following information is presented for educational purposes only. Always
seek local expert advice when traveling to a volcano.
Safety Recommendations When Visiting an Active Volcano
1) Read about past eruptions.
eruptions can repeat themselves. What the volcano has done in the past
is what it is capable of doing in the future. While volcanoes are
inherently unpredictable, studies of past eruptions at a particular
volcano will give an indication of what is possible.
2) Read about past accidents.
what went wrong in past accidents. The Bulletin of the Global Volcanism
Network (Smithsonian Institute) has the best monthly volcanic activity
reports including accident reports. Two accidents have happened on field
trips associated with International Volcanology conferences (Galeras in
1993 and Semeru 2000). Many scientists are inexperienced when it comes
to climbing volcanoes. Theoretical knowledge is no replacement for field
3) Observe the volcano for before getting close to the danger zone.
the frequency and types or eruptions occurring at the volcano.
Sometimes a two to three day observation period is required before
approaching the summit area. Simply arriving at the volcano and climbing
straight to the summit is asking for trouble!
4) Know the current volcano warning level.
does this compare to the "normal" state of volcanic activity. Volcano
warning levels may be expressed in different forms. Warning levels may
mean different things on different volcanoes. Learn what the current
activity level means for the particular volcano you are visiting.
Remember, most volcanoes are not monitored by scientists so don't rely
on the authorities knowing the danger level. Absence of evidence is not
evidence of absence. If there is no current eruption warning, it does
not necessarily mean the volcano is safe!
5) Be self sufficient.
not expect other people to come into the danger zone and rescue you.
Heroic rescue efforts like Galeras in 1993 cannot be relied upon. Don't
expect people to risk their life to get you out of danger. It is "cargo
cult" mentality to think that rescue will come from the sky in the form
of helicopter retrieval, such as the Ambrym 2004 rescue of a film crew. .
6) Take the correct equipment.
maps, compass, GPS, food, water, suitable clothing, gloves. If camping
out then make sure you have suitable shelter. Volcanoes can be very wet
places. An expedition level tent is required. During the accident at
Galeras volcano in 1993, incredibly only one scientist of the group who
entered the active crater wore a helmet! That scientist survived, and
more lives would have been spared if others had done the same. A major
cause of death was head impacts caused by falling rocks. There is mobile
phone reception on some volcanoes so it may be possible to ring out in
an emergency. However do not rely on this method alone because it is
very unreliable. Two way radios may help but reception can be affected
7) Travel with a guide/volcanologist experienced in the local conditions.
sure the guide is experienced on the volcano. Local knowledge should
always be sought when visiting a volcano. On the spot activity reports
are more accurate than remote sensing data. For example eruptions on Mt
Etna in 2000 were predicted at the crater edge 1 hour before
seismometers picked up an increase in activity. Gas and ash emissions
may not always be picked up remotely. Local guides may have good advice
on recent volcanic activity.
example of what can go wrong on a volcano trip was demonstrated in 2004
when a film crew went to Ambrym volcano in Vanuatu. The crew attempted
to film the volcano, and failed to take a volcanologist. The crew had to
be rescued from the volcano after one week, leaving behind thousands of
dollars worth of equipment, a failed expedition, wasted filming budget,
and lucky to escape with their lives. The small additional price of a
volcanologist on the trip would have prevented this debacle.
you are inexperienced and travel without a qualified guide into the
danger area, you will put rescuers at risk when they try to retrieve
your body (such as happened on Stromboli volcano in 1986).
8) Leave travel details with a responsible person.
should state your destination and when you will return. It should also
contain a copy of the emergency plan and how to activate it. Some
volcanoes are so remote that a disaster plan can only be very basic. It
is always best to be self-sufficient and not rely on other people to
9) Take all precautions in PREVENTING an accident.
very conservative in your actions. Don't assume the volcano is safe if
everything looks quiet. It may be the "calm before the storm". A blocked
vent can be quiet but the pressure can be building to a large eruption.
10) Obey local authorities.
enter any area on the volcano if the local authorities prohibit it.
Don't try to escape paying the proper climbing fees, and charges imposed
by the authorities. Payment and registration with the local authorities
is there for your safety.
11) Safety cannot be guaranteed at a volcano.
on an active volcano cannot be guaranteed. Volcanoes can produce large
eruptions without warning. Visiting an active volcano is like lying down
of a freeway. If you stay there long enough you will be killed.
Precautions in the Danger Zone
1) Wear the correct equipment at all times.
a helmet and take a gas mask. If your helmet is not strapped on at all
times it is useless. Even effusive volcanoes like Kilauea may send
dangerous projectiles into the air from lava sea-water interactions and
methane explosions. Unstable ground can result in falls and head
2) Beware of many sources of danger on a volcano.
heat, cold, windstorms, heavy rain/ acid rainfall, lightning, altitude
sickness, blizzards, getting lost, volcanic activity, unstable terrain,
dangerous plants, animals, and insects. Volcanoes generate their own
weather which can be severe and different from that only a few km away.
