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Some people may only dream about trekking to Mt Kelimutu on the island of Flores with its three colored lakes, while others make it a reality. The challenging trip in a rented polished 7-seater car can make one entertained for hours because of the endless winding road. However, being shaken by the sharp curves in the road that cuts through the 350-km long Flores Island is a worthy price to pay to witness the ultimate top-drawer panoramas that Flores has to offer.
Mt. Kelimutu National Park is the smallest among six national parks in the stretch between Bali and the Nusatenggara islands. Its size obviously does not matter much when it offers one of the most spectacular wonders that nature has to offer. There are three lakes on the mountain sharing the same name, Kelimutu, meaning ‘the boiling lake’. Each has its own colors and a local name. But all are believed to be the resting place of departed souls.
Located some 66 km. from the town of Ende or 83 km. from Maumere, Lake Kelimutu was discovered by a Dutch named Van Such Telen in 1915. It gained global fame after Y. Bouman wrote in his notes in 1929 about the bizarre color-changing lakes.
As travelers start ascending from Moni, a small rural town, a basecamp for backpackers, idyllic views appear which will remain perfect in the mind. The westernmost lake is named Tiwu Ata Mbupu, meaning ‘the lake of old people’. The middle one is called Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai, or ‘the lake for young men and maiden’. The easternmost is called Tiwu Ata Polo, or ‘the lake for evils spirits’. The three lakes are quite a display as their colors keep changing.
Unlike the Blue Lake in Mt. Gambier, South Australia, that changes color from blue to cold steel grey within a predictable period, or Lake Yudamari in Mt. Nakadake, in Japan, that changes from blue-green to green, the Kelimutu lakes are unpredictable as to when and what color they will change into. Sometimes, the colors are blue, green, and black, and some other times they turn to white, red, and blue. The last time a traveler saw them, one was dark brown, just like a pond of chocolate. Previously, the east lake was red and the middle lake was blue.
Scientifically speaking, lakes change colors due to subaqueous fumaroles. Scientists believe that these are the result of minor phreatic eruptions in ancient time. The phenomenon here, however, are of particular interest to geologists since the three lakes present different colors but are yet located on the peak of the same volcano. The local ranger in the national park explained that this is due to chemical reactions of materials contained in the lake, triggered by volcanic gaseous activities. The local people in Moni, however, believe that somehow people around the mountain have done something evil and have died there.
Lake Kelimutu is part of the Kelimutu National Park, presenting a highly aesthetic value and surreal experience. The national park’s highest point is 5,679 feet at Mt. Kelibara (1,731 meters), and 5,544 feet high (1,690 meters) at Mt. Kelimutu. It is a national park that protects 19 endemic and endangered animals, among which, the Floresian punai (Treron floris), Wallacea owl (Otus silvicola), Floresian kancilan (Pachycephala nudigula), Floresian eagle (Spizeatus floris), and Timorese tesia (Tesia everetti).
Here are also endemic mice, deer, porcupines, and the legendary luwak or civet (Pharadoxurus hermaphroditus) that gained its fame for the expensive coffee it produces. Visit Mt. Kelimutu and the three-colored lakes as an essential part of your Flores adventure.
To observe some of the fascinating images around Kelimutu you can visit these photo essays:
Watch the video about Kelimutu:
Kelimutu is usually blanketed by thick fog. Travelers, however, go very early in the morning to catch the sunrise when the fog clears when the sun rises. This is the best moment to see the lake. Do not be late for the sunrise. Usually trekkers walk up as early as 3.30 am.
The best time to visit is in July and August. Book your hotels early if possible, as people tend to reserve a room one or two months ahead.
Kelimutu area is surrounded with forest containing floras that are scarcely found in Flores area. Other than pines, there are also casuarinas, red wood and edelweiss. Pine forest grows well in this side of Kelimutu Mountain. The other side of the mountain is dried land with highly unstable sand and soil. Local community believes that Kelimutu Mountain is sacred and donates fertility to the nature nearby.
Visitors can only walk around Lake Kelimutu but not all areas can be explored because some are dangerous and therefore restricted. From Moni to Kelimutu, if you like to go trekking, there is a path which is shorter than the car access route.
Distance from Moni to the top is about 12 kilometer (km). The distance to the parking lot by motor vehicle is 11 kilometer, and then visitors will climb on foot through the pathway for 30 minutes.
Koanara village, in the Wolowaru sub-district is closest to Mt. Kelimutu, and is about 66 kilometers from the town of Ende, or 83 kilometers from Maumere. Moni is the closest small town, lying at the foot of Mount Kelimutu. It is the gate to Lake Kelimutu. The distance between Moni and Kelimutu is 15 kilometers.
You can take an ojek, a motorbike taxi, car or public transportation to take you to a parking lot before Kelimutu’s peak. Buses to Ende from Maumere will pass Moni. They call it BIS KAYU or oto kol , the wooden pick-up truck. From there, you must walk 30 minutes along the mountain side.
There are daily flights from Denpasar and Kupang to Maumere. Please refer to information on how to get there when in Labuan Bajo.