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VISITING MOUNT BROMO AS A VEGAN IN JAVA!


There was one sight that we had in mind while visiting Malang, Java, in Indonesia. We wanted to see the majestic Mount Bromo! Legend has it that this active volcano is a symbol of the angry gods: when the princess of a Javanese empire couldn't conceive, she prayed to the gods at Bromo. They caused her to bear many children, on the promise that the last of these children was sacrificed to Bromo's crater. When the princess couldn't go through with this deal, the gods were furious, causing Bromo to erupt, spilling lava across the nearby landscape.


Bromo is an active volcano, and still erupts to this day - in fact, having erupted over 60 times in the last three hundred years, Bromo is one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia. This doesn't stop millions flocking to the volcano every year though, to peer down into its otherworldly sulphur crater, and experience the sea of sand around it. For tourists, this is an experience like no other. And for locals, this is a sacred and spiritual place rich with histories and legends. Once a year, the Javanese people perform a ritual of offerings to placate the gods too - with fruit and other goods, thankfully, not children!


We knew that we absolutely had to visit this incredible part of the natural Javanese landscape while we were on the island... but how to do it? And how suitable would the experience be for vegans?


How did we visit Mount Bromo?

We knew that we would have to book onto a tour to visit Bromo, since Bromo National Park is quite a long drive from where we were staying in Malang. We usually prefer to book tours at local tour desks once we arrive in a city, since this is generally way cheaper than booking on the internet - and we benefit from the advice of locals too. However, due to some shifts in our travel plans, we arrived in Malang late with very few days available to explore the area, and all of the local tour desks were closed. So in the end we took a chance on a Bromo tour that we found on the internet, that was still at a reasonable price.


Now, one thing to be aware of is that most Bromo tours include a sunrise overlooking the volcano, from a nearby viewpoint. This means a very early pickup - ours was midnight! So we had a very early night, and then waited for pickup! Our tour included Jeep travel all the way from Malang to Bromo. After talking to other tourists, we'd recommend paying a little more for one of the tours that includes a more comfortable coach transfer, before swapping you into a Jeep on the outskirts of the National Park. Being in the back of a Jeep for four hours, in the middle of the night, isn't the most comfortable experience! However, we shared this trip with two absolutely lovely Indonesian girls, and it was a real joy to spend time getting to know them; this made the experience of being cramped in a very bumpy Jeep much more pleasant!


What did you do on the Mount Bromo tour?

Our tour included a sunrise start, before we headed to the volcano. Now even on a completely random day of the week, these trips are very popular. There is something incredible about seeing hundreds of Jeep lights heading in single file through the rocky terrain, into Bromo National Park. It is cold, even in the hot Javanese summer, so you will need to hire a large coat from the shops at the bottom of the hill. These are really cheap to hire, and super cosy, albeit we looked hilarious! Now, the sunrise I'm sure would be absolutely wonderful... however we were in a cloud the whole time! So, through the mist, it just got gradually light around us. But just like the time in the Jeep, it was a nice experience to chat with our new friends and soak in the atmosphere. After the 'sunrise' we headed back to the Jeep, and the driver took us to the volcano itself (via an excellent viewpoint for photos!)


The landscape around Bromo is absolutely astounding, like nothing I have ever seen before. There is a sea of sand that you must first traverse, as you head up towards the volcano. This sea of sand felt like something from another planet. Neighbouring active and dormant volcanoes surround you as you climb Bromo's paths - it is a truly incredible experience. The walk isn't particularly challenging, but it does require some stamina - especially when it comes to some of the hills, and the steps up the side of the volcano. There are incremental rest points that we made good use of! Many people hire horses to take them from the sand to the volcano. We do not recommend this due to some welfare concerns that we had while we were visiting (more on this later).


As you approach Bromo's crater, all of your senses will be ignited. You can hear the roar of the sulphur burning in the lake below, whilst the classic sulphuric rotten eggs smell fills your nostrils, and you can even taste it a little in the air. There is so much to see, but as it starts to feel precarious you'll want to be concentrating on your footing, feeling the volcano through the soles of your shoes. Cast your eyes around the incredible volcanic landscape, before quickly looking back to the floor for safety... then gaze down into that acidic pool of blue, and the occasional burning yellow rocks to its edges.


Once we'd had our fill of gazing into the crater (and taking lots of photos of course!) we headed back down - our tour included more opportunities for photos in the National Park, a trip to the (underwhelming) 'Teletubby Hills', then on to a beautiful jungle waterfall on the way back to Malang. Suffice to say, we were absolutely exhausted by the time we arrived back at our hostel! But this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we will genuinely never forget.


Is Mount Bromo a safe place to visit?

There is no denying that this is an active volcano, so some caution does need to be taken when visiting. I am a bit of a worrier, and Mike is very safety-conscious, so we did a lot of research before this trip to ensure that we were satisfied that we would not be taking unnecessary! So, like us, your caution needs to begin while you're deciding how to get to the volcano: first of all, definitely do not try to get there yourself by moped. It is a very long journey through some challenging terrain, and it is not a place that I'd like to wait to be rescued if I had an accident. Also, it is dark and there are no directions, and is reliant on the local knowledge of the drivers. Even then, because of the ever changing nature of the sand dunes, some Jeeps get temporarily stuck or even come close to tipping over... please don't let that happen to you on a moped! Even if you're someone who prefers to avoid tours in favour of self-guided activities, we'd recommend just this once that you book a tour for your own safety and peace of mind.


