Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park
Earth : Asia : Southeast Asia : Indonesia : Java : East Java : Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park
This national park is named after its two mountains, Mount Semeru (the highest in Java at 3,676m), 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). Every 20min 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.
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 5.5km 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.
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, mustachioed Tenggerese wrapped in poncho-like blankets, trotting about on ponies with craggy mountains as the backdrop, more resembles Peru than Indonesia!
If a landscape was ever needed 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.
Flora and fauna
In the parts of the park which most interest visitors (the caldera and mountain tops) flora and fauna is limited by the 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.
Temperatures in the Tengger caldera can drop to 0 C and below at night, but more often only to 10 C. Daytime temperatures are typically quite pleasant 15 C to 20 C. However, if it is cloudy or windy, it can be quite cold, so bring warm wind-proof and water-proof jackets and proper shoes. Domestic visitors exaggerate the coldness, and always prepare for arctic conditions, which it is not.
It can rain at any time and the mean average rainfall of 6.6m is best measured in metres, not 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.
The 2010/2011 eruptions
In late 2010 and early 2011 volcanic ash and incandescent material was thrown up by eruptive activity with a heavy rain of ejected volcanic material falling around the crater. Continuous eruptions on 21 January caused a thin ash fall mainly in the village area of Ngadirejo and Sukapura Wonokerto, Probolinggo district. The impact of the heavy rain and volcanic ash from eruptions during December 2010 and January 2011 resulted in disruption to normal activities and the local economy. The potential for long term environmental damage and health problems amongst the residents in the locality surrounding Mount Bromo was paramount at that time.
Due to high seasonal rainfall in January 2011 the potential for lahar (cold lava) and lava flow (hot lava) was elevated due to the deposits of volcanic ash, sand and other ejected material that thad built up. Activity was dominated by tremor vibration, eruption of ash plumes and ejection of incandescent material.
People living on the banks of the Perahu Ravine, Nganten Ravine and Sukapura River were alerted to the high possibility of lahar flows, especially if further heavy rainfalls occur in the area around Cemorolawang, Ngadisari and Ngadirejo. Eruptions and volcanic tremors were reported on 21 January and 22 January with activity subsiding on 23 January 2011.
The park was reopened to visitors in April 2011.
Official tourism offices
Mount Bromo is perhaps the most accessible of Java's active volcanoes and for that reason it gets 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, as long as the Tenggar caldera in the Mount Bromo volcano complex is not erupting as it did in 2004, late 2010 and early 2011. If so, some caution may be required.
There is a railway station in Probolinggo. It is around 10km from Probolinggo train station to Probolinggo bus terminal and you can use a Bemo for Rp 5,000. Lookup the picture from the terminal to avoid a scam (stop at hotel/travel agency). Outside Probolinggo bus station you can take a Bemo to Cemoro Lawang for Rp 35,000 (Nov 2015). The Bemo will only go once it is filled with 15 people. If you arrive after 16:00, it will be difficult to fill up the entire Bemo. You can negotiate there this a group. Before entering Cemoro Lawang, you will need to pay a conservation fee of Rp 10,000 (Nov 2015) to go inside the village. The Bemos drop you off in the village at the t-crossing; to the left goes to Cafe Lava, the right goes to Cemara Indah Hotel. It takes 1.5h to drive to from Probolinggo to Cemoro Lawang.
There are three established routes into the park.
The Probolinggo → Ngadisari route (Cemoro Lawang and Mount Bromo)
The nearest larger town is Probolinggo, on the north coast of Java about 45km as the crow flies from the park (but it feels a lot further). This is by far the most common route used to access the park as it is the most straightforward (but not necessarily the most interesting). About 6km 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 Cemoro Lawang on the edge of the caldera. Total journey time about 1h30.
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 or Terminal Bus Bungurasih Sby In Google Maps) in the city, bus ticket cost IDR25,000 per person (as of Feb 2017). Then take a PATAS (express) air-conditioned bus for the 2-3h journey from Surabaya to Probolinggo (IDR30,000 as of June 2018). Buses without air-con, but with fans, cost IDR14,000. When you arrive at Bungurasih bus terminal, you will be swarmed with throngs of touts, all overly eager to lead you to a bus at highly inflated prices. You should calmly ignore all of them and walk towards the bus berth where there is a sign that clearly says Probolinggo, this is where you should find a bus operated by PATAS, Gate 5. If you doubt there is a official information desk inside the terminal to ask for directions.
