Although Mount Batur is relatively quiet today, this active volcano has erupted a number of times in the past, which is clear to see when you look at the vast black lava fields that spill down the slopes of the volcano. We recently set off on a 4WD Black Lava Jeep Tour to get up close and personal with the lava fields, learn more about the history of the eruptions and unique geologic formations, and scope out secret caves and incredible viewpoints.
Our tour started at Bali Sunrise Villas where our driver picked us up in a specially made, tricked-out 4WD jeep with massive wheels, mad engine power, and open-air seats that allowed for great views of the surrounding scenery. Just a short drive from the villas, we turned off into the lava fields that start at the edge of Songan village.
As our jeep made its way over massive rocks and along narrow paths through the hardened lava, we began to see the peak of Mount Batur rising above the rubble. Our first stop was at an information board that explained all about the various eruptions and the different lava formations we could see around us including pillow lava, ropy lava, and lava balls. Our guide was quick to answer all the questions we had, and he was happy to let us explore the lunar-like landscape.
Next we climbed even higher to about halfway up the mountain to the site of the 1964 eruption where our driver stopped and let us soak up the stunning views of the double Batur cones in the background. He even convinced us to scramble up on top of the jeep so we could get the ultimate selfies with the volcanic cone looming in the background, contrasting nicely with the clear blue skies and black lava fields.
Multiple selfies accomplished, we made our way down to the fields at the base of the mountain where local people were farming shallots, tomatoes, and chili peppers. We travelled past the vegetable fields and through a shady forest before emerging at a lookout point that offered panoramic views of Lake Batur, the caldera, Trunyan village, Songan village, and the Batur cones.
Our last stop was to a lava tube cave, which the Balinese people consider a holy spot. Wooden steps led down to an opening in the side of the volcano where there was a small shrine set up on the rock platform next to the entrance of the cave. Our guide handed us headlamps and took us inside the cave where you could see crystals sparkling on the black lava walls and cool water dripping down.
All up, this was an awesome way to see a different side of the volcano that you wouldn’t normally see on a trek up to the peak. Even better, we got to just sit back and relax in the jeep as our driver took us through this incredible landscape. Next time we’re definitely going to try the Sunrise Black Lava Jeep Tour to see it all from an even different perspective.
When it comes to sunrise treks, Mount Batur is our most popular trek and for good reason. First of all, the slopes are not as steep and arduous as those on Mount Agung, so even amateur trekkers can tackle them. Second of all, it only takes about two and a half hours to reach the peak of Batur compared to seven or eight hours to reach the peak of Agung. That being said, Mount Batur is still an active volcano, so safety is our top priority. Thankfully the good people at the Association of Mount Batur Trekking Guides have our backs.
Despite what some people may tell you, it is not possible to climb Mount Batur (or any other volcano in Bali) without a certified local guide. Sure, back in the day intrepid trekkers could forge ahead on their own, but as injuries and fatalities on the mountains began to rise, the government made it mandatory for all trekkers to take a local guide. Today trekkers must check in with the Association of Mount Batur Trekking Guides before beginning a climb up Batur, and the organisation will assign one guide for up to a maximum of four trekkers.
Made Sukarmi Asih is one of our most requested guides and the first female guide to join the organisation. Today there are over 600 guides in the association but just 10 women. Made says, “We often encounter people who don’t understand why they need a guide, and so we have to explain to them that it’s not just about money. We know the safest routes up and have a good relationship with the volcanologists, so they alert us when they see abnormal seismic activity. We also have first aid training and can help in an emergency, and we can tell people about the history and geology of the mountain.
“Another thing that many people don’t realise is that for Balinese Hindus Mount Batur is one of the most sacred spots on the island, so we have a huge responsibility to respect the spirits and the temples here. For example, if an accident happens on the mountain, it could provoke bad spirits, and then we would have to make a big ceremony. Therefore we try to prevent any accidents from happening for humanitarian and spiritual reasons.”
Like Made, nearly every member of the organisation comes from the Kintamani region and has been climbing the mountain since they were children, so they know the trails and vents of the volcano like the back of their hands. After rigorous training, they can apply for a guiding license and then join the ranks of guides on the mountain every morning. They must also attend meetings every month to evaluate the previous month’s service and to discuss any issues that might have come up.
Ketut Kade is one of the founders of the association and also one of 18 leaders responsible for managing the guides. He believes that their role is much larger than simply guiding people up the mountain. He says, “Before the association was founded, anybody could be a guide and that caused problems with competition between freelance guides and friction between guides and guests. We wanted to create a better image for the area, and also to support the community by creating jobs and income that would trickle back to the farmers and fishermen.
The fees that guests pay to take a guide up the mountain go partly to the government, partly to pay the guides’ monthly salaries, and partly towards social endeavours. Ketut says, “In Bali we follow the philosophy of Tri Hita Karana, which means harmony between humans and other humans, humans and nature, and humans and God. That is why we also do extra activities like helping people with disabilities, cleaning rubbish off the mountain, and making big ceremonies at least once a year to honour the spirits on the mountain.”
