Krakatau ………history recurs.

Sunrise over Anak Krakatau

I’ve heard with sadness news on the radio telling that a powerful tsunami in the Sunda Strait struck both Java and Sumatra in Indonesia killing at least 281 people. I suddenly knew who was the culprit even though at first there was no evidence of where it was centered: the volcano of Anak Krakatau. Having been there some years ago I still have some vivid memories of what was one of the best experience of travel of my life and I seize now the opportunity to share my story with you.

The island of Krakatau is a protected national park
Soft and hot sand with torched trees on the slope of Krakatau. The island of Rakata is in the background
Boiling hot fumaroles on the flank of Anak Krakatau

Krakatau lies more or less halfway between Java and Sumatra and was tragically known for  triggering one of the most powerful tsunami ever. In 1883, Krakatau was an islands whose volcanic cone was 800 meters high and with one of the most energetic explosion of the last three thousand years the island collapsed on the bottom floor of the ocean, the ensuing tsunami wreaked havoc in all the major islands of Indonesia and of the Indian Ocean, killing at least 36000 people and whose waves of few centimeters or so reached as far as New York City.

The saddle before the dangerous top of Anak Krakatau

The ashes and materials spewed up in the atmosphere (in the billions of tons) were responsible of a mini glacier age; the temperatures dropped in the whole world by 1,2° C. The loud bang of the explosion was clearly heard 6000 km away. In 1927, a new island volcano rose just few cm above the water in the same place were Krakatau was, hence the name Anak (The child); from the 1950’s onward the island has grown at an average of 13 cm per week rising now to 400m. The few tourists which venture on the island leave from the west coast port of Carita, in Java, one of areas most affected by the tsunami few days ago. We sailed to Krakatau with a small motorboat in what is one of the most turbulent seas of Indonesia and thanks to the skills of our old seaman we reached the island unscathed.

Our camp on the beach of Krakatau
Our crew

Our guide Ateng and his colleagues set up a camp in the island, lit the fire and prepared a barbecue with fish and vegetables, they bring beers, refreshing drinks and tea; the island was virtually all for ourself. The Milky Way was so bright and the only sound was the roaming of giant monitor lizards (which kept me alert) around our tents. Climbing up the flank of Krakatau is a really demanding task, the sand is soft and the surface is riddled with hissing hot fumaroles.

Sea eagle over Anak Krakatau

At dawn, I ventured alone on the slope of Krakatau and I experienced one cathartic moment: in total silence, I heard the aerodynamic whizz of a sea eagle passing over me, just few meters above. Next morning, we visited the small satellite islet of Rakata, where we had a swim in pleasantly warm waters (we had a really big “boiler” below) I hadn’t find in other part of Indonesia.

A skilled seaman
A 2 metres long monitor lizard (Varanus) in the island of Rakata

My thoughts and prayers, now, are for the victims and the families affected by the recent disaster: Indonesians and, especially Javanese are some of the friendliest people I have ever met, I wish them all the best, they deserve it.


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