WARNING: Even with a PATAS bus, you are not guaranteed a totally trouble free journey to Probolinggo bus terminal. The PATAS bus may drop you off in front of a private shop with a sign that reads Bus terminal. The real Probolinggo bus terminal is located approx 1km down the same road. Make sure you inspect the surrounding before getting off the bus, a real bus terminal should have lots of other buses parked next to each other. Similar situation could happen on the return journey from Bromo, when the minibus drops you in Probolinggo you may be dropped off on the opposite side of the road to the bus terminal next to a tour company. Someone from this company will try to persuade you take "his private AC bus". In reality all he does is flag down the public bus as it leaves the terminal and tries to charge you more for the ticket. Make sure you get the bus from the terminal!
Green and blue Mini-Buses (10 seats) from Probolinggo to Cemoro Lawang are located right outside the terminal: IDR250,000 (translates to IDR40,000 per passenger). Departure from the terminal bus station as soon as the bus is full or someone pays the full price. Can delay the bus up to 2.5 hours to get enough passengers though after 16:00 it's quite hard to get enough passengers, its possible to negotiate for a whole minibus at IDR300,000. However, the drivers can sometimes be less demanding for return trip back to Probolinggo, and can start out with fewer passengers on board.
In general it is hard to get enough passengers as they often go with 15 seats buses. Mostly they leave half empty and the passengers have to pay the full price. Which is IDR 450,000 for the 15 seat bus. Note that no locals will take these buses and it is a business purely for tourists.
The small yellow mini buses can you bring from the city center of Probolinggo to the "Terminal" (bus station) for IDR 4,000 (Oct, 2014). They try to overcharge by IDR 5,000 or more. If you want to explore Bromo at early morning, you can use 4x4 jeep. Price about IDR.500,000 - 700,000.
The Pasuruan → Tosari route
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 45km south to Tosari via Pasrepan. Irregular buses ply this route or you can drive it in a regular car. From Tosari to Wonokitri it is another 3km via a local bemo or on the back of a truck. From Wonokotri up to Bromo it is a really nice, three hour 14km trek, so you do need to start very early if you want sunrise. Alternatively you should be able to hire a 4x4 with a driver for that journey. There is accommodation in both Tosari and Wonokitri.
The Malang → Tumpang route
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 Arjosari bus station in Malang to Tumpang and then a 4x4 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 4x4 vehicle (unless you prefer to walk).
It is also possible to rent a motorbike and do the journey on your own. Renting a dirt bike in Malang to go to Bromo is more preferable as most of the route are uphill with tight corners and narrow road. Go to dirt bike rental shop in Malang, for example MOTO East Java. See the "Do" section in the Malang article.
Tour from Surabaya
From Surabaya, you can take a tour from one day (midnight) tour to 3D2N tour combining with the hidden Madakaripura Waterfall and Ijen Crater exploration. There is one tour organizer which recommended on Tripadvisor called Cheap Bromo Tour. For further information, you can visit their websites https://cheapbromo.com/pages/bromo-sunrise-trip or contact them via phone or Whatsapp on +62 812 3321 8781.
Tour from Yogyakarta
If you want to do the tour from Yogyakarta then the best way to do it is using train or flight rather than driving by a car to avoided long driving caused by the traffic. Train in Indonesia is very convenient nowadays and also always on time.
Check the train schedules from the official website of Indonesian Train Organization in here https://www.kai.id/
If you look at the distances (online route planner) and consider Indonesian travel speeds of 30km/h then the late arrival is no surprise:
You can enter for free on foot, and walk to the crater (or hire a motorbike or horse with driver once you are inside). Use the horse track on the right side of the Cemara Indah hotel (between some stone benches and the first field you can enter in a little way that goes deep for 10min and then continue straight for 30 min, you already see the crater). There is a large sign at the entrance warning that foreigners are prohibited from using this "shortcut" (but everyone ignores it - "sorry, no hablo Ingles?"). As of June 2017, expect to see a red ute parked in the sea of sand most mornings. This is the ranger's car and he tries to catch budget-minded folk. Also, during the day you can just walk past the gate without being asked to pay. But everyone will tell you to have this ticket (seems it's a scam). If you book a tour and you walk by foot, don't pay the entrance fee to the travel agency in any case, just say you pay later and never pay :) The viewpoints are free always. Nevertheless, you always have to pay 10.000 Rps to enter the village/national park.