Bali Sunrise Trekking & Tours has a tight relationship with the Association of Mount Batur Trekking Guides. In fact, Bali Sunrise founder Gede Mangun was also one of the original founders of the guide association. When you book any trek or tour with us, we make sure that you are assigned a qualified guide who will not only get you up and down the mountain safely, but who will also make your trip as hassle-free and memorable as possible. And the fee for the guide is always included in the total trekking package, so there are no hidden costs.
Being one of Bali’s leading tour operators, we get all kinds of questions from travellers around the globe about everything from what to bring on a trek to required fitness levels, local customs and more. To make it easy for you so that you can get the most out of your Bali trek or tour, we’ve put together this handy guide of some things to consider before booking your Bali adventure.
1. When is the Best Time of Year to Book a Bali Trek or Tour?
Bali has two distinct seasons: the dry season from about April to September and the rainy or wet season from about November to March. When it comes to trekking and tours, the dry season is a good bet, but don’t rule out the rainy season either! On many days in the wet season the rains won’t start until later in the afternoon, so you can still get in a sunrise trek or morning tour without getting wet. Plus we often have dry spells in the rainy season (and sometimes wet spells in the dry season).
Another thing to consider when planning your trip is the peak tourist season. We see the highest amount of tourists visiting between June and August, during the Idul Fitri holiday at the end of Ramadan (dates vary every year), and the Christmas holidays in the month of December. Outside these times you will probably find the roads to be less hectic and the top sightseeing spots less crowded.
2. Do I Need to be in Top Physical Condition to do a Bali Trek or Tour?
While some of our treks do require a decent level of fitness and full mobility, we also offer a wide range of tours to suit all fitness levels and age groups. You can challenge your limits on one of our tough Mount Agung treks, get the body moving as you trek up Batur, or take an easy-going downhill cycling tour, a leisurely stroll through the rice paddies, or a laid-back wander through Ubud. If you’re concerned about any physical or health issues, just send us an email and we’re happy to discuss how we can tailor your tour to suit your needs.
3. Why do I Need a Guide to Trek up the Volcanoes?
In the past you could climb Mount Batur and Mount Agung without a guide, but now the government makes it mandatory for all climbers to use a guide. There are many reasons for this, but the main one is safety. First of all, both mountains are active volcanoes, so at times of high activity they can be very dangerous to climb. In addition, weather conditions can change rapidly the further you go up, and many solo travellers have gotten lost coming up or going down. All of our guides know the mountains like the back of their hands, so they know when it’s safe to climb the mountain and exactly which trails to take.
4. What Should I Bring on My Bali Trek or Tour?
No matter what tour you take, good walking shoes are essential. This might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people show up for a trek wearing just flip flops! Warm clothes are also a good idea, as it can get pretty chilly at the tops of the mountains. You may want to bring layers that you can easily pull on or off and a light waterproof jacket in case of rain. As for drinking water, torches and snacks, we will supply those to you on the trek, but you are welcome to bring your own as well. And of course a camera is a must for getting all those incredible photos that will make your friends at home jealous!
5. What Kind of Wildlife Will I See?
Depending on the type of tour you take and the area you explore, you could see monkeys, tropical birds, civets, and of course Bali dogs. We don’t have any poisonous spiders here in Bali, but we do have a few types of poisonous snakes. However, the chances of seeing a poisonous snake are pretty low because they generally try to stay away from humans. No matter what type of wild animal you see, we highly suggest keeping a respectful distance because you never know how a wild animal may react.
6. What Happens if it Rains on the Day of my Tour?
The weather in Bali can be unpredictable, so there is a possibility that it might rain on the day of your tour (even in the dry season). We usually don’t let this stop us from trekking up the mountain or exploring the countryside and rainforest because the rains can often stop as quickly as they come, and even a wet trek can still be an amazing experience. However, in the case of extreme weather like high winds or electrical storms, our knowledgeable guides may cancel the tour for safety reasons. You can read more about our cancellation policies here.
7. What Should I Know About Balinese Culture?
Overall Balinese people are warm, welcoming and super accommodating of other cultures and customs. However, we’re also a slightly conservative bunch. When visiting traditional villages, try to dress modestly. T-shirts and shorts are fine, but mini-skirts and cleavage-revealing tops are not. Public displays of affection are also taboo in Bali. In addition, you should never touch people on the head because the head is considered sacred, and if you must shake hands or pass something to someone, use your right hand because the left hand is considered unclean in Indonesian culture.
When visiting a temple, be sure to cover your shoulders and knees, and wear a sarong and a sash. Our tour guides will provide you with the proper attire before entering the temple. Women who are menstruating are forbidden from entering temples. Also, while in the temple never point your feet at the altar or stand or sit in a higher position than the priest. And if you want to take photos, be sure to be respectful of the people who have come to pray and try not to get in their way.
We hope these tips help answer any questions you have about your Bali trek or tour. If you’ve got a question that isn’t listed here, please feel free to ask it in the comments below or contact us directly.
