Exploring Indonesia’s Blue-Fire Volcano
See Ijen’s blue light for the first time
My favorite book in college was A small place, a work by Jamaica Kincaid which is actually, according to some critics, a short story-length rant, whose subject matter is the impact of colonialism (and, by association, tourism) on Kincaid’s native population. Antigua. One particular quote from the book has always marked me, especially since I became independent from the place: “A tourist is an ugly human being. […] visit piles of the dead and ruins and feel alive and inspired at the sight of it.
It sounded particularly relevant when photographing the blue fire of Ijen Crater, and not just because the mound of sulfur I marveled at could easily have become a heap of my own death and ruin. It wasn’t just because of the annoyance of the sulfur miners, either, though that was certainly the start.
You see, although I photographed a few of the miners (for the sole purpose of highlighting their plight in this article, to be fair), I couldn’t help but notice how other tourists seemed to take pleasure in the dangerous working conditions amidst the blue fire of Kawah Ijen.
Each grief-arazzo would offer a particular minor money or cigarettes in exchange for humorous poses. Or, if he was extremely lucky, the chance to try and balance a heavy load of putrid sulfur on his own shoulder just long enough for his photo to be taken.
When I say “heavy” I really mean it. According to Sam, whose father worked in the mines for almost two decades, each basket (there are two of them) weighs a minimum of 40 kg, which must be carried by hand for three kilometers and then lowered another three kilometers. , incredibly dangerous hikes even for tourists – I fell three times on the way back down and never fell while hiking.
And the kicker is that they only make 800 Indonesians rupee per kilogram, which equates to about $ 5.41 for no less than three hours of life-threatening work. I don’t know how much profit their work brings to the Chinese factory that processes sulfur into highly lucrative cosmetics, insecticides, and other products, but I do know that none of the entrance fees to Ijen Crater Blue Fire Park have gone up to ‘now gone. to make working conditions safer.
Water Palace Village
As uncomfortable as I felt when I reached the base of Kawah Ijen, my visit to the Indonesian blue fire volcano would soon come full circle. “After you get a bit of rest,” Sam explained to me, after dropping me off at a comfortable local guesthouse, “I’m going to introduce you to my family and the rest of the community. “
I would soon learn the name of this community to be Taman Sari, or “water palace,” a title it shares with a former royal residence in Yogyakarta. The experience I had getting to know the men, women and children of Sam’s hometown made me feel royal, okay, but not in the same way as the Sultan’s 100 virgins from Yogakarta did it for him.
For several hours, just before lunchtime until sunset, I wavered no less than a dozen times between the widest smile that had ever graced my face and cascades of gushing tears. From the cordial invitation to the homes of the sulfur miners I had photographed earlier today to meeting a man so old he had forgotten his age, to dinner with Sam’s own family, I don’t Don’t think I have ever felt so immediately welcome anywhere, not even my home.
Certainly the deep light emanating from Taman Sari is the perfect reflection of the darkness that surrounds the plight of Kawah Ijen’s sulfur miners – and the perfect complement to the blue flames that drew me here in the first place. I hate to tell people that they “didn’t go to [insert country name here], if [they] do not do [describe attraction here]”, So I’ll end by saying that I really hope you get to Kawah Ijen if you come to Indonesia.
How to get to Kawah Ijen
Kawah Ijen, which literally translates to “Ijen Crater”, is located in the far east of the island of Java. Hoping there is a blue light adventure in Bali? There isn’t, at least not quite. To reach Ijen, take the train from Yogyakarta or Surabaya to Karangasem station or, alternatively, the ferry from Bali to Ketapang – there is no blue-light volcano in Bali, unlike what you might read in line. Due to the danger of entering the crater, it is strongly recommended that you hire a guide. Entrance to the park costs Rp. 100,000 in January 2022 (Rp. 150,000 on public holidays), which does not include Rp. 30,000 camera fees.
I recommend Sam Kawah Ijen, who I mentioned in this article, not only because his rates are fair and service excellent, but because he is a long-time member of the nearby local community of Taman Sari, in the improvement to which he devotes part of his business. product – you see the most amazing blue light Indonesia has to offer and support grassroots tourism in the process. Click here to visit his website, which highlights his options for visiting the Mount Ijen Blue Light.
Is Kawah Ijen worth a visit?
I’ll be honest: compared to Ijen’s blue light, Bali (and pretty much everywhere else in Indonesia near East Java) is paltry in comparison. The sheer novelty of the sulfur-fueled phenomenon is virtually unmatched anywhere on Earth, but even in amazing Indonesia, it’s hard to find a place comparable to Kawah Ijen.
Compared to the blue light, Indonesian attractions, even those as stunning as the paradise islands of Raja Ampat and the community funeral of Tana Toraja, seem pale in comparison. So, assuming the prospect of an overnight moonlit hike doesn’t bother you and you’re prepared to deal with the emotional burden of seeing the miners working so hard for so little, then yes, Kawah Ijen absolutely worth a visit.
Other FAQ on Kawah Ijen Blue Fire
Why does Kawah Ijen have a blue light?
Kawah Ijen’s “blue fire” phenomenon is caused by a high sulfur content in the volcanic crater of Ijen. When sulfur burns, it creates a bright blue flame, especially brilliant in the depths of the night.
Is Kawah Ijen in the Ring of Fire?
Kawah Ijen, like all of Indonesia, is in the Pacific “ring of fire”. It is one of hundreds, if not thousands of active volcanoes throughout the Indonesian archipelago.
Where can I see the blue light?
The blue light is located at Kawah Ijen volcano in East Java, Indonesia. To get there, you need to travel to Banyuwangi town, which can be reached by local train from Surabaya, ferry from Bali, or by plane from a number of cities in Indonesia.
The bottom line
If you are looking for Indonesia’s famous blue light, the Ijen Crater in East Jaha is where you want to head. Keep in mind, however, that seeing Ijen’s blue fire is not a simple matter of showing up (you will have to walk all night, and with a guide for that matter), nor of taking photos and pictures. videos for your Instagram and be done with that. The experience of visiting Kawah Ijen can be emotional and even overwhelming, depending on your sensitivity and emotional openness.