Localised wind storms may reach 150 km/hr without warning. Cooling lava
flows may still be deadly, when rain falling on the hot surface may
displace breathable air after it flashes to steam (people died from the
effect at Nyiragongo eruption in 2002). Beware that some areas may be
high risk areas for robbery, kidnap, personal injury, civil unrest etc.
Traveling to new regions may put the traveler at risk of diseases such
as malaria, typhoid, food poisoning etc. Take all necessary prophylactic
medication and immunizations. Getting to the volcano may be as
dangerous than the volcano itself!
3) Survey the ground on approach to the crater.
for evidence of recent ejecta. If you can see recent bombs on the
ground then you can be hit. Limit your time in that area. It is
preferable you relocate to a safer zone. Some vents eject projectiles in
a particular direction. Don't stay in the firing line. Recent bombs are
black and stand out from the brown colour of older lava.
4) Watch out for rock falls and avalanches when climbing the crater.
rocks and unstable ground pose one of the most immediate hazards when
climbing a volcano. Don't kick rocks down the slope and try to limit
your impact on the unstable terrain. Watch out for other climbers above
and below you. The crater edge may be overhanging. Know where you are
walking at all times. Be careful of new ground slumping or cracking.
This will pose a risk because the edge of the crater may fall into the
volcano. Cooled lava flows may look stable to walk on, but the crust may
be thin, which would expose the hiker to a falling into a lava tube.
There may even be flowing lava under a thin crust of pahoehoe lava.
Falling into an active lava tube will be instant death.
5) Beware of Hazardous Gases.
gases emitted by volcanoes include carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide,
hydrogen sulfide, radon, hydrogen chloride, hydrofluoric acid, and
sulfuric acid. Gases can be toxic directly or displace oxygen from the
environment leading to anoxia. Never enter a depression near active
fumaroles, especially on a day without wind. Toxic gases can pool in the
depression leading to a dangerous situation.
6) Can you directly see the vent?
you can directly see the vent then the projectiles have a direct line
of sight to you. Rocks and lava can be ejected at 200 m per second,
sometimes even supersonic. You might be hit before you even hear the
explosion. Lateral projectiles are some of the most dangerous and can be
lethal in even a minor eruption.
7) Beware of periods of low activity.
periods at a volcano may lure you into a false sense of security, and
make you go closer than you would otherwise. Beware of a quiet volcano!
8) Limit your time in the danger zone.
closer you go to the vent, the greater the risks. In zone 1 (see above)
even a minor eruption can be fatal. The risks multiply exponentially in
this zone. Spend only minutes in this zone, if you need to be there at
all. There is really no reason to be in zone 1 of a volcano. The
scientists at Galeras made the fatal error of staying 4 hours in this
area! Remember you will be killed here if you stay long enough. It is
like sleeping on a freeway. Eventually something will hit you if you
stay long enough. Some scientists enter the danger zone immediately
after a large eruption because they believe the magma column may be
lowered for a while. It takes a brave person to follow this line of
thinking. [The author does not discount this theory, but also does not
9) Exit the danger zone well before sunset.
the climb early and exit by midday. If something goes wrong then rescue
will be almost impossible at night. If you survive the accident then
you may die of exposure during the cold night at altitude. Volcano
watchers are early risers. Some climbs are started at midnight in order
to arrive at the summit by sunrise for the best views. By 9 am the
summit can be covered in cloud and visibility reduced.
10) Observe from a safe location.
up wind and away from the direction of travel of projectiles. Have an
evacuation plan with 2 exits. Mentally rehearse your escape plan
continuously while in the danger zone. Vent migration may make a
previously safe area off limits. Take time to study the volcano
topography before going too close.
1) If caught in an eruption near the crater take cover.
have a 50% chance of survival if you are caught in an eruption. Hiding
behind boulders or in a depression will shield you from lateral
projectiles. Watch for vertical projectiles. Fall times from 1 km can be
around 14 seconds so there is time to see the larger ones coming, but
weather you can take evasive action is debatable. From experience is is
very difficult, or even impossible, to calculate projectile
trajectories, and fall times. Evacuate the area as soon as possible.
Re-assess your knowledge of the volcano and its eruptive history.
Wearing gloves will prevent severe burns to the hands while escaping
over glowing lava rocks. Inhaling hot ash is a major cause of death in
pyroclastic flows. The lethal period may only last a minute. Motor
vehicles offer little safety. An air tight building increases survival.
(Note: A pyroclastic flow through a town is one of volcanology's most
feared scenarios. It happened at Mt Pelee and Vesuvius).
2) Visibility may suddenly reduce to almost zero without warning.
can be due to fog, vog, cloud, rain, volcanic fumes or nightfall. Be
sure you can deal with these situations. Most people would have severe
problems walking out of an area under these conditions. A familiar
location will become a nightmare under limited visibility. If you find
yourself in very low visibility then you may just have to sit and wait
until conditions improve. Don't walk off a cliff and fall into the
volcano. A GPS may be a useful navigation aid, but it will not allow
safety close to active vents at night. Some volcanic zones involve
climbing along knife-edge ridges. A GPS will not allow sufficient
accuracy to navigate along these areas in limited visibility. Some
volcanic areas have few landmarks to use in navigating.
