gunung Bromo after 2010 eruption looks more dusty and there is small turquoise at the bottom.

From experience I know that sunrise lookout is a crowded  place. Literally hundreds of Jeeps made their way from all hotels around the area to the lookout point. We started of at 4am morning, which I felt, is quite late to secure a good spot. After about 40 minutes long bumpy ride on the worst road in the world our Jeep climbed up to 2700m altitude and we quickly rushed to the spot. At first sight it looked full but then I managed to find empty spot on the right side to the main area. Unfortunately sun comes out on the other side but by the time I realised this it was probably too late to change my location. I decided to stay and started to set up for the shoot. Standard checklist, tripod, camera on manual, focus to infinity, low ISO, aperture around F8 to minimise diffraction, remote shutter release, mirror lock-up. al checked and double checked. Now only wait till I actually can see something.

There were lots of flashes firing all around. It is quite annoying since it can introduce unwanted light spillage into your photograph. Nothing one can do…sigh. I started to take shots. I have tried different zoom levels and framing. I also played with bracketing with HDR image in mind. Once again, there were no low lying clouds which took away a lot from usual drama. Bromo is very photogenic and most of the photographs are nice, they have only one problem. They look all the same. Same spot, same vantage point. I wish I had more time to scout the area more for better location and with less people around. At the time of writing this article I am sure I would do much better if I just stayed at the same spot I took my sunset pictures. I didn’t see many pictures from that vantage point if any at all.

Horseman from Bromo

Horseman leading his horse on the slopes of Mount Bromo

After having intimate encounter with bumpy road again, we had our breakfast and were ready to leave Bromo for Surabaya. There were couple of locals sitting around just across the road from hotel. Some resting, some selling coffee, food or souvenirs. I sat there for about 40 minutes trying to capture some shots. Light conditions rendered photographs very contrasty at that time. Still, I was amazed that camera was able to retain so much detail in shadows. It was not so good in sharpness. I am generally quite “wobbly” and I need to work on my hand-held shooting technique a lot.

Drive back to Surabaya felt quite long. Especially the middle part when we were caught in a traffic. actually we were involved in little accident when our driver went hard on breaks to avoid crash into car ahead of us. We had enough distance from them so we stopped safely but then we felt light bump. Quick look at the back mirror and we saw a motorbike with driver and female passenger on the ground. They obviously didn’t keep enough distance and  were not able to stop. Luckily nobody was seriously hurt that it would need a medical attention. It is kind of miracle that on crazy Indonesian roads nothing more serious happened.

Sunrise at Gunung Bromo

Sunrise at Gunung Bromo captured from “official” lookout at the rim of Tenger caldera.

After arriving to Surabaya we checked in the same hostel as first night. we had dinner at KFC (booooooo) and then just rest till next morning. Unfortunately we didn’t get too much sleep since there was some sort of argument between owner and I think one of the guests. It was dragging since 1am till 3:30 am. That was time we had to wake up anyway. Soon taxi was ready and we were on our way to airport.

There was a lot packed into these 5 days. Especially the first part, climbing Semeru was though. High altitude, long distance trekking with fairly heavy bags, extreme temperatures, lack of sleep and also slight fever took it’s toll. I have to say I was never so tired in my life, not even after getting up to Kalapattar in Himalayas (5545m). But I am glad I did this. Only regret I have is that due to physical exhaustion I was not able to take as many photographs as I wanted, especially to put my camera into a good test but this is how it was. And boy it was fun. I can recommend it to anybody who is not afraid to do some serious workout. Besides it is the best way how to loose weight … so I did, 3kg in 5 day. That is not bad 🙂

[tb_google_map address=”Bromo, indonesia” width=”100%” height=”300px” zoom=”12″ maptype=”satellite”]


Part 1: Climbing Gunung Semeru, East Java, Indonesia

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