Padang to Anak Krakatau, Indonesia

A 26-hour arduous journey from Padang to Kalianda, followed by a boat trip to Pulau Sebesi, and then another boat to Pulau Krakatau, only to arrive at the wrong island!

Apologies for the poor, quality scanned 35mm film photos. Negatives and prints are in tragic, condition from decades of less than optimal storage.

The long and winding road – Padang to Kalianda

Spending a relaxing night in Padang following an adventurous week in Siberut Island’s jungle, finally organise a minibus for the long journey that cuts south through Sumatra, to Kalianda.

Padang to Kalianda, Sumatra, Indonesia, SE Asia

The journey is supposed to take 20 hours. Setting out early this morning, we’re the only 2 passengers with 2 drivers, in the comfortable minibus.

Learn later that we have 2 drivers on this trip so they can keep each other awake. Taking turns to drive, neither sleep at all during the journey.

The spectacular scenery on equally horrendous roads doesn’t recede, until the cover of night envelops day. With night comes the turning up of Indonesian Gamelan music, blaring in our ears. The purpose is to keep both drivers awake – both hail from Java.

A deluge of potholes covers the mostly dirt road, provide no respite from the bone-jarring ride. At one point, I almost fall off the seat as the minibus bounces suddenly in then out of a deep hole.

Uncomfortable hours pass by at a snail’s pace. Dozing off momentarily, wake up to another jolt and discover that we’re now on a one-lane road. With so many potholes, the minibus is forced to a crawling pace. Disorientated, imagine that we’re no longer driving on the highway but some seedy, pokey side-street, about to be kidnapped for a handsome ransom.


Only 6 hours late, finally, we arrive in the tiny seaside town of Kalianda after enduring 26-hours of tiring minibus pain. Time to rest before a little quick exploring, as we’re not staying in Kalianda long.

Not many tourists venture here, and in 1998, we’re the only foreigners in this small town. For me, this is inviting and a good thing. I don’t travel to another country to meet my own countrymen. Still happy to explore Sumatra and escape any backlash of last month’s racial riots, which left 1,000 people dead, we decide to head for smaller islands.

Discovering a fantastic sate shop that makes fresh, delicious sate, indulge until walking is no longer an option. Eventually, book an expensive boat tour to Krakatau (Krakatoa in English) at the Beregen Hotel.

Kalianda to Pulau Sebesi

Kalianda to Pulau Sebesi, Sumatra, Indonesia, SE Asia

This morning, a small boat takes us to Pulau Sebesi. A tiny island only around 1.5-hours from mainland Sumatra’s Kalianda.

It’s great to be off the treacherous Indonesian roads and back on the water. Everything travels by water. Even a goat and its kid remain tied to the boat’s bow, both relieved when landing.

Spending the night in a rustic timber pole hut adorned with a rusty corrugated iron roof, on Pulau Sebesi, we also meet our guide. Akib Yakub is ex-army and an interpreter for the Japanese, in the 1950s.

Pulau Sebesi, Sumatra, Indonesia, SE Asia
Nearing Pulau Sebesi – Anak Krakatau at right

Let’s hope that his memory holds some fascinating yarns to share, on the next boat trip to Krakatau.

A quick trip around Pulau Sebesi

Wandering around Sebesi, we attract inquisitive, stares. Don’t believe this tiny, barely inhabited island sees many foreigners. As you can imagine, a stunning sea view unfolds in front of every hut – a paradise.

Many children, goats, and chickens roam freely around the island.

Pulau Sebesi, Sumatra, Indonesia, SE Asia
Island playground

A slower pace than on Siberut Island, Sebesi also seems to be a lot cleaner. Rubbish is burnt on the island. Unlike Siberut, where most everything tossed into the sea or out of the window. Although, Sebesi’s shoreline is still lined with faded plastic water bottles, washed up from somewhere…

Dried broken coral blends with sand on the island’s white beach, occasionally making it difficult to traverse – although a welcome relief from busy and bustling Padang.

Pulau Sebesi, Sumatra, Indonesia, SE Asia
Anak Krakatau in the distance

Travelling in Sumatra for a month now, learn the pungent, scent of drying cloves is never too far away. It’s not uncommon to see scores of blankets coated in cloves at the front of houses, huts, or tossed over bushes, left to dry in the hot sun. Sebesi isn’t different. Blankets of cloves are strewn on the ground in front of huts, left to dry in the sun’s heat.

Pulau Sebesi to Krakatau

The sea laps gently on Sebesi’s sandy shore only a stone’s throw from our simple hut, without power. Can’t expect power on a tiny island or the luxury of mainland Sumatra.

