The most famous volcano in the world erupting (Krakatau, Sumatra, Indonesia)

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May 3rd 2009
Published: May 9th 2009
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(Day 394 on the road) Wow - my trip to Krakatauwas absolutely and utterly fascinating! Of all the volcanoes in the world, Krakatau is possibly the most famous one.

Its last major eruption in 1883 was one of the greatest natural disasters in the world and quite possibly the loudest ever recorded sound on earth. Back in 1883 the eruption killed 36.000 people - if the volcano was to erupt again today, scientists expect the death toll to be over 1 million people. The sound of the 1883 eruption could be heard 3.500 km away in Perth, Australia, and the shock wave went around the globe seven times in total. Ash was propelled 80 km high, and after the eruption average global temperatures fell by 1,2 degrees Celsius. Quite something, um?

During the 1883 eruption, Krakatau destroyed itself almost completely. Today, when one speaks of Krakatau, they are actually referring to the "Child of Krakatau" (Anak Krakatau in Indonesian), an active volcano island just next to the actual (now peaceful) Krakatau. The new volcano is only about 70 years old, but is growing at an annual rate of 6 metres. The growth is a major concern for volcanologist, as it makes it harder for the pressure to escape the volcano, making a major eruption ever more likely.

Getting to Krakatau however was a little rough. Endah and I left Jakarta on Friday evening at around seven o'clock. The Lonely Planet said that it is relatively painless two to three hour trip, changing bus once in the city of Lebuhan. Well, it turned into a six hour nightmare, which included massive traffic jams, three cockroach-infested buses, a missed connection in the middle of nowhere and a huge amount of money to be paid to a scrupulous driver to take us where we wanted after midnight. We finally arrived at one o'clock in the morning in the little fishing village of Carita, and were lucky to find a clean and affordable hotel (Hotel Paniisan, just opposite the main beach of Carita and on the same ground as the Black Rhino travel agency) without searching for too long.

The next day we inquired on the beach about the possibility of sharing a boat with other tourists - Krakatau is about 50 km off the coast of Carina, a two hour ride one way. As it turned out, there were no other interested people at all (even though it was the weekend). To charter a boat was hugely expensive (about the equivalent of 25 (!) nights of accommodation, to put the figure into perspective). In the end, we anyway decided to charter a boat the following day, and we would not regret it.

Before that however we had a very unpleasant encounter with Endah's jealous ex-boyfriend (by the way, I am innocent in all of this, honest!), who was stalking us and had followed us down in his car all the way from Jakarta. He apparently had been talking to all the people on the beach who would listen to him, asking them if they had seen an Indonesian girl with a foreign guy and telling them that he was her boyfriend. As we walked around numerous people approached us with this information. Considering the conservative Islamic culture here in Indonesia, this put a very bad light on Endah as she was now being seen by everybody alone with another guy. We tried to avoid a confrontation with him by going to another stretch of beach and getting a nice massage in our hotel. At dinner we felt fairly confident that he had given up waiting for us all day, but as we were walking back home after some nice food he suddenly confronted us on the street. It was a very awkward and uncomfortable situation for all of us, and we were very relieved when he finally left back to Jakarta a few hours later. Not the best way to spend a Saturday evening.

Anyway, the next day all that was put to the back of our minds. We had been forced to charter a private boat (still no other tourists to share the costs), and as we were approaching Krakatau after a two hour boat ride we were getting a first glimpse of the massive eruptions that occurred about every five minutes. With each eruption, huge amounts of ash and rocks were shot high up into the air from the volcano's vent, and it was an impressive sight to say the least. I managed to take a great video of one of the bigger explosions, have a look!

Krakatau has been very active for the past few weeks with about 230 eruptions per day, and the Indonesians authorities have duly established a 2km safety perimeter around the island. At first we were a little disappointed that we could not land on the volcano island itself, but after we had witnessed a few of the bigger eruptions and seen the massive rocks that were flying all over the place we were more than happy to be at a a safe distance.

We spent an hour or so just watching the volcano from our boat and taking pictures. We also went for a nice swim, which was sublime experience - swimming in the open ocean with Krakatau constantly erupting behind us. We finished the day with a nice bit of snorkeling near the beach of the actual Krakatau island, which had some pretty corals and colourful fish. All in all, and despite the unpleasant encounter with Endah's ex, this was a fantastic weekend!

Next stop: Bogor (Java, Indonesia).

To view my photos, have a look at And to read the full account of my journey, have a look at the complete book about my trip at Amazon (and most other online book shops).


10th May 2009

Hi, you made me laugh with your account of u,Endah and an Ex. I havent read your last few blogs so have to ask now who is this Endah and how come you ended up with her. Take good care and have fun .
3rd November 2009

8th March 2010

World famous volcanoes
About 550 volcanoes have erupted on Earth's surface since recorded history; about 60 are active each year. Far more have erupted unobserved on the ocean floor. Most volcanoes exist at the boundaries of Earth's crustal plates, such as the famous Ring of Fire that surrounds the Pacific Ocean plate. Indonesia holds the record for the greatest number of eruptions, followed by Japan and the USA.==
17th March 2010

it is amzing to learn about krakatoa lachlan gray.
29th April 2010

me and my class are stiding about valcanos
27th May 2010

thats amazing i skimmed through it all and what i got from i is wonderful!!
17th September 2010

Hi Ben, I found your Krakatau pix and video on Flickr. I have visited Indonesia many times and I am planning to visit Krakatau next year. Do you have any advice for me as far as how to find a boat, where to stay, etc.? I appreciate you sharing your fantastic photos. Guy Los Angeles, CA
6th November 2010
With Endah and Krakatau

18th February 2011

famous volcanoes
Kīlauea is the youngest and southeastern most famous volcanoes on the Big Island of Hawai'i. Kilauea can be found on the Big Island of Hawaii, on the southeastern slope of Mauna Loa, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Kilauea is one of largest active craters in the world, has a circumference of 8 mi (13 km) and is surrounded by a wall of volcanic rock 200 to 500 ft (61—152 m) high.

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