When you get to Bromo itself, there are a few things to bear in mind. To immediately dispel the obvious worry: the volcano should not erupt while you are there. Obviously this is an active volcano so this is a risk (in fact, the neighbouring volcano erupted only a fortnight or so after we visited). However, the volcanic activity is closely monitored by the national park, and if it is too high, tourists should not be allowed to visit. So, for some other hazards: depending on the weather you may wish to cover your nose and mouth, due to the sand that blows around. Take the climb gently, and you should be able to make it - don't worry about taking as many stops as you need at the rest points, you won't be the only ones! We are quite fit, but we made the most of every rest stop - it was also a nice opportunity to talk to some locals and other tourists, everyone sharing the sweaty and exhausting experience together!


When you get to the top, it is worth taking care and being sensible while you enjoy those spectacular views. In particular, don't take risks just to get the perfect photo! There is a thin and poorly maintained barrier at the top of the crater on one side, but it is pretty worn and broken (the result of significant, non-stop exposure to sulphur gas!) and does not span the full crater. So make sure that you watch your step, especially when taking photos or dodging around other people on the relatively thin paths. Just remember that you are literally at the crater of a volcano - the other side of which is a highly acidic, volcanic lake. If you bear this in mind and act accordingly, you will be okay.


How was the experience for vegans?

Many of the Bromo tours, like ours, include a breakfast box. This tour is long, and you will be hungry! Indonesia has some great bakeries, and our breakfast boxes included four assorted items: two savoury breads, and two cakes. While all of these items were vegetarian, we were fairly certain that they weren't vegan (because they had come from a bakery, the ingredients weren't labelled, even in Indonesian). So we would absolutely recommend taking a backpack with your own snacks in. We generally like to take a few bananas on trips, along with maybe some crisps or accidentally vegan baked goods that we find in shops and bakeries. If you're vegetarian, like Mike, you should be able to find things to eat, but for vegans like me you need to prepare in advance!


This was the same when it came to the little shops and cafes in the parking area at Bromo. There was a lot of meat options here - even most of the instant ramen had shrimp paste in. However, there was one little treat that we enjoyed at a tiny cafe that we stopped at before heading up to the hill for sunrise. Sat in our enormous coats, in the cold morning at this little roadside cafe, we enjoyed hot cups of Indonesian black tea, and some freshly fried bananas. They were really hot and delicious - a tempting, accidentally vegan treat to warm you up on the inside from the shock of the cold!


Now, I have to mention the horses and donkeys here. They are very popular, and hired by a lot of people, in order to haul them up Bromo. We felt very, very sorry for these donkeys who really did not look happy. There were some exceptions, with a couple of local people who were taking good care of their donkeys, but many of them looked a little malnourished and quite mistreated. Additionally, many of the donkeys seemed to be in a lot of pain. I am not an equine expert, but I assume that the leg pain that many of them seemed to be suffering - with quite a few of them limping a little, and many looking pretty awkward when placing their feet - could be due to repeated trips up and down the steep paths. It was sad for us to see so many people oblivious to their suffering, so it is worth being aware of this before you visit, and absolutely not hiring the donkeys yourself. The climb is part of the experience, after all!


What were our lasting impressions of the trip? Would we go back?

Our trip to Mount Bromo was, without a doubt, one of the most incredible and unique experiences I have ever had. While we probably wouldn't go back any time soon, since we have been here now and would like to keep this experience special in our minds, we would definitely be up for similar experiences elsewhere in the future. It was great to have the opportunity to spend some time with some wonderful Indonesian people too, and they are one of the many reasons that we loved our day at Bromo.


Though the journey wasn't particularly comfortable - the back of a Jeep on a bumpy landscape really isn't the best place to try to get a little more sleep - and the other sights, aside from Bromo, were a little underwhelming, we would absolutely recommend visiting Bromo just for the incredible feeling of the volcano getting closer and closer, the spectacular views, and the multi-sensory experience of that sulphur crater. Though it isn't the most vegan-friendly experience, you can mitigate this by taking your own food, and walking up the volcano rather than hiring a donkey.


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The centre of Vienna with tall, historic buildings all around
We had the absolute best day at Bromo!

Where should I stay?

For a little more convenience, whilst still experiencing an incredible place, we recommend staying in Malang for your Bromo visit. While we were in Malang, we stayed at Shelter Hostel. Though we recommend getting a room with air conditioning, we felt very welcome at this hostel who offer private rooms, free breakfast - and plenty of vegan options on their daily menu of delicious homemade food. Another popular choice is MADOR Malang Dorm Hostel: also offering a choice of modern private and dorm rooms, this place gets consistently high ratings.


Tours & Experiences

Because it is such a popular attraction, you will find lots of Bromo tours at lots of different prices. Some just include a trip to the volcano, some include the sunrise, waterfalls - and there are other tours that include a lot more! Many depart from Malang, but for a really incredible Indonesian experience, this five-day tour from Yogyakarta allows you to relax and experience trips to Borobudur, Bromo and Ijen, with transport, accommodation, and an English-speaking guide throughout. If that's not for you, why not check out these top-rated Viator tours below?



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