Lewotobi is located in southeastern Flores, a part of the island few tourists ever get to. This is a real shame because Lewotobi truly deserves more attention. In his 1891 story The Disturber of Traffic, Rudyard Kipling referred to “old Loby Toby” as a “topplin’ flamin’ volcano.” Although he was a little off with the name, the description of Lewotobi volcano is apt. With 22 recorded eruptions since 1675, the most recent of which occurred in 2003, and ongoing intermittent seismic activity, earthquakes and minor volcanic emissions, Lewotobi is one of the most active in all of Indonesia.
The volcano actually contains the twin peaks of Lewotobi Perempuan (female) at 1703m and Lewotobi Laki-Laki (male) at 1584m, separated by a 2km long, 1232m high saddle. Most eruptions are from the Lewotobi Laki-Laki vent and are explosive, magmatic events resulting in lava ejections and ash clouds. During a 1939 eruption, Hokeng Mission 6km away recorded stones “like hens eggs” raining down on them for 10 minutes. Scary stuff!
As far as volcano trekking goes, Lewotobi delivers a lot of bang for your buck. Two peaks, enough volcanic activity to get the heart racing, looking glass views into the bowels of the earth and magnificent vistas of the surrounding countryside and all the way across the Flores Strait to Solor Island.
Whilst rewarding, this is not an easy trek. The logistics are a little challenging, there’s no defined route to the follow, there’s a fair amount of scrambling involved and as it takes 8-10hrs return to climb just one peak, a certain level of fitness is required. Obviously, climbing both peaks needs to be done over a couple of days starting out at first light on both days.
First to the logistics. Your first port of call for your Lewotobi climb is the Volcanology Centre at Desa Bawalatang just outside Boru Village which is located on the main Larantuka – Maumere Road, 84km (1.5hrs drive) from Maumere or 54km (1hr drive) from Larantuka. Not only can these guys give you firsthand, up-to-date information about conditions and activity levels of the volcano, they can also help you find a local guide; essential because the route is so ill-defined. But they can’t help you at 5am in the morning so you really need to pre-arrange your guide in the days prior to your intended climb. This means either making a special trip out from Maumere or Larantuka or arriving the day before and overnighting in Boru Village. Unfortunately there’s no commercial accommodation in Boru so you’ll need to stay with a local villager. Again ask around the Volcanology Centre or once you’ve engaged a guide, ask him to help you arrange somewhere to stay. Obviously if you’re planning on climbing both peaks over two days, you’ll need to stay overnight in Boru Village regardless.
Commencing from the Volcanology Centre, the trek starts easily enough wandering through village plantations and patches of forest . After about 4.5km the trail crests a ridge then descends down into a rocky gully where you proceed in different directions for each peak.
For Lewotobi Perempuan, cross over the rocky gully and follow a faint path through scattered woodlands leading up onto the saddle between the two peaks. After about an hour, you’ll reach a large cement block marking the high point. Head to the right from here, working your way towards the Perempuan crater. On this part of the ascent you should spot one or two activity sensors placed by the team from the Volcanology Centre. About an hour after the cement block, you‘ll reach the outer crater rim, an area of bare rock. Veer right here and trek for another 30min or so to reach the main crater rim and get your first of Perempuan’s sulphur crusted lava dome.
Perempuan’s true summit lies 500m away to the south but the route from this part of the rim is very loose and crumbly and not worth the risk of trying to reach it. Retrace your steps along the same route to descend.
To climb Lewotobi Laki-Laki proceed straight up the gully. The rocks become increasingly loose the higher you go and requires a fair bit of scrambling and nerves as the top of the gully emerges onto a steep loose scree slope that takes you right up to the crater rim. If your heart is racing already, it’s bound to speed up even more when you stare down into the 15m wide, cavernous hole that that is Lewotobi Laki-Laki.
The preferred route for descending Laki-Laki back to the rocky gully is via the saddle between it and Lewotobi Perempuan. It’s still steep and loose but less dangerous.