Pulau Sebesi to Anak Krakatau, Sumatra, Indonesia, SE Asia

Introduced to a half-hearted canoe with tiny bamboo floats on both sides, at this morning’s early 7-am start – including, two boatmen that don’t speak English. Akib our guide is missing in action. I’m quite annoyed as we paid for an English-speaking guide on today’s long trip.

Going out to sea in this, I ask? The risks you take when travelling…

Two white plastic chairs are placed inside the canoe for our seating – odd but think nothing more of the chairs. Until, half an hour into the trip, the canoe starts leaking. The two outboards driving the canoe continue to play up, coughing profusely. We live full-time on a boat we built in Australia, so this is concerning.

Anak Krakatau, Sumatra, Indonesia, SE Asia
The rickety timber boat (Photo credit: Colin Palmer)

The boatmen take it in turns to bail or sit perched precariously on the timber canoe’s gunwale.

Dubious if we’ll get out of the bay let alone last the 2-hour trip to Krakatau, finally arrive at Anak Krakatau – child of Krakatau. This is not where we’re supposed to be on this tour we’re at the wrong island.

Anak Krakatau, Sumatra, Indonesia, SE Asia
Anak Krakatau

The boatmen won’t take us a little further to Krakatau as planned and paid for – they’re superstitious and scared. Although they don’t speak English, they’re faces and, erratic, waving arms speak volumes. Settling for Anak Krakatau, this island doesn’t disappoint – it’s incredibly, beautiful and wild.

Anak Krakatau, Sumatra, Indonesia, SE Asiav
Keeping a distance – the waiting boatmen

Dropping us off at the island while pointing to a narrow black path, both quickly head offshore again and wait for our return. Neither dare to step foot on Anak Krakatau.

Anak Krakatau

Most of you have probably heard of Krakatau. The violent volcano that erupted in 1883, leaving the sky black for five days? There are 4 islands, which comprise the volcanic group here in the Sunda Strait, between the Sumatra and Java islands.

Spurts of steam hiss wildly high up into the air, from the deep black 250-metre elevated volcano, confirming its presence. The incredibly soft black sand creates a dramatic backdrop against the island’s scarce, lush-green tropical vegetation.

Black Sand Beach, Anak Krakatau, Sumatra, Indonesia, SE Asia
Black Sand Beach – Anak Krakatau

Decide to climb up the slippery hill for a better view. The soft sand is quickly replaced with a rougher pumice-like black stone that’s so porous that when you take a pee, it evaporates instantaneously.

The higher we climb, the sparser the vegetation becomes fading away, revealing only blackness – nothing grows so close to the extremely hot caldera. The stunning intense vistas are mind-blowing! Sad to leave this magical moment, we descend…

Anak Krakatau to Sebesi

Back at the decrepit canoe, we head back out to sea longingly watching Anak Krakatau fade until just its commanding outline stains the deepening horizon. The canoe continues to leak.

Anak Krakatau to Sebesi to Kalianda, Sumatra, Indonesia, SE Asia

Around an hour into the trip, the boatmen stuff their t-shirts into the canoe’s timber planks to abate the water flow, while constantly bailing the canoe.

The scorching sun blares down while the boatmen contend with the spluttering motors, probably praying for our safe arrival after the 2-hour trip to Sebesi.

On arriving, we discover that our faithful guide left on the ferry for Kalianda – what a rort. The worst part is that we missed the ferry – another isn’t due until tomorrow. We must continue in this unsafe boat for another 3 hours to Kalianda.

Leaving Sebesi

After some crackers and plain rice – the only food these poor villagers on Sebesi have – reluctantly, we set out in the problematic canoe once more.

Angry at this dangerous situation, a leaking canoe, dodgy motors, no guide or life jackets, and towards the end of the day with the blistering sun beating down, the other outboard dies. Can the day get any worse?

Averaging 2 to 3 knots in the shipping channel, a massive container ship whizzes past. In such a small and insignificant boat, not sure whether anyone can see us – disconcerting.

Arriving in Kalianda

Almost kissed the ground with relief on landing back in Kalianda.

After 5 hot stifling hours from Anak Krakatau, smelling of diesel fumes, very sunburnt, starving, thirsty, and exhausted, we take a taxi to the hotel.

Travelling only 500 metres the taxi breaks down – unbelievable!

One great thing about Indonesia is that there’s always a taxi on standby. A second taxi finally takes us to the hotel for a welcomed shower, before heading to the favourite sate shop.

