- Elevation: 1,259 m (4,131 ft)
- Prominence: 356 m
- Ribu category: Spesial
- Province: Maluku Utara (North Moluccas)
- Google Earth: kml
- Other names: The highest peak in the immediate area is known to locals as Karianga
- Eruptions: 1550, 1719, 1868, 1901, 1933-present
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 sometimes covered in deep ash creating a surreal moon-like landscape. The active crater Malupang Warirang emits violent roars every minute or so, like a dozen jet planes taking off, with plumes of ash billowing hundreds of metres 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 (only 13 metres above sea level), 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, sometimes ash-covered, landscape of ancient lava flows to the active crater rim, and for anticipating wind changes to avoid heavy ash falls. Contact the Volcanology Post or Village Head’s office opposite the trailhead junction 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 kilometres, one hour on motorbikes, 370 m) although some guides say that ‘Terminal’ is further on at a large Pos (619m) on the trail itself. Either way, there are two main wooden shelters in the kebun, one at 319m (where your guide may check on the durian growing there) and one at 370m, and motorbikes can only go as far as the second. You can either walk this long section, or take an ‘ojek’ (motorbike) or plantation vehicle. An ojek is very much recommended as it will save you around two hours in each direction and most local village guides will offer it as included in the guide price. Note you may need to get off the motorbikes for some of the steeper sections.
The trek from ‘Terminal or Shelter 2’ is a steady climb to the initial crater rim (3.5 kilometres and around 3.5 hours or less) except for some eight small creeks/ravines to be crossed, notably at 647m and 795m where after rain or during the rainy season water is likely to be found. The forest zone is reached at around 500 metres 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 metres. Views back down to the smaller Gunung Mamuya (933m) and the coast near Tobelo are possible from around 838m. Be careful in this area as there are a few minor junctions with no signs, so be sure to ask your guide to wait for you at junctions rather than marching on and leaving you guessing!
Finally, the outer rim (940m) is reached. On a small hill to the left you will see volcanology sensor equipment. This little peak is Gunung Dilekene. Down below is a plain of black volcanic sand, rather like a miniature version of Bromo’s sea of sand. Indeed, this outer rim is known as Tanah Lapang. Crossing it just takes a few minutes and it is from here that the first view of Dukono’s active crater, with its ash plumes and roars, is gained.
The trek to the active crater rim is about another one kilometre and takes between 1 hour and 90 minutes, depending on how much ash there is. From the other side of Tanah Lapang sand plain is a large expanse of ancient lava flows, jagged in places and smooth in others. When covered in very deep ash, the landscape here below the active crater is completely surreal. When there is no ash around, such as after heavy rain or during the rainy season, the landscape is perhaps less surreal but utterly unique and remarkable.
The higher up you get, the finer the views are back to the peaks of Gunung Gogodom (1,102m) and Gunung Bale-Bale (923m). You should be able to see the small islands off the coast near the town of Tobelo and perhaps even the large island of Morotai in the distance. Finally, you will emerge at the Dukono crater rim at about 1,150m. The crater is almost circular and funnel-shaped – about 400 m across and 200 m deep (guestimate!) It is possible, with care, to crawl up to the edge of the rim and peer inside – awesome, stupendous, fearful, frightening – as the vent roars and issues enormous clouds of ash. With extreme care, peering over the rim, one see directly 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). In 2015, two types of plumes were emitted, mostly pure white but also dark brown – the white plumes were accompanied by a roar like jet planes taking off, while the brown plumes were accompanied by a much more throatier, guttural sound. The latter produce much heavier ash falls that feel like light showers of rain trickling down on your head and body. No sulphur dioxide was smelt while on the active rim in 2015.
Many trekkers camp on the mountain, usually at the initial crater rim mentioned above or at a Pos (946m) on the crater side of the sand plain, to see the fireworks display within the active crater in the dark. In 2015, we descended at sunset, which proved to be a sensible move on that occasion, as the wind had dropped and ash from the plumes began falling across the entire area.
Reaching the highest point of the rim is dangerous and not advisable. Indeed, it is not the highest peak in the area anyway. A scan of Google Earth suggests that the highest peak near Dukono is known as Puncak Karianga (see below) which lies to the south-east of the active crater rim, and is not visible from the trek from Mamuya.
The descent from the active crater rim to the motorbike at 370m took about 3.5 hours, plus another one hour on motorbikes back to Mamuya.
To reach Puncak Karianga, it is possible to trek in from Desa Ruko on the main road between Mamuya and Tobelo, although this is a completely different trail and is likely to be less spectacular compared to the traditional Mamuya trail to Dukono crater. Furthermore, the Karianga trek is usually done as a two-day trek with one night camping on the saddle between Dukono and Karianga. Most local hikers do not visit Dukono crater rim from this side, or even go to the top of Karianga, but rather simply camp in the saddle between. It appears another 1200m+ peak lies several kilometres further south of Karianga, and could be a little higher than Karianga itself. The US Army map lists a Gunung ‘Kariang’ as 1,198m (likely an underestimate unless it refers merely to the saddle), Gunung Mede at 1,335m (likely a considerable overestimate – 1,235m looks closer), and may refer to what locals now call Puncak Karianga) and further south a Gunung Togohi (1,233m) which is probably densely forested and with no trail.
Bagging information by Nicholas Hughes and Remy Lanz (October 2015), updated by Dan Quinn (September 2021)
- Getting there: The climb to Dukono crater rim 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 Kao, the latter being 2 hours by road south of Tobelo. If starting from Ternate, speed boat to Sidangoli on the Halmahera mainland then 3.5 hours by car to Tobelo. The less interesting trek to Karianga starts a little closer to Tobelo at Desa Ruko.
- Guides and GPS Tracks: Want a PDF version for your phone? Looking for a guide? Need GPS tracks and waypoints? Gunung Dukono information pack can be downloaded here.
- Trip planning assistance: Would you like Gunung Bagging to personally help you in arranging your whole trip? Please contact us here.
- Permits: Register with the Volcanology Post or Village Head at Mamuya or the Village Head at Desa Ruko.
- Water sources: Enquire with guides. None available in the 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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