Gunung Bromo

This active volcano stands at 2329 m and is one of the most popular natural sights on Java, lying within the Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park. The park consists of a range of volcanic mountains, the highest of which (and Java's highest) is Gunung Semeru at 3676 m. Semeru is sometimes also called Gunung Mahameru, the mountain abode of the Hindu gods. Wildlife in the park includes wild pig, Timor deer, barking deer and leopards, as well as an abundance of flying squirrels. Perhaps the most distinctive tree is the cemara, which looks on first glance rather like the familiar conifer. It is, however, no relation and grows above 1400 m on the volcanic ash, where few other trees can establish themselves.

The
National Park Information Booth
, has a range of photos and maps, and is a good place to gain some info before attempting Gunung Semeru.

You are unlikely to see a lot of wildlife in the Bromo-Tengger Park unless you manage to get off the beaten track and away from all the human and vehicular traffic. As in other national parks on Java, leopards, civets and monkeys inhabit the forested areas.

The local inhabitants of this area are the Tenggerese people, believed to be descended from the refugees of the Majapahit Kingdom, who fled their lands in AD 928 following the eruption of Gunung Merapi. They embrace the Hindu religion and are the only group of Hindus left on Java today.

For many visitors to Indonesia, the trip to Bromo is their most memorable experience: seeing the sun bathe the crater in golden light, picking out the gulleys and ruts in the almost lunar landscape; sipping sweet
Kopi manis
after a 0330 start; and feeling the warmth of the sun on your face as the day begins. No wonder the Tenggerese view this area as holy, feeling a need to propitiate the gods. It is hard not to leave feeling the divine hand has helped to mould this inspired landscape.

That's the good experience. But like most good things, there are those who are disappointed. In particular, you may find yourself surrounded by hundreds of other tourists (especially July to August) barking into mobile phones and shattering the calm. It is hard to feel the divine hand in such circumstances. The viewpoint at Gunung Pananjakan also suffers from the curse of over-popularity: it has become a popular stop for package tours from Surabaya. The buses even travel to the crater floor, making this area even more crowded at sunrise and entrenching further unsightly vehicle marks across the sea of sand.

Take warm clothing as it can be very cold before sunrise. A scarf to act as a mask to protect against the sulphurous vapour, and a torch to light the way, can also be useful. Avoid changing camera film at the summit; the thin dust can be harmful to the mechanism.

There is a
visitor centre
at Cemoro Lawang, not far from
Café Lava
. There is a range of photographs and maps; it's a good place to obtain information on Gunung Semeru, although it is rarely staffed.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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