- Elevation: 157 m (515 ft)
- Prominence: 157 m
- Ribu category: Spesial
- Province: Lampung
- Google Earth: kml
- Other names: Anak Krakatoa
- Eruptions: Krakatau 1530, 1680-81, 1684, 1883. Anak Krakatau 1927-47, 1949-50, 1952-53, 1955, 1959-63, 1965, 1969, 1972-73, 1975, 1978-81, 1988, 1992-97, 1999-2001, 2007-12, 2014, 2018-23
UPDATE JULY 2019: There is currently a 2 kilometre exclusion zone in place meaning you cannot land on Anak Krakatau without special permission. However, it is now possible to visit the area as long as you keep your distance. For those visiting over the course of two days rather than as a quick day trip, the recommended camping area is on the east coast of Rakata as the north beach previously used was wiped out in the December 2018 tsunami and the previous alternative of Verlaten island (Pulau Sertung) is too close and has less trees for shade than previously.
Known incorrectly as ‘Krakatoa’ to most of the Western world, this cluster of small islands is the site of one of the most well-known volcanic eruptions in history. Krakatau exploded in August 1883, creating serious devastation and loss of life across the region and having an impact on the global climate. The eruption was so huge that the island of Krakatau was almost completely destroyed – what we now see in its place are a few fragments of the original island and – in the centre – a new, growing volcano named Anak Krakatau (child of Krakatau) which emerged in 1927.
It grows by approximately 5 metres per year and in May 2011 was 324 metres high. It was therefore estimated to have been approximately 350m in November 2018 prior to the Sunda Strait tsunami disaster that followed in December. The volcano is very much active and likely to cause periodic devastation for many decades to come, so take great when visiting the island and heed warnings to stay away.
At present, there is a 2 kilometre exclusion zone around the island, meaning landing and/or hiking is not currently possible without special permission such as for research purposes due to ongoing frequent eruptions. It would not be a surprise if the Indonesian authorities reduced access permanently as a safety precaution. However, these stunning displays can usually be observed safely from the neighbouring islands of Rakata and Verlaten / Sertung.
The tsunami that occurred as a result of a catastrophic collapse of the cone and entire southwest face of the volcano (and related underwater landslides) into the 1883 caldera after large eruptions on the evening of Saturday December 22nd 2018 caught everyone totally by surprise, being an event incredibly difficult to predict or warn people about. At the time of writing, over 430 people have been confirmed to have lost their lives on both the Java and Sumatra mainlands.
One hopes that nobody was camping on Rakata at the time as it is estimated that the waves that hit the other islands in the group were between 20 and 30 metres high and arrived in less than a minute. A very sobering thought for those of us who were camping there on a Saturday night the previous month. Photos from James Reynolds in January 2019 showed a shocking change – Rakata utterly scoured to at least 25 metres high (double that in some spots) and all signs of the pleasant north-facing beach gone. All vegetation on the low-lying island of Krakatau Kecil (Pulau Panjang) appears to have been temporarily wiped out – a ‘dead forest’ remains for the time being but it will not be long before nature rejuvenates.
According to local new reports, 15 local fishermen were in the vicinity when the catastrophe occurred, and only 7 made it home. A survivor, Roni from Sumatra, recounted how the day had been particularly good for fish, catching much more than normal. Then the huge waves arrived of which two were especially large. Roni was thrown (from his boat) into the sea and miraculously made it along with another man to the island of Sertung where he went into the forest and tied himself to a tree using a rope. The next morning he found some others had survived. After 5 days on the island almost starving, living on coconuts, they decided to try to swim to Sebesi, the closest inhabited island. This took them 24 hours, holding onto tree debris, and of the 4 men only 3 made it alive, with one becoming separated.
A friend of Gunung Bagging, Oystein Lund Andersen (who should be credited for his translation and publication on Twitter of the fisherman’s account given above from local Indonesian television), was staying on the Anyer-Carita coastline and taking photographs of Anak Krakatau from the Java mainland. He had to run for higher ground when the first tsunami wave hit at around 9:30pm and he was later interviewed by various global news agencies for his knowledgeable eyewitness account of the biggest Krakatau-related event to have occurred since 1883. A detailed multi-media report can be found on his personal website.
Following the catastrophe, Anak Krakatau is producing Surtseyan eruptions which involve magma coming into contact with water and are named after Surtsey island off the south coast of Iceland. As far as we know, it was last doing this predominantly when it first emerged from the ocean in the late 1920s.
According to estimations by Indonesian authorities in late December 2018, the Anak was now just 110m high, which means it lost over 200 metres in height during the catastrophic collapse (228m to be exact, if their prior figure of 338m was correct). However, based on later readings it appears that the 110m figure may have referred just to the crater rim rather than the highest peak which was in early 2019 measured as being 157m above sea level. Furthermore, in September 2019, scientists revealed that the old summit area of the volcano did not actually collapse into the sea prior to the tsunami (which was caused by a collapse of an estimated 0.1 cubic km – rather smaller than initially thought) but was simply blasted apart during vent migration in subsequent days.
If the volcano follows its previous characteristic behaviour it will continue to grow once more but – assuming an average growth of 5 metres per year – just to reach 338m again will take it over 40 years. To reach Ribu height will require 178 years, but it may require more periods of growth followed by collapse, should the new cone grow steeply once more on the edge of the 1883 caldera. In June 2019, the figure of 157m for the summit height was deemed credible by other local sources.
When access is permitted, there are several organizations offering day-trip tours from the seaside resorts of Carita and Anyer on Java or Kalianda, Sumatra. Although this can be done as a long day-trip, it is much more enjoyable to spend a night camping on a neighbouring island (Rakata or Sertung) especially if the volcano is erupting as you will probably observe the orange glow of lava shooting out of the summit vent at night and hot rocks and pyroclastic flows hurtling down the side!