Jakarta is in our sight for tomorrow. Hope that the ferry is in better condition…

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more global images. More posts at Image Earth Travel.

24 responses to “Padang to Anak Krakatau, Indonesia”

  1. equinoxio21 Avatar

    Great story. Sh.t happens in the “South” doesn’t it? Krakatau? Funny how they change the spelling all the time. I “know” it as “Krakatoa”. 😉
    On an aside, I disliked the Thai boats on the islands tour from Koh Lanta. The converted lorry engine was a pain in the ears… 🤣
    You just reminded me of Daughter#2. She has taken a liking to sailing. Just went twice on a friend’s boat in December and in late January. Roaming around form La Paz in Baja… She’d already done a few trips in Thailand from Phuket to another destination I don’t remember… ⛵️

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you! It is funny and confusing how we change the spelling into English-speak a lot. I deliberated between the two spellings although, Krakatau is the Indonesian name. It’s important to pronounce it this way when there, otherwise, no one knows what you’re talking about. Haven’t you found that with other languages? 😉
      Amazing what we hop into without a second thought when we’re travelling.
      Daughter #2 sounds as though she needs to buy a boat!

      1. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Correct pronunciation or attempting to is a show of courtesy… 😉
        She’s not much into possession. In this case a long-time ex- has or “runs” one. Fine for everyone.

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Too true 😉
        Sounds like a good way to enjoy a boat!

  2. LuLu B - Calabrisella Mia Avatar

    The canoe you took looks quite scary….and the fact that it started leaking! Oh my! Anak Krakatau looks incredible – not bad considering it was the wrong island.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Ha, ha, it’s crazy the things you put up with when you’re travelling, especially long-term. Sometimes, you just don’t have any other option – at least in 1998 there wasn’t. Maybe these days travel between islands is better. 😉

  3. gillmorris Avatar

    That canoe sounds a bit dodgy! LOL I remember travelling by bus in Thailand and all the seats had been taken, so they put two garden chairs in the aisle… Health and Safety????? Nope! Love your photos, what wonderful memories 🙂 xx

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      It was Gill!
      Ha, ha, garden chairs is lush. Back then, child-like stools in the middle of the isle were the go…
      Thank you for the great feedback, it’s fun going through all the old journals and photos, although the photos aren’t great. 🙂 xx

      1. gillmorris Avatar

        It is really fun and it reminds us what we have done. I wish I could remember all of it 🙂 xx

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Ha, ha, the reason why I’ve always kept travel journals. ☺️ X

  4. Suzanne Avatar

    I love your older travel photos. A vertical neighbour/friend loves Indonesia and usually spends months over there in a smallish village. She will have to wait for awhile before she returns. Now the big question how did you pass the time when the taxi broke down? 🙂

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you Suzanne, wasn’t sure if the condition was too poor to include them in my posts. 😉
      I’d love to return as 4 months exploring Indo wasn’t enough – still too much to see.
      Ha, ha, it was probably only 10 minutes at the most as there’s always another one at hand – or at least there was in 1998.

  5. Coral Waight Avatar

    Gosh, what an adventure!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      It certainly was Coral and happy to have survived another one! 😉

  6. Tracey Avatar

    This reminded me of my first trip to Indonesia. The roads and vehicles were terrifying and it was exhausting. Yet I fell in love with the country. I like your inclusion of the maps and think the “preservation” of your photos adds a nice touch. Thanks for sharing your memories!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you for the great feedback Tracey!
      Has travel through Indonesia changed much since 1998? Much safer? When was the last time you visited or do you live in Indo?
      Would love to return as so much to explore still…

  7. rkrontheroad Avatar

    What a harrowing journey! And the superstitious boatmen add to the suspense!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      It wasn’t great and would love to know whether travel in Indonesia has changed much since 1998.
      I was really surprised at the boatmen’s superstitious and didn’t expect this at all…

  8. wetanddustyroads Avatar

    No ways!! And I thought the bus trip would be a dangerous one … but this leaking canoe with 2 plastic chairs … I’m really glad I’m sitting here on our comfortable couch reading this story 😳

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Ha, ha, it’s crazy the things I’ve done whilst travelling – would never even contemplate it at home! 😳

  9. the eternal traveller Avatar

    It’s just as well I’m going on this trip with you because I wouldn’t ever do it myself.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Ha, ha, where there’s a will, there’s a way they say!
      Love adventurous intrepid travel, even though not so much at the time… 😉

      1. the eternal traveller Avatar

        I like a good adventure too, but not this adventurous.

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