Photo: Looking to the summit of Ile Api.

Climbing Ile Api

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Officially called Gunung Lewotolo, despite being only the third tallest peak on the island, impressive Ile Api (mountain of fire) dominates the landscape and geography of Lembata.





With an elevation of 1,449 metres, Ile Api sits to the northeast of Lewoleba and its classic volcanic slopes can be seen from much of the north coast of Lembata—indeed if you’re approaching by ferry from Alor or Pantar you’ll see Ile Api long before you can make anything else out on the area. Despite not having had a major eruption since the 1950s, this is a very active volcano and not one you’ll be able to properly summit thanks to the sulphurous gases emanating from the peak. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth climbing—the peak and crater make for a very interesting time. Kampung Lama, an ancient village on the slope of the volcano, is yet another reason for visiting.

To get to the top, just keep walking. Photo taken in or around Climbing Ile Api, Lembata, Indonesia by Stuart McDonald.

To get to the top, just keep walking. Photo: Stuart McDonald

While there are a number of access points for the climb, Desa Jontona on the southeast slope of the volcano is the most popular starting point. From Jontona climbers start at 02:00 if they want to see sunrise from the summit and enjoy the moonscape crater under the stars. We saw photos of this and it looked awesome. Or they can start at 06:00, which is what we did. The climb took us 4.5 hours on the way up and 3.5 hours on the way back down.

The climb is (not surprisingly) steadily uphill the entire way and while we found it quite physically demanding, we’re not the fittest traveller on the block. Take your time, pace yourself, rest a lot, do stretches, take some energy snacks and plenty of water—we took two litres and that was about right. We also wore trekking boots—you could certainly do the climb in running shoes but flip flops or sandals would be very unwise—though that said, our guide’s son did half the climb barefoot.

Starting early in the morning lets you dodge some of the midday heat. Photo taken in or around Climbing Ile Api, Lembata, Indonesia by Stuart McDonald.

Starting early in the morning lets you dodge some of the midday heat. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Also wear a hat, load on the sunscreen and bring repellant as in the banana grove section of the climb there are tonnes of mosquitoes. A walking stick of some description will make the climb easier on the knees (especially on the way down). Do remember to cut your toenails before ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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