Hi, my name is Stijn Borgers. Thanks for stopping by my article on the spectacular Tumpak Sewu Waterfall of Indonesia. I grew up in a small town in the Flemish part of Belgium. It’s the kind of town where people grow up and grow old, nobody ever leaves. So when I was young I was never exposed to the possibility of backpacking or more adventurous travelling.
But in my early 20s I played music in a metal band and we played gigs all over Europe. This got me out of the small town world and gave me a taste of travel. However, it wasn’t until I moved to a bigger city in Belgium and my housemate at the time told me about his backpacking adventures that I realised it was possible to travel in such a way and to these exotic places.
I took my first solo backpacking trip in 2013 – 10 days hiking in the Scottish Highlands. This was an eye-opener for me as I fell in love with the feeling of freedom and adventure. This trip was soon followed by several month-long backpacking trips in Asia. And yes, I had been bitten by the travel bug!
In May, 2017 I decided to leave the 9-5 and pursue my one true passion. I quit my job, sold my belongings and left my “normal” life. Ever since, I have been on the road with on and off jobs to keep the adventure going. It was a life changing decision that I sometimes look back on and just smile.
I still think it’s the absolute best decision I have ever made. I don’t think I will ever be able to return to a “normal” life back in Belgium. This new life has been nothing short of amazing with new friends, new encounters, an endless number of stories and a lot of personal growth along the way.
During these travels I found a passion to document my experiences and later on I also discovered a love for photography. Coming from this small town where people don’t know much about the world, I felt that I could show a different perspective through my photos and perhaps inspire people to cast off their timidity and explore what is just around the corner.
Awesome 10-Day Road Trip through East Java, Indonesia
I have been to Indonesia on three different occasions now. The first backpacking trip outside of Europe that I took was actually to Java (Yogyakarta and Kawah Ijen) and Bali. One day, I picked up a Lonely Planet book about Indonesia in a bookstore and that is how the idea started. Ever since, I found it to be such an incredible place with so much to discover.
The people, food, culture and wilderness are things that draw me back. The second trip to Indonesia was to East Java and Nusa Penida. And the last time I went, I visited Lombok and Flores. It was on this second trip that I did a 10-day road trip around East Java and visited Tumpak Sewu Waterfall.
I flew into Surabaya, the biggest city in East Java, and from there went to Malang where the 10-day adventure started. I had an itinerary in mind but I needed to find like-minded travellers to share the journey with. Luckily, I made two friends in a hostel and together we prepared for this trip.
We wanted to be as independent as possible and go where and when we wanted. So we decided to hire a car and driver to transport us around the east of Java. This is something I recommend because you won’t have to book tours or waste time waiting for buses. It gives you travel freedom.
Our starting point was in Malang, which is a great city to explore and a perfect jumping-off place for a roadtrip like this. Then we went on to waterfall central – Lumajang! We spent a few days exploring the waterfalls, among which was Tumpak Sewu Waterfall. After Lumajang, we drove towards the coast to have some beach and surf time around Pulau Merah.
Next was the easternmost city of Banyuwangi. From there, we visited Kawah Ijen volcano, and a few beautiful islands between Java and Bali. We ended the trip with a visit to the most famous volcano, Mount Bromo.
I have written an entire blog on this 10-day East Java trip on my website if anyone would be interested in reading through a more detailed account of our experience: sightseeingstan.com/10-day-east-java-itinerary.
My Experience at the Beautiful Tumpak Sewu Waterfall
I spent two nights in Lumajang. The place we stayed at was 100 meters from the entrance to Tumpak Sewu Waterfall. That meant I could fly my drone over the waterfall from the parking lot of our accommodation, which made it pretty easy to get some awesome early morning shots!
The first impression is actually from the top. On the hike down to the base of the waterfall, there is a viewpoint where you can get a first glimpse. From here it already looks surreal – this gigantic tiered-waterfall in the middle of the jungle seems straight out of a Spielberg or Cameron movie.
But it isn’t until you are at the base of the waterfall that you realise how enormous this place is. It’s indescribable how stunning it is, like from another world. By now, the waterfall has become more known and popular with tourists. But at the time I went, it wasn’t that popular with foreigners. So to be there with only a handful of people was such a wild feeling.
Where to Take the Best Photos of Tumpak Sewu Waterfall
The best photos of Tumpak Sewu Waterfall can be taken from the base of the waterfall looking up. That is where you get a feeling of scale, especially when there is a person standing on one of the rocks near the waterfall.
But also drone photos will give you a unique perspective. This way you can capture how this place is tucked away in the jungle. If the conditions are right you can get a photo with Semeru Volcano in the background. I think this is one of my favourite drone shots ever because it looks so unreal.
Best Things To Do at Tumpak Sewu Waterfall
In my opinion, if you go there, you should stay for at least two days because there is so much more to explore in the area. Tumpak Sewu Waterfall is without doubt the most incredible location but there are other epic waterfalls in the area. And many of them you can even have all to yourself!
Also, when visiting Tumpak Sewu Waterfall, it’s a good idea to give yourself time. When you hike down to the base of the waterfall, you can explore the area down there with a bunch of other smaller falls and pools.
This area is not as touristy as other places in Indonesia and for sure nothing compared to Bali. So it’s great to just go explore the streets, talk to locals and have some food at a restaurant or street stall. Indonesians are such warm and friendly people and for me that is a huge part of the experience.
Basing Yourself at Yanto Homestay
I recommend staying at Yanto Homestay which is literally in the parking area of Tumpak Sewu Waterfall. All the other falls in Lumajang are no more than 10 kms away from here. It makes for a good base to explore the area.
Yanto offers several double bed private rooms with a bathroom. He is very knowledgeable about the area and can help you find a guide if you need one. At the time I visited Tumpak Sewu Waterfall, this was one of the only options available. However, I’m sure by now there are a few more options.
Favourite Memory from Tumpak Sewu Waterfall
My favourite memory is not from the visit to the waterfall. Don’t get me wrong, it’s mind blowing! But my best memory is from an old lady that had a small grocery store close to the falls. We went there to buy water or snacks. She, of course, didn’t speak English and our Indonesian went as far as “Selamat Pagi” (good morning) and “Terima Kasih” (thank you).
Through the magic of Google Translate we were able to communicate with her and have a bit of small talk on our visits to her shop. She found it incredible that we came from so far away to visit the falls in Lumajang.
Need to Know Before you Go
I’m afraid I might repeat myself but go slow and take your time. I think this could be a great tip for all travellers. Sometimes I have to remind myself of it as well! For sure when visiting the waterfall and this area it’s important.
Since the waterfall is located in the jungle, the area sometimes deals with heavy rain in the afternoon which makes it impossible or unsafe to visit certain falls. So it’s something to keep in mind and another reason to give yourself enough time to visit Tumpak Sewu Waterfall and the other falls.
Besides that, take a rain jacket and protect your camera gear because everything will 100% get soaked! Thanks for reading and enjoy.