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:
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 or later in the afternoon, if you wish to avoid the hundreds of people on pre-arranged tours. Villagers offer horseback rides to the top of Mount Bromo and you can also hire a jeep to take you around the area (about Rp 350,000 for one jeep ride in the caldera).
Walking to the Bromo crater from Cemoro Lawang takes only 45 minutes: a path immediately to the right of Cemoro Indah Hotel will lead down to the Sea of Sand. There is no ticket checkpoint.
Information on getting to the viewpoints without a vehicle is presented on the following sections.
If you want to visit from Cemoro Lawang, you can ask at Cafe Lava Hostel to hire a car with driver. It will cost around IDR 600.000 to take you from there to the falls, wait for you, and drop you of in Probolinggo (May 2014).
When timing any activities in the area, bear in mind that sunset is soon after 17:00 and sunrise is correspondingly early at around 05:30. This means you will usually need to get up by 03:30 or so to get to a viewpoint in time for dawn. It will be very crowded, so try to arrive as early as possible if you want to have a good spot (which is at front by the fence). Most people will be watching the sunrise itself (from the left side of the platform), so get a good position to see Mt Bromo and other volcanoes while you can (middle-right side of the platform). About one hour before sunrise (4 AM) it will already be crowded, also in low season and at a weekday.
For the keen hiker, this park is a dream come true and you can make your own schedule. There are many possibilities once you are away from the more popular area at Mount Bromo. Maps and information about the area are available at one of the many official locations. A very easy hike to the first viewpoint takes 1 hour.
The park operates vehicular transport options, for the official prices of IDR275,000 for 2 locations; usually one of the Pananjakan viewpoints and the parking area towards Mount Bromo, or IDR450,000 for 4 locations. Be wary of hawkers offering "guided" trips for up to twice as much. The official driver provided are locals and usually have good knowledge. Feel free to ask drivers at any time to stop for photos or ask questions. Visitors may also bring their own vehicles; alternatively, guides can also be rented on motorbike to guide you around. A tour 4x4 can fit up to 6 people. When organized from any hotel the price seems to be fixed to IDR 125,000 per person to go to the viewpoint at sunrise (leave between 3AM and 4AM), crater and back.
Posts may also request entrance fees (one post per visit). The official fee is minimal, but the local guides may ask for more, this should still be well under IDR10,000 per person. The attentive visitor might rather walk to the post and ask to have the tickets issued directly. No other fees exist, aside from transportation services.
The most popular local product, at least based on the number of hawkers selling them, appears to be the Bromo hat, a colourful woolly 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.
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 IDR2,000 mugs of hot Javanese coffee (kopi panas). There is no nightlife in the usual sense of the word but all restaurants are open at 03:00 as that is when everybody wakes to see the sun rise.
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 some 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. If not on a pre-arranged tour and planning on hiking to the viewpoints and/or crater, favor hotels closer to the crater. That will also facilitate arranging public transportation onwards, as the public buses (green coloured vans) park close to the park entrance.
With multiple hotels and hostels, and almost every other house being a homestay. there is never any shortage of accommodation in Cemero Lawang.
There is possibility of camping in Cemoro Lawang, but it's after the ticket gate, so you need to pay your ticket to camp for free. So depending of the way you arrive, and what you think you'll do you can : -arrive from Wonokitri, with a 215 000 rupiah ticket, and camp for free with a stunning view on the volcano -arrive from Cemoro Lawang, and stay in a homestay, or a hotel, for a price equivalent to the ticket. Then, you'll be able to go the viewpoints and to the crater without any problem if you follow the secret entrance mentioned above.
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.
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 dry season and are rarely much above 5°C in wet season. 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 IDR20,000. Hats and gloves are important if you wish to survive in the cold especially early in the morning, face masks would keep the dust away if the crowd gets big around the crater.
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. The steps can be covered with crater dust and its possible to slip while climbing. Be wary.
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 nighttime temperatures not far above zero.