Looming over central Sumbawa is the 2850m volcano, Gunung Tambora. Its peak was obliterated during the epic eruption in April 1815, which buried residents alive, killed tens of thousands, affected weather everywhere (the following year was known as ‘the year without a summer’ as the sun was muted worldwide) and forever altered the region’s geography. Tambora, not deforestation, is the reason that the oldest trees on Moyo are under 200 years old. In 2004, University of Rhode Island and Indonesian vulcanologists unearthed bronze bowls and ceramic pots from a Pompeii-like village, which indicate that the region once had strong trading links with Vietnam and Cambodia.
But you’re here to bag the peak. From the summit you’ll have spectacular views of the 6km-wide caldera, which contains a two-coloured lake, and endless ocean vistas that stretch as far as Gunung Rinjani (Lombok). The base for ascents is the village of Pancasila near the town of Calabai on the western slope, which is five hours by a very crowded bus from Dompu (35,000Rp), two hours by wooden boat (250,000Rp plus petrol), or two hours by speedboat from Air Bairi, 20km northeast of Sumbawa Besar (1,000,000Rp). From Calabai take a benhur (15,000Rp) or ojek (25,000Rp) to Pancasila, where guides and porters (100,000Rp each per day) can be arranged. Due to trail conditions, it can only be climbed in the dry season (June to October). The hike takes about two days.