OverviewGunung Ibu is a fairly remote active volcano in eastern Indonesia. It is covered in dense jungle all the way to the crater rim at the top. Its crater is very large and used to be vegetated to the bottom as well, but a large black lava dome that has grown since 1998 now covers the crater floor. This lava dome is the distinguishing feature of Gunung Ibu and the main reason to come here.
Getting ThereIbu volcano is quite remote, so you need to come prepared to spend some time getting there. The regional starting point is Ternate city, the capital of North Maluku province of Indonesia. You can get to Ternate by ship from Manado or by plane from Jakarta and other major Indonesian cities. From Ternate, take one of the regular speedboats to Jailolo on Halmahera island (about one hour). Accommodation is available in Jailolo. From Jailolo take a motorcycle taxi ("ojek") to the village of Duono to the North, which will take about three hours. Infrequent minibuses do this route, but they take much longer and are quite unreliable; the money on the ojek is more than well spent. In Duono ask for Pak Arnol who seems to be the only one still guiding visitors to the crater. Probably the only person in Duono who speaks English is Alex, but if he's away a few words of Indonesian will go a long way.
RouteThe route starts in the village of Duono on the Northwest side of the mountain and initially leads through coconut plantations for two to three hours. The plantations then give way to dense jungle and the path becomes increasingly unrecognizable and overgrown. Since lava dome growth died down, there have been at most a handful of visitors per year and getting to the crater rim without a guide with machete and who knows the way is impossible. The "path" passes a small box of seismic equipment owned by the volcanology department and then goes on through the dense jungle for another few hours before reaching the crater rim, a very small area of which has been cleared of the vegetation to allow for some splendid views down into the crater and onto the steaming lava dome. After a night of camping on the crater rim, you follow the same way back down the mountain. If starting very early in the morning, a trip back down may be possible on the same day, but in case of some volcanic activity a night view of the lava dome could be the highlight of the trip.
We are aware of only one guide, Pak Arnol, who lives in Duono. As most men in the area, he mostly works on the plantations during the day and it may thus be a good idea to arrive in Duono either very early in the morning or in the late afternoon. In the latter case, you can organize the hike with Pak Arnol in the evening, spend the night at his or the village head's house, and start climbing the next morning. Ask for Alex if you need someone who speaks English; he will help you communicate with Pak Arnol.
There may be a way to reach the crater rim from the East, but we neither know any details nor whether this is actually more than just a rumor.
CampingThere is space for two small tents or a couple of bivies on the crater rim. All water for the trip should be brought from the village as there are no streams on this side of the mountain.
Red TapeGunung Ibu is quite remote and sees extremely few visitors, Indonesian and foreign alike. Your presence in the area will be immediately known to the locals and you will require their help to reach your goal of climbing up to the crater.
In case of higher volcanic activity, there will be an official exclusion zone around the crater. While there will hardly be much enforcement of such rules, the guide will not take you up the mountain in case of high activity, and you won't stand a chance against the jungle without a guide who will bring a machete and knows the already somewhat cleared path.
There is a volcanology office in Gamsungi on the way from Jailolo to Duono. The staff there mainly watches the Gamkonora volcano, but this is also where the signal from the seismic station on Gunung Ibu is received, and they will be able to tell you about current activity levels.
When To GoThe dry and wet seasons in Maluku are somewhat reversed from most of the rest of Indonesia, making October through March the best period to visit. But even in the wet season a hike is possible if you are prepared to wait a few days for good weather and bring your raincoat and some extra dry clothes. However, going through the jungle will be even tougher in the wet season as the ground will be soaked and partially muddy.
External LinksIbu page of the Global Volcanism Program of the Smithsonian Institution
Ibu page at Volcano World