Meet Gede Mangun, the creator of Bali Sunrise Trekking and Tours. Born and raised in the mountains, Gede has always had a passion for the great outdoors and the desire to share amazing experiences and opportunities for both visitors and locals alike.
Hi Gede! Can you tell us a little bit about your background? Where are you from and what were you like as a child?
I was born in Songan village in Kintamani. My parents were farmers, so as a child I was out playing in the fields every day. At that time there were no roads and no cars, just fields full of corn, sweet potatoes and tapioca. I remember playing with the corn stalks and husks with my friends, and when it would rain we would jump in the puddles and have mud fights.
2. What made you want to start Bali Sunrise Trekking & Tours?
From a young age I saw the potential in my village. Before there weren’t so many people trekking there because there was no road, but in 1980 they built the road and the asphalt went down in about ‘87 or ‘88. After that tourists starting coming and looking for locals to show them the way up the mountain. However, there were no real guides. Most people were farmers, and many people were scared of tourists.
At that time my parents had no money to send me to school outside of the village, so I started selling drinks to visitors to support my schooling. I tried speaking to them a bit with the little English I had, like “Hi” and “Yes” and “No”. Even though I was young, I saw that this was a great opportunity for me and the people in my village.
3. Do you remember your first time you trekked up Mount Batur? What was it like?
Well the people in my village climb the mountain all the time to collect grass and things, so I had been up Batur many times from a young age. But the first time I properly climbed all the way up was on a trek with my cousin. He was also selling drinks to trekkers and doing a bit of guiding, so I just followed him to listen and learn how he talked to tourists. It was challenging not because of the climb, but because I was very shy and a bit afraid to speak to the people on the trek. It took a few times before it got easier.
4. How and when did Bali Sunrise Trekking & Tours get started?
It was a natural progression from selling drinks to tagging along on treks and then guiding people up the mountain myself. Then I started organizing all sorts of tours as a freelance guide. Eventually I realized that I needed more people on board, so in 2001 I started Bali Sunrise Trekking and Tours.
5. With so many people doing tours in Bali, what makes Bali Sunrise stand out from the rest?
Firstly, all of our guides are locals from the areas we cover, so they really know the geography, history and culture of the region. For example, anytime you head up Mount Batur on a Bali Sunrise Tour, your guide will be someone who grew up next to the mountain and knows all the ins and outs of the trails and where to get the best views. Likewise if you head to Lombok you’ll be travelling with a local guide.
Secondly, we try to support the local farms and markets as much as we can. If you visit our restaurant in the villas, you’ll find that all the dishes make use of local products like fish from the lake, vegetables and fruits from nearby gardens and farms, and spices and herbs sourced locally. We really try to give back in any way that we can. We also try to inspire young people here to be proud of their home and their traditions.
6. What are your absolute favorite tours?
In Bali my favourite area to go trekking is Sambangan because it’s quite unique. You have a great combination of rice fields, waterfalls and traditional villages. It’s really lush, green and mountainous, so very beautiful. Also, I’m getting older, so the treks there are not super challenging, but the views are still amazing.
Off Bali, I love Rinjani because it’s absolutely amazing with its lakes, craters and sweeping views. To really get the full experience, it’s best to do a 3-day trek and stay up on the mountain overnight. That way you can see it all without having to rush.
7. What is the most challenging trek you’ve ever done?
Definitely Agung. It’s far more challenging than Batur and even Rinjani. First you have to start really early to catch the sunrise. Secondly, the road is steep and goes through some very dense jungle. Finally, you have to keep up the pace to finish within a certain time because it’s just too dangerous to try and make it down in the dark.
8. Can you tell us a bit about Bali Sunrise Villas & Restaurant? What was your inspiration behind the villas?
I’ve always tried to do things in my village with my family and my people, so I decided to build the villas on my family land in Songan. I saw this as an opportunity to not only create a place where people could relax and recharge before or after a trek, but also a place where I could teach local people hospitality skills and offer them work opportunities. In this way they can grow and learn, and maybe one day operate their own business.
For the design I decided to go natural because these days I see that not so many people are using local materials. For me I still want to keep our traditions alive, so I used natural materials like authentic Indonesian joglos made from recycled wood, volcanic stone, antique furnishings and local artworks.
9. Besides trekking, what can people do for fun when they stay at Bali Sunrise Villas?
There are so many things to do here in Songan and Toya Bungkah other than just trek the mountain. You can visit the hot springs just down the road, go canoeing or fishing in the lake, and visit the unique Bali Aga village of Trunyan just across the lake. Our staff are also happy to arrange any other tours you have in mind including walking tours around the crater, cooking classes, and snorkelling and diving trips further abroad.
10. Do you have any new and exciting trips or tours planned for the future?
So many! At the moment we’re planning trips over to Java to visit Kawah Ijen. That’s the volcano with the huge crater lake where miners haul out giant baskets of sulfur on their shoulders. We’re also planning tours to Komodo to see the giant Komodo dragons and beautiful beaches in Flores. On Bali we’ll be adding some more cultural activities like temple tours and trips to traditional villages, and we’re also really trying to spread out further to other Indonesian islands because there is just so much to see and do out there.