Gunung Dukono is an active and fairly remote volcano in eastern Indonesia. Its interesting volcanic landscape can be explored in two days of hiking, but there is no well-defined summit that reaches well above the surrounding area and hence no actual climbing is involved.
Dukono volcano is a bit out of the way, but can be reached quite straightforwardly given the time it takes to go 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 or other major Indonesian cities. From Ternate, take one of the regular speedboats to Sidangoli on Halmahera island (about one hour). In Sidangoli you can switch straight to one of the public cars headed for Tobelo (three or four hours). There are also infrequent flights to Kao near Tobelo from Manado and Ternate. Tobelo is the base for a Dukono trip and offers several choices for accommodation. From Tobelo you can take a motorcycle taxi for the 30 minutes or so to the village of Mamuya, the starting point of the main trail to Dukono.
Gunung Dukono is one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia and its active crater is readily identified by its completely unvegetated nature and the sulfur or even ash plumes being emitted. It is known for its frequent small explosive eruptions, but during the hours or days between explosions it looks deceptively peaceful, just calmly steaming away. The active crater itself should only be approached with a helmet and extreme caution, if at all. An eruption could drop blocks and lava bombs on the slopes and vicinity of the crater and could easily kill. The crater can be observed very well from one or two kilometers away, a distance which is quite safe even for the case of a somewhat larger than normal eruption.
The main route starts in the village of Mamuya, just across the main road from the volcanology office. The trail begins as a broad path used by peasants to access their fields and plantations. After a few hours hiking, the trail enters the forest and becomes somewhat steeper. Another couple of hours will take you through the rain forest and across a mountain stream and its beautifully washed out river bed and back into the forest, which slowly turns into more of a few meters tall bush. Depending on when the trail was last used and how much it has overgrown since, going might become more difficult here, and even finding the trail may become an issue. For a first trip, a guide is advisable. Alternatively, one can take a GPS receiver and a machete and just cross the hills behind which Dukono awaits without a path. The actual path leads onto a small black sandy plain from which the smoking crater can be seen and which is good for camping. If going straight towards the active crater, the bush soon turns into more comfortably walkable old lava flows.
An alternative, but reportedly longer approach starts in the nearby village of Ruko.
The active crater.
Camping can be done on the sandy plain with views of the smoking crater. Fresh rainwater might have collected in large puddles in the area, but given the closeness to the active crater it might not be the most healthy to drink. Fill up on water at the stream crossing described in the routes section instead if you did not bring enough. There may also be enough space for a few scattered bivies on the old lava flows, but possibly not for tents.
A night among old lavaflows.
It is advisable to inform the staff at the volcanology office ("BGM") by the trailhead in Mamuya of your presence and plan to hike to Dukono. You can sign the guest book there and they can also update you on the current levels of activity at Dukono as well as possibly organize a guide if you need one. If the mountain is particularly active at that time, you will be asked not to go within two kilometers of the active crater. Nobody will be around to check this, but it is in the best interest of your own safety to adhere to these rules.
When To Go
The 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.
External LinksDukono page of the Global Volcanism Program of the Smithsonian Institution
Dukono page at Volcano World