It is significantly cheaper to hire a boat from the Sumatra/Sebesi side but it takes a lot longer to get there from Jakarta and the vessels tend to be far more primitive. From Carita, it takes about 1 and a half hours by speedboat to reach the group of islands. The usual approach if actually setting foot on the island is to sail between the impressive cliff of Rakata island (on your left) and Anak Krakatau itself (on your right) and then dock on a small sandy beach on the north side of the island.
In June 2019, the island unsurprisingly remains almost entirely treeless, though two small tree saplings (unknown species) appeared to be already growing vigorously on the north coast. None of the information boards and welcome signs remain – Mother Nature has for better or worse reclaimed this zone for herself for the time being. Just a few metres beyond and all you will encounter is dark grey volcanic rock and sand with deep crevices.
Reaching the highest point is quite clearly dangerous even at the quietest of times because the volcano is notoriously unpredictable. It is very common for the volcano to eject large rocks which can easily reach the edge of the island. However, during quiet phases, you might be allowed to climb to near the top.
Prior to the 2018 collapse, it took just under 2 hours to reach the top from the bay at the start of the hike and it apparently now takes around 40 minutes, following a path between crevices from the north coast up to the crater rim (105m) where there is a row of stones for remembering the correct point back down or for navigating in unusually poor weather.
In good weather there are spectacular views over the frequently belching crater lake which is several hundred metres wide and beyond to Rakata. A left turn along the rim leads up to the absolute highest point. Beyond the highest point is another top which is where the Indonesian authorities’ equipment is, including a camera on a tall, difficult-to-access pole which was coated in ash in a late June eruption and at the time of writing still needs to be cleaned.
The following is our pre-2018 report that is obviously now out-of-date:
“Once beyond the trees, the path gets steeper as you climb the black volcanic sands. After 30 minutes you will have reached Anak Krakatau’s outer cone. This is a flat ridge offering fabulous views over to Rakata island and other, smaller islands in the Krakatau group. From here you can also gaze up at the steep, black volcanic cone and watch as sulphur gases rise from the earth. Most hikers are advised not to go beyond this point but during quiet periods it is sometimes possible – though dangerous – to ascend to the spectacular crater rim itself. It’s a tough and exhausting hour of clinging to black sand on the steep cone, zig-zagging across the volcano, trying to find places to dig your feet into in order to not fall all the way back down. There are often also a lot of sulphur gases around which may irritate your lungs. It’s not a good place to sit and ponder the meaning of life because after just a few seconds your feet will start to get very hot as they sink into the earth! If you’re worried, don’t risk it!
For the few that make it to the crater rim, the views are incredible – especially over to the steep cliffs of neighbouring Rakata island, which – at 813m – is the highest remnant of the original Krakatau island. Anak Krakatau crater itself truly looks like the devil’s cauldron! Bubbling mud, thick gases, hideous rockfaces and a narrow, slippery crater rim make this is terrifying yet fascinating place to explore. In May 2011, the highest point was marked with a small cairn, but given the volatile activity of this volcano by the time you read this the top probably looks completely different already.“
You can slide back down to safety very quickly (rather similar to the scree-running that is possible on the cone of Gunung Semeru) and be back on the boat in no time. There are nice places to eat lunch, camp, swim and snorkel on some of the smaller islands in the group – Pulau Sertung to the west offers good views of the volcano at sunrise but Rakata may be safer during times of increased activity. If you’re lucky during the trip, you’ll also encounter plenty of monitor lizards and flying fish.
Anyone visiting Bandar Lampung might wish to visit the simple Monumen Krakatau (Krakatoa Monument) at Taman Dipangga where there is a large metal buoy which was left pretty much where it landed around 1 kilometre inland after the tsunami in 1883.
For a fantastic account of the 1883 eruption, and more information on the Krakatau islands, read Krakatoa: The Day The World Exploded by Simon Winchester.
Bagging information by Daniel Quinn (updated September 2019)
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- Getting there: From Jakarta, take the toll road towards Merak. You have several options including these two: exit at Cilegon and follow the bumpy road down to Anyer and Carita, or exit at the Pandeglang turn-off and head to the coast at Labuan. Then follow the road north to Carita and Anyer. The former option is easier for navigating but the latter has better quality roads – check with Google Maps or similar for traffic info first. For Kalianda, take a DAMRI bus towards Bandar Lampung and get off at Kalianda town. Then head to Canti pier and take a boat over to Sebesi.
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- Permits: Your boat captain will arrange it (probably in advance).
- Water sources: None except seawater – take sufficient supplies with you.
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Origins and Meaning
Uncertain. There are four main theories. The first suggests that the name is onomatopoeic, imitating the noise of birds inhabiting the island. The second – most likely – theory is that the name comes from Sanskrit ‘karka’ or ‘karkata’ or ‘karkataka’ meaning ‘lobster’ or ‘crab’. ‘Rakata’ also means ‘crab’ in old Javanese. The third theory is that the name comes from the Malay word ‘kelakatu’ which means ‘white-winged ant’. It is argued that before 1883 Krakatau slightly resembled an ant seen from above. The fourth – and least likely – theory is based on a linguistic error when a ship’s captain asked a local man for the name of the island. The local man replied ‘Aku nggak tahu’ which means ‘I don’t know’ in Indonesian/Betawinese. (Wikipedia, 2011).
Given the likelihood that Krakatau had been the site of a vast number of violent eruptions dating back many centuries, perhaps the onomatopoeic theory actually be strengthened by the idea that the name imitates the sound of volcanic eruptions.
‘Anak Krakatau’ meaning ‘child of Krakatau’ is the name given to the new volcano which emerged in 1927.