Krakatau – volcano surfing

A friend asked me a good question: “Why do you wanna go out in the middle of the Sunda Strait to watch an erupting volcano?” Dear friend, this is my answer to you. 

170226 0001 Krakatau blog post
Krakatau is an active volcano located in the Sunda Strait, west of Java and south of Sumatra. Batavia is today better known as Jakarta.

Anak Krakatau

On Monday 27 august 1883 a sound could be heard from Rodriguez Island in the west (outside Madagaskar), to Manila in the north east, and Perth in the south. That was the sound of Krakatau exploding. The explosion created a shock wave that was recorded traveling around the world seven times, at a speed of up to 1100 km/h. A massive tsunami was also made, by the time it reached the shores of Sumatra and Java it would rise and become up to 40 meters high. The tsunami ended up killing more than 36 000 people and destroying 165 villages.

Most of the old volcano island Krakatau was blown into pieces. Only the southernmost part of the old Krakatau island, called Rakata, and the two nearby islands Verlaten Island and Lang Island were still there, but completely covered in ashes and rocks from the eruption. The three islands were left with an empty sea between them until January 1928, when Anak Krakatau (Krakatau’s child) surfaced for the first time. It was struggling with the waves for a couple of years but has been permanently above sea level since 1930. Today it’s about 300 meters high and still growing.

This short summary of Krakatau’s last major eruption was mostly based on information from the book Krakatoa – The day the world exploded (Winchester, 2003), and my friend Øystein’s stories, he’s a volcano enthusiast who frequently visits many of the volcanoes in and around Java. The book tells you everything there is to know about this volcano’s history. Check out Øystein’s homepage for awesome pictures of Indonesia.

Anak Krakatau is growing where the old Krakatau used to be. In the background, you can see Lang Island (left) and Rakata (right).
We were too late to see the eruption this time, but the volcano was still steaming.
This lighthouse in Anyer (west coast of Java) was built after the 1883 tsunami wiped the old lighthouse away. The responsible volcano can be seen on the horizon.

Camping in the wild

What to bring for a camping trip to Krakatau: A bottle of wine, a surfboard, a camera on a tripod, and a drone. And sunscreen, always sunscreen! Our guides provided the boat, the tents, and snorkeling equipment. They also brought and prepared food, snacks and drinks.

The thick jungle of Verlaten Island is home to some curious lizards, and by night time the treetops are decorated with fireflies. Between the jungle and the ocean, there’s an empty black sand beach, sprinkled with white volcanic rocks. A surprisingly big amount of trash drifts ashore on this otherwise deserted island. Our campsite gave the perfect view of Anak Krakatau from a “safe” distance. This might be the coolest camping experience I’ve ever had.

I guess it’s possible to make the trip from Jakarta to Krakatau in one day. The drive to Carita takes about 3 hour, and the boat out to the volcano takes another hour or two. However, spending the night makes it way more interesting, especially if you can see the red light from the glowing hot volcano in the dark. Unfortunately, the eruption had already ended before we arrived, but the trip was a great success anyway…

We set up camp on this deserted island, with the perfect view of Anak Krakatau.
This was taken in the morning, right above our camp.
Our camp was surrounded by creatures like this.
It took me exactly one minute to gather this collection of trash on the beach. I wasn’t rushing it.
170225 0001 Krakatau blog post-2
At night the camera picked up something red.

Surfing a volcano

The first time I went to Krakatau I asked the guides if they had ever seen any surfers out there. When I came back home I asked google the same. They both gave the same answer: “meeeh”. So I started looking at satellite photos and concluded that there might be a few short waves on the right swell. So this time I brought my surfboard.

At the end of the beach we camped at, a tiny little wave was breaking with the perfect backdrop. We only had one board, so we took turns taking pictures and trying to surf. The ankle high sets came in with 15 minutes intervals, we stayed out just long enough to get a couple of shots each.

Me surfing a tiny wave in front of the active volcano Anak Krakatau on February 25 2017.
Lars making the best of this over-ankle wave.

Who knows, maybe we were the first to ever surf this spot? For the next Krakatau eruption mission, I’m hoping for a bigger swell to roll in.

I hope this answered your question.


Sumatra Surf trip

3 Comments Leave a comment

    • Thanks Firsta! 🙂 hehe, not the best conditions for surfing, but it could be really good with the right swell. It was a cool experience anyways; surfing an undiscovered wave in a place like that!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: