Ternate, Gunung Gamalama

Ternate, Gunung Gamalama


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This volcano is the highest peak of Ternate island – indeed it comprises the whole island itself. Ternate was a very important place during the spice trades and the activity of this volcano was recorded by early explorers. It remains very active, most recently erupting in 2003, and Ternate residents often have to evacuate to neighbouring Tidore island. This is a legendary volcano and almost every house on the island was destroyed in the huge eruption of 1840.

A road leads up the lower slopes of the volcano from Tidore town. There are several plantation tracks from Marikurubu and, slightly further up the road, Air Tege Tege, which meet up higher up the volcano. Finding a guide should prove no problem whatsoever – the going rate for non-Indonesians is Rp 300,000 and is ‘compulsory’. Hikes do not get much more fragrant than this – cinnamon, cloves, durian and nutmeg cover the hillside. It takes just over 4 hours to climb to the rocky summit and just over 3 hours to descend. Not surprisingly, it is sometimes closed due to volcanic activity and it would be very unwise to ignore local warnings.

The villages of Marikurubu and Air Tege Tege lie roughly 400 metres above sea level so for the first hour or two it is very hot and exhausting climbing steeply through the forest. The best thing to do is to start as early as you can. At weekends, the hike is very popular with local teenagers who sometimes camp just below the summit.

After just under 3 hours of steep jungle trails there is a red and white danger sign. A little further on, the path flattens out and leads round to the left and through large reeds. The trail then descends slightly before ascending again to the edge of the vegetation and onto a steep section of sharp black volcanic rocks. Rubber gloves would be useful here to avoid cutting your hands.

You reach a false summit marked with numerous cairns and remains of campfires before dropping down again and then heading back up for the final 30 minute ascent to the actual summit and edge of the crater, currently marked by further cairns and a small green flag. The rocks here are hot and sulphur gas blows across the peak every two minutes or so. In good conditions the views are fantastic – the perfect cone of Kiematubu on Tidore, Halmahera island and numerous other small islands nearby. It takes approximately 3 hours to decend back to Marikurubu/Air Tege Tege but be careful to stay on the correct path or else you could easily end up further north at the village of Moya.

One of the finest views of the volcano itself is actually from near the airport where you are able to see the profile of the peak. There are several other Gamalama-related places worth a visit if you have time. Tolire Besar is a large crater lake on the northern side of the volcano – easily accessible by the road round the island. It was created in the 1770s during a huge eruption. If you are lucky you may be able to spot crocodiles lurking there. Batu Angus (burnt rock) is to be found at the north east of the island and is a huge area covered in large black rocks hurled out of the volcano in the massive 1712 eruption. Finally, near the starting point for the hike at Air Tege Tege is the oldest cengkeh (clove) tree on the island, Afo 2, said to be well over 300 years old.

Bagging information by Daniel Quinn


Getting thereThere are plenty of flights to Ternate island from Jakarta (usually via Manado and/or Makassar).
AccommodationTernate town offers a reasonable selection.
PermitsNone required but take a photocopy of your passport photo page just incase.
Water sourcesUnknown – take sufficient supplies with you.

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