Surviving Krakatoa (and Some Facts on Krakatoa)

Java, Indonesia

Through the front windows of our little speed boat we saw nothing but a wall of green sea water.

My mom was throwing up on the side of the boat, our guide standing by her side holding on to her just in case she got thrown off. All around the water of Sunda Strait, the stretch of water separating Java and Sumatra, was bucking in giant swells. The sky was grey and the wind was so strong vomit splattered back into the boat. Nobody cared. We were all too busy holding on.

(and thus the lack of pictures, but in my head the scene looked like this –> )

Each time we looked back, a menacing 12 ft swell was chasing us. Mentally, I was pushing the boat to go faster. But its little motor was having problems pushing us up against the 12 ft swell in front of us. Just when it sounded like the motors would die, leaving us stranded in the middle of the angry ocean on a boat without a radio, the captain would throttle the motor down.

He would then manuveur the boat in such a way that swell behind didn’t crashing on to us, but instead propelled us on forward, like a giant surfboard.

It was hard to believe that just a couple of hours ago we were enjoying a climb up Anak Krakatau (‘Child of Krakatau’) in beautiful sunny day. Which was then followed by a nice picnic on the beach of freshly grilled shrimps and fish.

2 hours previously on Anak Krakatoa…

Running down Anak Krakatoa slope

In front of smoking Anak Krakatoa
In front of smoking Anak Krakatoa

Seafood lunch on the beach

What and where is Krakatoa volcano?

Some Krakataoa Facts
– Krakatoa is located on the Sunda strait, a stretch of water between Java and Sumatra in Indonesia.
– In 1883, Krakatao erupted sending 45 m high tsunamis that killed 40000 people.
– The eruption of Krakatoa was considered the loudest sound ever recorded in history, reaching as far as Australia.
– The ash from eruption covered the sun around the world for months disrupting harvests and caused the global temperature to drop by 1.2 degree Celsius.
– There is no more Krakatoa volcano per se. What’s left from the 1884 eruption is 3 islets that used to be part of the volcano: Panjang, Rakata, and Sertung.

The good kids of indohoy.com introduced me to Pak Samsul that became our guide. His price was steeper than what we could’ve gotten from one of the touts that prowl the beachfront hotels of Carita.

But he definitely inspired a lot more confidence in us than these touts did. So we shelled out a not insignificant amount of cash and promised to meet him the next day at 7 am.

Our first stop was Anak Krakatoa. Anak Krakatoa (or The child of Krakatao) was a relatively new volcano that emerged close to the spot where Krakataoa’s magma chamber used to be. It first appeared in 1933 and it now stands at 350 m and growing at a rate of a foot a week.

From NASA

It’s a cone made of loose sand of volcanic material released during its previous eruptions. I tried to convince Pak Samsul to let us climb all the way to the top, I mean, after all I’ve stared into a pit of splashing lava in Ethiopia and I’d like to compare. But despite the cajoling and the begging, he said ‘no’ so we only got as far as the top of an embankment, about halfway up.

Experts predict than in 1000 years it’s going to be 1883 Krakatoa eruption all over again. Phew, so glad we’ll all be gone by then.

Apparently during its more active phases, you know, like when it’s erupting, people would come and camp on the nearby islands and watch the glowing lava show.

There are all sorts of activities you can do in Krakataoa National Park: trekking in Rakata, checking out some Japanese bunkers in Panjang Island, wildlife spotting, and more. We didn’t do any of that.

The beach on Anak Krakatoa island
A deserted beach on Anak Krakatoa island

This is what we did instead:
Lounging on a beach
Having a picnic of grilled fish and shrimps – delicious!
Snorkeling (which was nice – but we didn’t stay long because of the weather).

And of course, surviving our ride back to Carita.

A trip back from Krakatoa should’ve taken 1.5 hour, but it took us close to 3 hours to get back. We arrived pale and shaken, stinking of vomit. Inwardly I swore not to go through anything like that ever again. There’s a reason we evolved out of the ocean to be land dwellers.

To charter a boat costs about $300 – cheaper if you go barebones without a guide and food/beverages. So it’s not cheap, and I can’t even say that it’s worth it but for the novelty of it all. I’m still glad we went though. Gladder that we made it back.

We didn’t even get our own “I survived the boat trip to Krakatoa and back” T-shirt. You know, to replace our vomit-covered ones.


How to visit to Krakatoa: First, get yourself to Carita, a 3 hour drive from Jakarta. Then you’ll have to charter a speed boat that will take you to the islands. The cheapest we were quoted was 2 million IDR (about 220 USD).
Photo credit: The picture above was a by the artist Hokusai – A Japanese print from 1700

14 Replies to “Surviving Krakatoa (and Some Facts on Krakatoa)”

  1. Ugh, can definitely relate. I've used the motion sickness bracelets on long sailing trips and can say they really seem to work. I'll make sure to pack them if I ever visit Krakatoa.

  2. Nice! I've been wanting to visit this (and many Indonesian islands and volcanoes – gosh, I just love Indonesia!) like forever.

    And I thought you're a veg? Shrimp and seafood lunch? @@

  3. Crazy adventure! I don't like being on the ocean myself, especially on small boats.

  4. I took my family there when I was living in Indonesia many years ago. We had better luck with the weather and enjoyed our time there a lot. Thanks for sharing!

  5. 12 ft swells on a boat like that is the worst! The WORST!

    I have been in situations like that before. It must be nice to be back on land.

    Beyond that – I'm glad you went so we could get a glimpse.

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