At only 1,952m high, Mount Kaba isn’t the highest volcano in Indonesia by a long way but it’s certainly one of the easiest to climb. And with three perfectly formed craters and gorgeous scenery over the surrounding farmlands and adjacent ranges, summiting Bukit Kaba (Kaba Hill) as the locals call it, is definitely worthwhile.
Mount Kaba is a twin volcano with Gunung Hitam (Black Mountain) which emerged from the surrounding hills a millennia ago. Whilst Gunung Hitam has long been dormant, Kaba experienced periodic eruptions during the 19th and 20th centuries. An eruption in 1833 breached a small crater lake forming lahars, deadly mudflows composed of pyroclastic material, volcanic debris and water that flowed down the mountainside killing residents in surrounding villages.
Of the three summit craters cradled within the Mount Kaba complex only one, Kawa Hidup, remains active. It recorded a minor eruption in August 2007 and has been emitting stream and acrid sulphur ever since. Whilst it’s not safe to descend into this volcanic cauldron, you can climb down into the adjacent and dormant Kawa Mati for a close up look at its small, neon green lake. But first, to reach these two craters, you need to traverse Kawah Lama (Old Crater) via 300 odd stairway.
It’s possible to do a circuit of the whole crater complex which takes around 2 hours and delivers some great photo opportunities. The views across the green farmlands below and adjacent ranges are sublime; arguably the best in Sumatra. On a clear day you can see Curup city to the northwest and the mountain clusters containing Gunung Pasuin the north, Gunung Dempo to the south and the Barisan mountain cluster to the southwest.
There are a couple of options for climbing Mount Kaba and they both begin at the POKDARWIS entrance station at the base of the mountain. Option one is follow the narrow gravel track winding up the side of the mountain. Initially the trail passes through pretty plantation forest and is in reasonably good condition but it deteriorates and becomes overgrown in places after entering the native forest. However, it’s quite doable on a scooter provided you have one with a bit of power to negotiate the steeper sections or you can walk the trail instead. By scooter it takes about 30min to reach the car park near the summit just below the stairway to the Kaba summit craters. Allow 2-2.5 hours if you’re hiking.
An alternate route from the entrance station is via a shorter, but steeper jungle trail. The trail is narrow, slippery and steep in places and not recommended after heavy rainfall unless you like ending up wet and muddy. It takes around 2-2.5 hours one way, roughly the same as the gravel track alternative but you’ll need to hire a guide at the POKDARWIS entrance station for around 50.000Rp. It’s possible of course, to ascend via one route and return via the other.
Mount Kaba is most commonly accessed from Curup city, 85km northeast of the seaport city of Bengkulu. From Curup, head east along the main road to Lubuk Linggau for approximately 19km until you reach a signposted turnoff on the right to “Bukit Kaba”. Public buses run along the main road several times daily but you’ll need to arrange an ojek for the final 6km (15min) from the turnoff to the POKDARWIS entrance station. The easiest way to go Tiawang village about 1km past the Bukit Kaba turnoff and ask around.
On that note, whilst there is ample accommodation in Curup city there are a couple of decent homestays in Tiawang and both can hook you up with an ojek to take you to the entrance station or all the way up the gravel track to the summit. Expect to pay around 50.000Rp one way or 100.000Rp return for an ojek to the top.
An entrance fee of 10.000Rp for foreign tourists or 1.500Rp for domestic tourists is payable. Parking at the POKDARWIS entrance station costs 3.500Rp for scooters and 5.000Rp for cars. Camping is permitted near the summit car park just below the stairway up Kawah Lama but an additional fee is payable.