Things To Do at Mount Tambora Besides Hiking
For those with extra pockets of time
We all know that people who go to Tambora go for one simple purpose only, and that is to climb. After all, there are no shops or restaurants around the area, and the nearest city is a 2-hour drive away - what else can you do in a place that's seemingly cut off from the rest of the world?
While climbing the mountain itself is worth the visit, there are also a few other interesting experiences for travellers who want the best out of their time. Fortunately, our partner (Rik) is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to Tambora, and he can take you through the following activities if you're interested:
1. Visit the nearby Balinese temple at sunset
About 10 minutes from Rik's guesthouse is a small Balinese temple called Pura Jagad Agung Tambora. The temple is mostly popular once a year for the full moon festival, where people from all over Indonesia will flock to attend its annual celebrations, some even driving 25 hours by car.
Tambora's blazing sunset is a sight to behold.
Up on a hill in front of the temple is a gazebo that gives a stunning view of the sunset every evening. Under cool shade, you can watch the sky turn from pink to orange as the sun slowly disappears below the horizon, illuminating the temple and everything surrounding it. It's a quiet, majestic sight.
2. Harvest coffee beans with the locals
Throughout our stay, we had the most amazing coffee at the guesthouse, harvested by the villagers themselves. The climate and elevation of Mount Tambora make it a perfect place for cultivating coffee, but despite having over 300 hectares of coffee plants, it's not even placed on Indonesia's coffee map!
From July to August, locals harvest their ripest coffee beans (which are crimson red in colour). Even if you're not there during the prime season, coffee beans can be harvested all year round so feel free to join them as they teach you a thing or two about finding good coffee.
3. Visit the excavation site
Skeletal remains of a victim discovered during an excavation in 2009
Mount Tambora's eruption in 1815 wiped out all of its surrounding civilisation and life. The language, culture, and history of its people now remain as a mystery, and archaeologists aptly call it the "lost kingdom of Tambora".
As official excavations began in 2006, archaeologists found houses, bronze objects, porcelain, jewels and more, carbonised and buried by the volcano's pyroclastic flows. Skeletal remains which were discovered showed people frozen in time, found in the hearth of their kitchen, trapped in their houses, tragically helpless to the falling debris from the eruption.
A reconstruction of a stilt house based on findings from an excavation. Photo credit: Indonesia Expat
What now stands above the previously excavated site is a reconstruction of a stilt house based on findings. Due to the fragility of the artifacts, most of them were backfilled into the ground, but a good number of them are now displayed at Balai Arkeologi in Denpasar, Bali.
The excavation team in 2011. Photo credit: Emma Johnston
Occasionally, usually during the month of July, a team of archaeologists return to excavate the site for more findings. Anyone interested to join the research, personal or professional can contact Rik and he can help you to obtain a visitors pass or research permits from the Indonesian authorities. Note that this is subject to availability, so do contact him a few months in advance!
4. Visit nearby islands
There is a quiet harbour near Tambora where you can take boats out to the nearby islands of Satonda and Moyo within 45 minutes. This is a good option for travellers who are coming from or continuing their journeys to Lombok. Very few tourists visit the islands, so they are perfect for quiet escapades as well.
Mata Jitu waterfall in Moyo Island
Satonda Island is well known for its crater lake, while Moyo Island is a hidden gem for snorkelling with plenty of live coral and sea creatures. Fun fact: Princess Diana once visited Moyo Island in 1993 to escape the paparazzi and that was how the island's beautiful limestone waterfall (Matu Jitu) garnered some international buzz.
Still, don't miss out on the climb
To fully appreciate Mount Tambora, you have to hike it. It would be a pity if one went there for anything other than the climb - the activities mentioned here are just a few small adventures you can go for once you have a bit of time before or after your climb.
If you're worried about the climb, we have plenty of articles to prepare you for the adventure - just head on over to our summary article for more information!
Afterword: This article was written by Jin, who hadn't climbed a mountain since she was 12 years old. She can positively say that climbing Mount Tambora was her greatest feat of 2019.