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Situated near the northern edge of the island of Sumbawa in the West Nusatenggara Province, - between the islands of Lombok and Flores, Mount Tambora is known to the world as the site of the largest and most deadly volcanic eruption in recorded history.
Just like Mount Toba in North Sumatra, Mount Tambora is also recognized as one of the world’s supervulcanoes. However, if the mega-eruption of Mount Toba – that occurred in the geological past- only left its traces in the massive Lake Toba, Mount Tambora, on the contrary, is still very much active, standing today at a staggering 2,751 meters.
If the mega-eruption of Mount Toba is believed to have plunged the earth into a 6-to-10-years of volcanic winter, and the explosion of Mount Krakatau in 1883 produced the loudest sound ever heard in the world in modern history, the super volcanic eruption of Mount Tambora also created a global episode where following its eruption the previous year, the year 1816 is forever remembered as “The Year Without Summer”, resulting in the worst famine of the 19th century.
Its phenomenal eruption in April 1815 left a fascinating 7 Km-wide gaping 6.2 km wide caldera containing a two-colored lake with depths reaching 800 meters, and is considered as the largest caldera in Indonesia. In 2004, archaeologist Haraldur Sigurdsson discovered the preserved bodies of two adults buried in nearly 10 feet of ash in the remnants of a small village on the volcano. The discovery is similar to the one made in the wake of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in Italy in the year 79 that destroyed the city of Pompeii, prompting Mount Tambora's nickname to become "the Pompeii of the East."
Today, aside from attracting seismologists, volcanologists, archeologists, biologists, and other scientists, Mount Tambora is also known as a prime destination for mountaineers from all over the globe who enjoy the thrill of conquering its challenging tracks. There are two ascent routes to reach the caldera.
The first route, the Doro Ncanga starts from Doro Mboha Village southeast of the mountain. This route follows a paved road through a cashew plantation until it reaches 1,150 m (3,770 ft) above sea level. The end of this route is the southern part of the caldera at 1,950 m (6,400 ft), reachable by a hiking track. This location is usually used as a base camp to monitor the volcanic activity because it only takes one hour to reach the caldera. The second route starts from Pancasila village northwest of the mountain, known as the Doro Peti is steep. Using the second route, the caldera is accessible only on foot.
The climb to the caldera usually takes two days through dense forests.
On the summit of Mount Tambora, mind-blowing sceneries await. Several parts of the edges of the caldera are beautifully decorated with edelweiss flowers and amazing layers of rocks. An excellent blending view of rugged mountain, astounding lake-caldera, and the vast blue sea on the horizon is truly a glorious prize to gain after hours of challenging hikes.
The marvels of Mount Tambora also lie in the two conservation areas situated at the foot of the mountain. The first is the 18,178.66 hectares Mount Tambora South Wildlife Reserve (Suaka Margasatwa Gunung Tambora Selatan) that offers hilly and mountainous landscapes and steep valleys. Among some of the animals that dwell here are: Wild Boars (Sus scrova scrova), Timorese Deer (Cervus timorensis), White Parrots (Cacatua galarita), Red Chest Perkici (Tricoglosus haematodus mitchelli), and Yellow crowned Parrots (Cacatua sulphurea). With a variety of wildlife, there are many things visitors can enjoy while they are here such as bird watching, Jungle Trekking, Camping, and observing the traditional process of collecting natural honey.
The second is the South Tambora Hunting Park situated south of the Wildlife Reserve. As the name suggests, the site is a perfect place for those who wish to conduct hunting safaris. Here, there are a great number of deer and wild boar running freely, making it an exciting place to hunt. The sensation of aiming and pulling the trigger at the precise moment is truly a one of a kind experience that can be found here.
Sources: Lonely Planet, Wikipedia, Wiki-Travel, BKSDA NTB, Dephut
You can fly to Sumbawa Besar and Bima from Bali (occasionally), from where tours can be arranged to Gunung Tambora. Fights also fly in from Mataram on Lombok in under an hour. Boats serve Port Tano from east Lombok, from where buses take about 5 or 6 hours to reach Dompu, the stop-off point.
To reach Mount Tambora, first you need to get to the village of Pancasila. It is problematic if you want to do this in one day from Sumbawa Besar. If you want to try, take the Sumbawa Besar/Dompu bus very early in the morning and tell the driver you want to go to Calabai/Pancasila. You can try saying in Indonesia: Mau mendaki Tambora (I want to climb Tambora). He will drop you after four to five hours at the tee-intersection from where the road to the right goes to Dompu (about 20 km away) and the road to the left takes you to Calabai. There are regular buses to Calabai but the road is a bit bumpy and the 110 km trip takes 4-5 hours. From Calabai you have to take an ojek (back of a motorcycle) to Pancasila.
It may be wiser and less taxing to go to Dompu, have a good night's rest and make the journey to Calabai/Pancasila the next day. In that way you will arrive in Pancasila reasonably rested. Buy supplies for the trip in Calabai. There are plenty of shops selling noodles, biscuits, fruit, bottled water etc.If you are riding a motorbike/scooter be warned: the road is really pot-holed and you must pay it the respect it's due. Allow six hours for the 130 km Dompu – Pancasila journey.