- Elevation: 1,377 m (4,518 ft)
- Prominence: 1,090 m
- Ribu category: Kurang Tinggi
- Province: Maluku Utara (North Moluccas)
- Google Earth: kml
- Other names: Some local hikers call this Tobaru, but it seems to be incorrect naming
- Eruptions: 1911, 1998-99, 2001, 2004-05, 2008-09, 2011-13, 2019-present
The truncated summit of Gunung Ibu stratovolcano on the NW coast of Halmahera Island has large nested summit craters. The inner crater, 1 km wide and 400 m deep, contained several small crater lakes through much of historical time. The outer crater, 1.2 km wide, is breached on the north side, creating a steep-walled valley. A large parasitic cone is located ENE of the summit. A smaller one to the WSW has fed a lava flow down the western flank. A group of maars (a broad flat volcanic crater formed by a single explosive eruption) is located below the northern and western flanks of the volcano. Only a few eruptions have been recorded from Ibu in historical time, the first a small explosive eruption from the summit crater in 1911. An eruption producing a lava dome that eventually covered much of the floor of the inner summit crater began in December 1998 (Smithsonian Global Volcanism Program).
We climbed Gunung Ibu in September 2011 when it was in eruptive stage 3 – Siaga (High Alert). The floor of the crater had risen to about 100 ms from the rim of the inner crater. Three lava domes, each about 100 m across, billowed enormous plumes of smoke every 10-15 minutes with ash being deposited on the surrounding forest. Fumaroles emitted gas continuously with ear-deafening screams. An amazing display of “fireworks” would have been visible at night from the rim as well as from the Desa Goin, which is directly below the breach in the crater on the northern side. Indeed, some hikers choose to camp on the rim.
The outer crater rim has two high points, one on the west (which is apparently the summit) and a second on the eastern side. The old US Army map lists the western top as 1,325m and the eastern top as 1,300m but based on satellite data these old figures are considerable underestimates. Because the track emerges onto the crater rim on the western side, it is technically possible to reach the summit on the highest part of the steep-walled valley though this may require effort cutting through dense ferns, cane grass and dead, burnt trees from the 1998/1999 eruption that cover the upper slopes of the crater and the outer crater rim. Most hikers probably do not hike round to the highest point, so it is unclear if there is a trail or not and you would have to allow extra time to attempt this and make it clear to your guide prior to starting your hike.
The track starts from the Desa Duono (108 m ASL); however, it is possible to drive about two kilometres into the coconut plantations and start the trek at 200 m ASL. Plantation tracks then pass through nutmeg and cloves before entering the forest at about 600 m ASL. A broad track, formed from villagers skidding logs down the slope, continues for another 200 m or so (vertical). Thereafter, the track is virtually non-existent known only to local guides. The volcanology sensor station is passed on the right at about 900 m ASL. Beyond this point, the track is very rarely used and overgrown. The remaining 300 m (vertical) or so becomes progressively steeper and the ferns/cane grass becoming increasingly dense, requiring continuous slashing to forge a way through to the crater rim, although in recent years it appears that the trail is more frequently used and therefore likely to be less overgrown.
The track emerges on the western side of rim at 1250 m ASL with spectacular views into the crater, but not of the surrounding country due to tall, dense vegetation. Despite a total ascent of only 1050 m, the climb was very slow in the upper reaches and took over six hours in 2011 but is likely to take a maximum of 5 hours up in 2021. The descent, by comparison, takes only about three hours. A guide is essential; be prepared to pay a premium because of the large amount of slashing required unless local hikers have been up there recently. The ascent time could be reduced considerably by requesting the guide to cut the track prior to the day of the climb (but, of course, at additional cost). Our guide was Pak Coyo, whom the volcanology staff employ when servicing the equipment on the mountain. His house is located on the right hand, back corner of the alun-alun (village square/football field) in Desa Duono. Alternatively ask for a guide in Desa Goin.
According to one local guide, before the ongoing activity which started in 1998, local hunters could do a circuit of the crater rim and even descend into the crater itself.
Note that some local hikers call this mountain Gunung Tobaru, but on the old US Army map, Gunung Tobaru is a 1,035 metre high peak several kilometres further north, and also known as Gunung Loloda. Gunung Ibu is named after the Ibu tribe who first inhabited the area near the volcano but are now found living around Desa Gamlamo and have long since converted to Islam. The Tobaru tribe, on the other hand, originate from the highlands around Gunung Tobaru, Lake Todoke and Lake Togotoaka and now live at the base of Gunung Ibu.
Bagging information by Nick Hughes (September 2011), minor updates by Dan Quinn (September 2021)
- Getting there: There are plenty of flights to Ternate island from Jakarta (usually via Manado and/or Makassar). From Ternate, take a speed boat from the Dufa-Dufa boat terminal just north of the airport, to Jailolo on mainland Halmahera (Rp60k per passenger in 2021, less than 1 hour). Arrange a hire car from Jailolo to Desa Duono, Kecamatan Ibu. Public transport is infrequent and unreliable though in 2021 there are plenty of drivers waiting for passengers to fill their vehicles up. It is advisable to stop en route at the Pos Pengamatan Gunung Api (Vulcanology Post), Desa Gamsungi, for latest information on the eruptive status of Gunung Ibu. This Pos monitors Gunungs Gamkonora and Ibu.
- Permits: None required but take a photocopy of your passport photo page just in case. Check the eruptive status of Gunung Ibu at http://www.vsi.esdm.go.id/ The vulcanology officials are obliged to “close” the mountain to climbers when Stage 3 – Siaga (High Alert) – is reached.
- Water sources: None known – take sufficient supplies with you.
- 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.
Local Average Monthly Rainfall (mm):
Origins and Meaning
‘Ibu’ means mother. So, “Mother Mountain” might be a reasonable translation.