3) Leave the area if it becomes dangerous.
is no point having a safety plan if it is ignored. Two scientists were
killed on Guagua Pichincha Volcano in 1993 when they remained in the
crater despite getting a radio warning of possible eruption 85 minutes
14) Do not approach lava flowing through vegetation.
explosions occur in front of lava flowing over burning vegetation.
Plants burn without oxygen as they are covered by lava, creating methane
gas. The gas fills underground lava tubes. When the methane ignites,
the ground explodes up to 100 meters in front of the advancing lava
flow. Rocks and debris blast in all directions.
See more on methane explosions.
15) Look for warning signs of an eruption.
activity may be preceded by earthquakes or rock falls. You may only
have 30 seconds warning but this may give you time to take cover or
16) Watch out for Heavy Rain.
Heavy rain can cause flash flooding and lahars.
Weighing the Risks of Volcanology Compared to Other Pursuits.
People usually underestimate the risks of the familiar and over estimate the risk of the unfamiliar. Here are some examples.
Underestimation of Risk
Motor vehicle accident, Accident in the home, Saturated fat in the diet.
Overestimation of Risk
Injury on a volcano, Shark attack, Plane crash, Preservatives in the diet.
decision to climb an erupting volcano should be based on a risk-benefit
analysis. To see an eruption is one of the greatest sights in nature
but the challenge must be accepted with common sense and knowledge of
1. What to bring:
clothes like T-shirts and shorts (daytime) long trousers and long
sleeved shirts in bright colour (evening and night time)
small backpack and comfortable boots for jungle andf volcano treks
(additional sandals for for explorer & observation treks), light
and warm socks, raincoat, plastic or waterproof bag for your personal
belongings, hut, sunglasses, sun lotion, insect repellent, toilet
paper, camera, mobilphone and cards, mosquitonet and
flashlight, swimming suit and towel, personal medical kit and
recommended medicine like anti diarrhea medicine, dehydration salt,
aspirin and antibiotic
2. Health / Risks:
should take out comprehensive insurance with good medical cover in
advance. Please note that travel insurance is within the personal
responsibility of each traveler and should cover accidents, injury or
loss of personal property!
consult your doctor in advance and discuss your individual medication
(Tetanus and Hepatitis vaccination, anti-rabies inoculation) and get his
advice on malaria prophylaxis. Basically you should use an insect
repellent all day whilst in the jungle (Deet > 40%) and wear long
sleeves/trousers during sunset when the mosquitoes are at their most
active. There are mosquitoes around Krakatau Ujung Kulon but we have had
no reports on malaria infection in recent years.
need to be fit enough for strong exercise if you plan to do treks over a
few days. A general health check with your doctor is an absolute
necessity before travelling to the Java jungle and lies within the
responsibility of each guest!
note that in and around Ujung Kulon Krakatau National Park you will
mostly be out in the wild and that the tours arranged by EcoTravel Ujung
Kulon involve certain risks and dangers. These include: traveling in
mountain terrain, trekking in dense rainforest and crossing rivers;
unpredictable behavior of wildlife; accidents caused by the forces of
nature; accidents or illness in remote regions with little or no medical
facilities and without any means of rapid or free evacuation; accidents
caused by Indonesian traffic.
should inform the EcoTravel team about your personal health conditions
like high blood pressure, allergies, operations, pregnancy and fear of
special insects, heights or darkness in advance! In
order to keep you as safe as possible you have to abide by the rules
and instructions given to you by the EcoTravel team at all times. Please
note that the tour operator is not liable for any damages or injuries
suffered in consequence of anything, however caused, in connection with
services carried out by third parties and for death or personal injury.
can get a 30-day visa on arrival at Jakarta airport and on any other
Indonesian international airports for $25. If you want to stay longer
you can get a 60-day tourist visa at the Indonesian Embassy. The exact
process and documents required will vary depending on your nationality,
the country you apply in and the kind of your stay in Indonesia. The
validity of your passport should be 6 months from the date of arrival in
Make sure in advance to arrive with enough cash in the area of Krakatau
Ujung Kulon National Park! There are ATM machines in Labuan just 15
minute from Carita or you can find it on the way from Jakarta and
around but it is possible to change foreign money like Euro. Note: most
guesthouses do not change US-Dollars! There are plenty of cash points in
Jakarta where you can get money with credit cards or exchange foreign
currencies into Indonesian Rupiah (IDR). Note: The maximum amount you
get from ATM machines is 2 Mio IDR, so you will have to make several
transactions to get a higher amount! Due to frequent problems with ATM
machines we recommend to take 2 -3 different credit cards with you! In
Carita -Area around Carita you can pay with IDR only.