HOME - Yomadic Travel A B O U T : M A P Follow Yomadic on Facebook - Travel - PhotographyFollow Yomadic on TwitterFollow Yomadic Travel on Instagram R E S O U R C E S


Mount Ijen, Indonesia. Volcano Crater Sulphur Miners. The Job From Hell.

Ijen Volcano Indonesia Sulfur

Mount Ijen, Indonesia. Mining Sulphur by hand, deep in the active volcano crater. This is the job from hell. Breathing in stinking toxic fumes. Hour after choking hour. Walking for miles, weighed down like pack mules carrying loads of up to one hundred kilograms, in temperatures few could bare. All, for as little as a few dollars a day. How long would you last, working in a live volcano? The climb to the top of Mount Ijen, on the Indonesian island of Java, was physically demanding. However, nothing could mentally prepare me for what I would see at the bottom of the crater. Nothing.

Mount Ijen volcano, in Eastern Java, Indonesia, towers above the landscape. 

A 2800 meter volcano, “Kawah Ijen” is a mystical and frightening place for the local people. However, the Mount Ijen volcano is also a source of income, for those men hardy enough, and desperate enough, to enter its active crater to work as sulphur miners.  At four in the morning, the miners begin their gruelling day. A four kilometer walk into the crater mine is just the beginning. These men extract sulfur with little more than their bare hands, a primitive method long since abandoned in the western world. Carrying the back-breaking load using bamboo baskets, back up to the top of the crater, and then down the mountain, is a job that some men have performed for decades.

When I finally arrived at the bottom of the Mount Ijen volcano crater, my eyes welled with tears.

The extreme natural beauty of the turquoise coloured crater lake, and the surrealistic mine-site, were almost too much to bare. The miners were very considerate to me. There was a clear sense that I was a welcome guest in their work place. I stayed in the crater for an hour or two, as various miners safely toured me around. On the way up and down the dangerous, steep, rocky path, the foul-smelling toxic plumes were choking me. My eyes were weeping, my nose and throat burning. Breathing was difficult, my chest felt tight, like asthma. More than once I thought, this is not a good idea.

My journey into the crater was spur of the moment. I had seen the miners taking their loads down the mountain, as we were climbing up to the rim of the crater.  At the top, looking through my zoom lens, and saw ant-like figures deep into the distance.  I was mesmerised. The view far below was drawing me into the crater. With little hesitation, I began the descent, and advised my travel partner “I’ll be back, when I get back”. After the remarkable experience below, I headed back to the top of the crater, under the guidance of a miner who had befriended me. Upon my return to a waiting Phillipa (who, by this time, was clearly worried for my safety), I looked into her eyes, and was completely lost for words. Not knowing how to begin to explain what I had seen, I attempted to describe a most bizarre combination of incredible beauty, and outright hell that these workers endure. I simply could not hold back the tears any longer.

I will never forget this day.

Mount Ijen Volcano (Kawah Ijen) is located in Eastern Java, Indonesia. Travellers can independently hike to the top of the crater rim. Beware that descending into the crater is very dangerous.

Enjoy the photos.

Nate.

ijen view indonesia

travel indonesia volcano

sulphur miners indonesia

crater lake, Ijen

walk back up, Ijen Volcano, Indonesia

sulphur volcano miner, job from hell

crater lake

Indonesian sulphur miner

Ijen volcano crater lake

miner souvenir, Indonesia

travel volcano Indonesia

mount Ijen volcano

volcanic crater lake, Ijen, Indonesia

toxic smoke Ijen volcano Indonesia

miners hut volcano crater Ijen, Java

mining for sulpur mount Ijen, Java, Indonesia

walking back up, Ijen crater volcano

turquoise lake at bottom of Mount Ijen volcano crater, East Java, Indonesia

distant view through sulphur smoke, Mount Ijen, Indonesia

Mount Ijen view

, , , , , , , , , ,

14 Responses to Mount Ijen, Indonesia. Volcano Crater Sulphur Miners. The Job From Hell.

  1. Roselle Mar 19, 2012 at 1:38 am #

    they need gas masks!

    • Nate Mar 19, 2012 at 1:55 am #

      Hi Roselle. Yes, there is a lot of safety equipment that would come in handy!

  2. celestino Apr 25, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

    My wife and I would like to sent two filter type mask we have and really don;t need. can you sent us an address so that we can sent them to help does workers. thank u. Celestino

    • Nate Jun 13, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

      Hi Celestino, sorry about the slow reply (I missed your comment)… that”s a very kind thought you have, but unfortunately, I do not have a contact address.

  3. ekeu Jul 24, 2012 at 7:55 am #

    they don’t need mask, they just need money..
    life is tough but they got some effort, not earning money in illegal way
    best part of street/travel photography is, it opens our eye

    • Nate Jul 24, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

      Thanks for your comment, ekeu. I agree, they need the money – or else, why would they put themselves through such back-breaking work. This was an eye-opener in the extreme.

  4. Isabel Aug 2, 2012 at 5:32 pm #

    Dear Nate,

    We are going to go to Bromo volcano in two weeks and we are also interested in going to Mount Ijen but it is difficult to find some information (even in the Lonely planet guide…) So maybe you can help me:

    – How far is Mount Bromo to Mount Ijen?
    – How can we get from Bromo to there?
    – Is it possible to go at the two mounts in te same day? (Bromo at sunrise and Ijen at midday-afternoon)

    Thank you in advance!

    Isabel

  5. Susan Jul 27, 2013 at 10:27 am #

    Hi Nate,

    I agree with you that being on Ijen is very impressive and it did really opened my eyes. Did you also see the episode of Human Planet of BBC where these men are filmed? I love your pictures, it seems like you’ve been down into the crater is that right? Do you (or anyone else who is reading this) know whether there is a foundation or some other Non-profit organisation that supports these men?

    Thanks! Greetings Susan

    • Nate Robert Jul 27, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

      Hi Susan, yes, down into the crater. I’m not sure about a foundation or non-profit, hopefully somebody else will stumble upon your comment and fill in the answer. Tale care, Nate.

      • Susan Jul 27, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

        Thanks for your quick answer Nate :)

        Let’s hope somebody knows, or otherwise I might start my own foundation :)

        Take care,
        Susan

  6. r yorke Jul 6, 2014 at 2:27 pm #

    I just wrote to vso in indonesia. Vso is a development charity doing lots in indonesia. If they are doing some work there, I’ll let you know. I know the mining companies should be legally required to provide safety equipment, but how many more people will die young whilst we await that change.

  7. Nate Mar 6, 2012 at 3:07 am #

    Thanks Marissa! I enjoyed the experience, and thinking about meaningful answers to your great questions. Nate.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. theBubbleBuster Project | Nate @Yomadic.com on travelling for life | Break away from the ordinary - Mar 6, 2012

    […] The favourite story I have written, and been a part of, is a story about the irony of travel. Mount Ijen, is an active volcano on the island of Java, in Indonesia. Set in spectacular surrounds, after a […]

  2. Going to Surabaya. Introduction. « T.M.L - Oct 3, 2012

    […] approximately 10 hours (depending on traffic) and free program. Dinner will be ready at 7 pm.   http://www.yomadic.com/mount-ijen-volcano-indonesia-kawah/ […]

Leave a Reply