Gunung Bromo, an active volcano in East Java, is one of the most popular tourist spots on the whole island. Whenever a traveler leaves the overrated "paradise" of Bali for a glimpse of Java, Bromo-Tengger Caldera tops the list of places to visit. It's quite surprising that one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Java, Madakaripura, remains mostly unknown despite its proximity to Gunung Bromo. An hour away from Cemoro Lawang village, where all the tourists stay, this kingdom of water has it all. A twisting deep ravine with a red-colored brook, a water curtain one has to walk through, a great and powerful 200 m drop, and a cave-like sinkhole formed by the force of plunging water.
At 200 m height, Madakaripura is the highest waterfall in Java and the second highest in Indonesia. It’s also quite possibly the most sophisticated – aside from the main drop; there are numerous secondary falls, water curtains, and cascades. The way to the primary waterfall winds through a deep gully with a creek on the bottom and lots of water coming in from above. The walls on both sides are covered in moist vegetation. Here and there, the small caves, looking like the rocky overhangs, are hidden behind trickles and streams. It’s a kingdom of water – flowing, dripping, falling, suspended in the air, pervading every cubic inch. Prepare to get totally soaked. It’s beautiful, though.
According to Negarakretagama, an ancient Javanese poem and chronicle, the land around Madakaripura Waterfall was given by the king to Gajah Mada, a legendary military commander and sage. Gajah Mada is believed to have used the waterfall as his favorite meditation spot. And eventually, it is here that he attained muksha – freedom from the worldly illusion and eternity in a place of death; what most Westerners would know under the Buddhist term “nirvana”. While there’s no shrine near the waterfall, the spot is considered sacred by kejawen (Javanese Indo-animism) believers. On auspicious dates, such as 1 Suro, night vigils and prayer rituals are conducted here.
To get to Madakaripura from anywhere in East Java, take one of the minibusses from Probolinggo to Cemoro Lawang, the same way you would do for Mt. Bromo. The minibusses, however, pass some 8 km away from the waterfall; for the remaining distance, you’ll have to take an ojek (motorbike taxi) or walk. The nearest guesthouses are on the main road, where the buses stop. If you want to spend the night next to this kingdom of water, negotiate at the ticket booth: they have a bare-bones room in the building for this purpose. The waterfall is very popular with local tourists, but foreigners are still an uncommon sight. Fortunately, this also means no “tourist price” has yet been implemented, the entrance fee is the same for everyone (~0.5$). A few food and coffee stalls line the trail to the waterfall from the entrance. Once you enter the ravine, it gets very, very wet. You will literally have to walk through water for 100-200 m (depending on the season). Thin plastic coats are usually sold along the trail, but better bring your own waterproof gear. If you intend to take photographs, you will need protection for the camera, too. Avoid visiting during the rainy season, when the current in the brook gets too powerful for wading, and it may become impossible to reach the main waterfall.
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