Bali's easily accessible Mt. Batur volcano has had its status raised from "normal" to "alert" (Waspada) due to elevated levels of hot gas emissions and increased seismic activity. Actually a "volcano within a volcano," Mt. Batur allows Bali visitors to Kintamani to drive along the lip of a massive ancient caldera that encompasses Kintamani's crater-lake and the still active Mr. Batur.
The crater-lake can be accessed by road leading to several resorts, a hot water springs, excursion boats to the ancient Bali Aga village and the departure point used by the thousands who climb Mt. Batur (1,717 meters) each year.
The last significant eruption of Mt. Batur occurred in 2000, but government monitors have recorded more than 21 tremors emitting from the mountain since September of this year. These tremors, together with occasional black clouds of smoke from the mountain's apex, are seen by experts as signs that Mt. Batur may be awakening into a new phase of volcanic activity. The tremors are occurring as many as 60 times a day and are felt as far away as 2 kilometers from the mountain.
Because of this renewed level of activity, the Department of Energy and Natural Resource (ESDM) changed the status of Mt. Batur to "Alert" (Waspada) on November 8, 2009. On a practical level, the enhanced warning level has closed Mt. Batur to mountain climbers and trekkers. Local officials have advised local residents to be prepared to follow any instructions issued by the government in regards to changes in the mountain's status.
townsfolk who have lived for generations in the shadow of the volcano appear to be carrying on with their normal lives. Between 1804 and 2000 Mt. Batur has exploded 28 times with the longest gap between eruptions of 39 years. Those explosions have, fortunately, been of the relatively low intensity Strombolian nature, characterized by flowing ash, rocks and volcanic clouds as opposed to the more devastating and cataclysmic Plinian, Surtseyan or Vesuvian forms of explosions.
With a modicum of caution and in the hands of a local travel agent monitoring announcements from the government, now, may, in fact, be the perfect time for a tour to Mt. Kintamani and the chance for a relatively close-up view of a working volcano.
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