The largest island in the Maluku archipelago Halmahera is home to the North Maluku capital of Sofifi. Located on the west coast the once small village was chosen to replace Ternate as the capital in 2010.
The island has four distinct mountainous peninsulars where rare wildlife and active volcanos can be found.
The island has three airports Buli, Kao (Tobelo airport) and Galela. Galela has services from Ternate and Manado, North Sulawesi. Kao has flights connecting Manado and Buli has services from Ternate. The capital Sofifi does not have an airport with the nearest being Ternate. Public ferries and speed boats run between Ternate and Sofifi daily. The ferry is cheaper but considerably slower. A speed boat will take around 45 minutes to Sofifi from Ternate while the ferry takes a leisurely 2 hours.
Local boats can take you to most destinations although much of the sea transport for the island originates in Ternate.
The island has a reasonable road system with most of the islands districts connected. Taxis and mini buses operate between a number of the main centres.
Ask your accommodation hosts to assist with organising transport as English is not widely spoken in the more remote regions.
Accommodation is basic although some nice bungalows and B & B’s can be found in the more populated centres. Once away from the busier centres and airport towns there is little accommodation.
The Galela district stretches from Tobelo on the east coast to the tip of the north peninsular. Most of the districts population centres around Lake Galela located a few kilometres west of Soasio. The largest of the lakes in the region it is a major tourist attraction. A road circles the lake providing excellent views particularly around the extinct cones of Gunung Tarakan volcano. Villages surround the lake so a tour of the area may also provide a glimpse into village life and how they interact with the lake.
During WWII the Japanese constructed tunnels in the shores of the lake. If you are interested in a bit of history ask at Dokulamo, Duma and Samuda villages for more information.
Tobelo on the southern fringe of the Galela region is the district capital. It is located on the eastern side of the north peninsular. With a population of around 15000 it is a major centre with most facilities. Surrounded by coconut plantations the town itself has little to offer however, there’s the active Dukono volcano in the distance and numerous beaches and easily accessable islands to explore.
Mount Dukono can be climbed but be mindful this is one of the world’s most active volcanos which has been erupting since the early 1930’s. Expect constant ash clouds to rain down and roaring and hissing from the volcano as the crater is approached. With multiple summit peaks and overlapping craters, it’s easy to get lost on the ash-covered summit so a guide is essential. A guide can also be helpful in predicting wind changes thus keeping hikers away from the heavier ash falls.
The hike begins at Desa Mamuya which is located between Galela and Tobelo. Guides can be arranged at Mamuya. Don’t forget to sign the visitor’s book, register at the Vulcanology Post and buy face masks. The volcanic ash is very fine so ensure cameras and phones etc are well protected
The first 8kms through plantations to “Terminal” can be walked but if you prefer to save time and your legs for the climb hire an Ojek. Allow around 3.5 hours to complete the 3.5km walk from “Terminal” to the initial crater rim which is at a height of 940m. The first views of the active crater are at 800m once through the cane grass section of the climb. It’s about another 1.5 hours to reach the active crater rim at 1100m. Peering into the crater rim is an awe inspiring experience with ash clouds rising some 500m in the air accompanied by the roaring and hissing sounds coming from deep in the earth.
Some more adventurous hikers camp on the mountain to take in the amazing fireworks display at night. A guide will be useful if deciding to camp or not as they are familiar with the wind conditions. Should the wind drop completely the entire area can be covered in ash.
The trek back down takes around 3.5 hours plus an hour from “Terminal” back through the plantations so allow a full day to complete the climb.
The twin cones of dormant Tarakan volcano lie 16kms to the north of Mount Dukono in the Galela district. The craters are 800 and 500m in diameter and up to 160m deep.
Kao is a fairly quiet village on the south eastern side of the north peninsular. Its airport was built by the Japanese during WWII and receives several flights a week. For those wishing to hike across the north peninsular of Halmahera to Ibu this is a handy starting point. We could not find any specific information on the cross country hike so ask around at the local villages. If you have done the hike or have any details regarding it feel free to let us know via our blog.
There is also a semi-sunken WWII shipwreck visible from land, as well as Japanese tunnels and cannons from the war.
Bobale Island is a major attraction in the area with beautiful beaches, coral reefs and a Second World War bunker. The island is accessed from Daru about 60km north of Kao. A boat to the island will take around 20 minutes.
Mount Gamkonora on the west coast of Halmahera is the island’s highest peak at 1,635m. With semi-regular explosive eruptions, Gamkonora is generally classified as restless. The most recent violent eruption occurred in 2007, sending ash plumes 800m into the sky and instigating the evacuation of 8,000 people from the area.
As volcano trekking goes, climbing Gamkonora is a relatively easy and with great views and series of spectacular elongated summit craters, it delivers a lot of bang for your buck.
From the trailhead at Desa Gamsungi, it takes around 4-5 hours of steady climbing to reach the summit. A guide is essential to help negotiate the trail through the plantations on the lower slopes, and one can be easily arranged in Desa Baru or Gamsungi. No permit is required but check in with the village leader and be sure to obtain the latest volcano status information from the staff at Pos Pengamatan Gunung Api (Vulcanology Post) in Gamsungi. Be sure to take plenty of water and some snacks for the trek.
There’s no accommodation in Gamsungi so most trekkers stay in Jailolo to the south. To complete the trek comfortably in a day and reach the summit before the clouds start to roll in, you’ll need to hire a driver to transfer you to Gamsungi and get an early start.
In 2012 Ibu starting erupting and has continued ever since. Located to the north of Mount Gamkonora the volcano is extremely isolated and rarely visited. The crater has a distinguishing lava dome created during a 1998 eruption which is the attraction that draws the few adventures to it. The entire volcano is densely forested therefore a guide is essential. The trek starts from the village of Duono which is about a 3 hour Ojek ride from Jailolo where there is accommodation. There may be one or two guides in Duono but they will not be easy to track down as they work during the day. Ask the village head for help. The steaming lava dome should be the high point of the hike particularly with an overnight camp on the crater. Allow two days to complete the hike and be self sufficient.
If you are looking to get off the beaten track then Loloda might be for you. On the western side of the northern tip of Halmahera you can find rugged coastline, nearby islands, beautiful beaches, waterfalls and traditional villages. There are no roads so getting there and around is by boat. Ask around in Ternate to arrange a boat for the journey. Take your camping gear as there is no accommodation in the area.