- Elevation: 1,259 m (4,131 ft)
- Prominence: 356 m
- Ribu category: Spesial
- Province: Maluku Utara (North Moluccas)
- Google Earth: kml
- Other names: none
- Eruptions: 1550, 1719, 1868, 1901, 1933-2015, 2019
Gunung Dukono is the northern-most volcano in the chain of volcanoes along the western side of Halmahera – from the south, Jailolo, Uno-Ranu, Gamkonora, Ibu, Dukono – and one of the most persistently active in Indonesia. Since 1933, the mountain has been erupting almost continuously. It is certainly one of the most spectacular active craters in all of Indonesia, and is very well worth the effort of travelling to northern Halmahera just to peer into its awesome crater and experience its violent activity.
The mountain complex has a low profile with multiple craters covered in deep ash creating a surreal moon-like landscape. The active crater emits violent roars every minute or so, like a dozen jet planes taking off, with plumes of ash billowing some 500 m upwards. With extreme caution and staying up-wind of the plumes, one can peer over the rim into Dante’s Inferno (Abandon all hope, ye who enter here), even into the vent itself from where the eruptions emanate far below the earth’s surface.
The usual route up the mountain starts at Desa Mamuya, which lies on the coastal highway between Galela to the north (about 10 kms) and Tobelo to the south (about 14 kms). A guide is essential, not so much for finding ones way through the plantations as on other mountains in Halmahera, but for navigating through the surreal moon-like, ash-covered, landscape to the active crater rim, and for anticipating wind changes to avoid heavy ash falls. Contact the Volcanology Post or Village Head’s office at Mamuya for guides. Sign the visitors’ book as a precaution to record your presence on the mountain. Masks are advisable and can normally be purchased in warungs at Mamuya (where the villagers themselves occasionally experience ash falls). Protect cameras etc. from fine ash.
A jeep track passes through the plantations to ‘Terminal’ where the trek begins (about 8 kms, one hour on motorbikes, 370 m). You can either walk this section, or take an ‘ojek’ (motorbike) or plantation vehicle. The trek from ‘Terminal’ is a steady climb to the initial crater rim (3.5 kms, 3.5 hours, 940 m) except for some eight small creeks/ravines to be crossed. The forest zone is reached at around 500 m and the ubiquitous dense, cane-grass zone in the mountains of Halmahera, at the interface between the forest and the bare mountain top, at around 800 m. The first view of Dukono’s active crater, with its ash plumes and roars, is gained from this initial crater rim.
The trek to the active crater rim is about another one km and takes about 1.5 hours. We climbed in October, towards the end of the dry season when the ash was at its deepest. Our guide led us through ancient lava flows covered in very deep ash. Come the wet season, much of this ash is swept downstream exposing the lava rocks below which, we were informed, makes for easier trekking. The landscape below the active crater, though which one treks, is surreal – see photos.
We emerged at the crater rim at about 1,100 m. The crater is almost circular and funnel-shaped – about 400 m across and 200 m deep (guestimate!). We crawled up to the edge of the rim and peered inside – awesome, stupendous, fearful, frightening – as the vent roared and issued enormous clouds of ash. With extreme care, peering over the rim, we could see direct into the vent from which the eruptions emit from the bowels of the earth below. A ‘selfie’ pole would be useful for extending the reach of your camera over the rim for photos direct into the vent below.
Ash plumes are emitted every minute or so rising some 500 m above the rim to be swept away gently in the direction of the wind. The sight of ash clouds being emitted from the vent below precedes the sound of the roars from the vent itself (sound travels slower than light). Also, two types of plumes are emitted, mostly pure white but also dark brown – the white plumes are accompanied by a roar like jet planes taking off, while the brown plumes are accompanied by a much more throatier, guttural sound. The later produce much heavier ash falls that feel like light showers of rain trickling down on your head and body. We never smelt any sulphur dioxide while on the active rim.
Many trekkers camp on the mountain, usually at the initial crater rim mentioned above, to see the fireworks display within the active crater in the dark. We descended at sunset, which proved to be a sensible move on this occasion, as the wind had dropped and ash from the plumes began falling across the entire area.
A scan of Google Earth suggests that the true summit of Dukono is somewhere on the eastern flank of the active crater rim. But, given the direction of the wind, the ash plumes blocked views of this side of the rim – so we have no idea which crag might be the true summit. In the wet season, when the winds are blowing the plumes in the opposite direction, the true summit might be visible.
The descent from the active crater rim to ‘Terminal’ took about 3.5 hours, plus another one hour on motor bikes back to Mamuya.
Submitted: Nicholas Hughes and Remy Lanz, October 2015
- Getting there: The climb starts at Desa Mamuya on the coastal highway between Galela to the north (about 10 kms) and Tobelo to the south (about 14 kms). From Manado, fly to Galela or Kao, the latter being 2 hours by road south of Tobelo. If starting from Ternate, speed boat to Sofifi on the Halmahera mainland then 4 hours by car to Tobelo.
- Permits: Register with the Volcanology Post at Mamuya.
- Water sources: Enquire with guides at Mamuya. None in dry season; carry at least three 1.5 litre bottles if day trip; more if camping on the mountain. Water may be available in mountain streams in wet season.
- Travel insurance: We recommend World Nomads insurance, which is designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities including mountain hiking.
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