Flores, July 2016
The mystical mount Kelimutu, meaning “steaming mountain”, is a spectacular volcano on the Indonesian island Flores and one of its most amazing natural phenomenon. The volcano contains three striking summit crater lakes, which have often changed colors. Scientific explanations aside, there are many myths about the origin of Kelimutu. This is one of the reasons why Mount Kelimutu is still a sacred place for the local people. Over the years, the three crater lakes have often changed color, most likely due to the varying mineral contents of the water, caused by active upwelling from subaqueous fumaroles at the two eastern lakes. A more local explanation suggests that the changing colors are caused by the neglected ancestral souls.
Tiwu Ata Mbupu (lake of ancestors’ souls) is usually dark-colored and is the westernmost of the three lakes. The other two lakes, Tiwu Ko’o Fai Nuwa Muri (lake of young people’s souls) and Tiwu Ata Polo (lake of evil spirits) are separated by a shared thin crater wall and are typically turquoise, green or red respectively.
Moni is a little village at the foot of mount Kelimutu and is worth a stay. It’s a beautiful area for trekking through the fertile surroundings of rice fields, forests, and hills and visit some hot springs nearby. Early morning the local traditional market is bustling with women dressed up in some fine woven Lio ikat sarongs. The market opens every Monday, Tuesday and Sunday, whereas Monday is the happening day.
The Kelimutu crater lakes are only a small part of the Kelimutu National Park. This fascinating area belongs to the worldwide protected areas and is internationally recognized by the United Nations Environment Program.
The best time to enjoy Kelimutu is in the early morning when the clouds haven’t yet covered the view and many visitors come to see the sunrise. The most popular and convenient starting point to visit Kelimutu is from Moni, a village close to the trans-Flores ‘highway’. There is now a paved road to a parking lot where you can enjoy a 30-minute walk through a lush forest full of birdsong, before entering the lake area.
Spend 2 nights in Moni and take more time to enjoy the beauty of the Kelimutu National Park by hiking down from the lakes all the way to Moni, passing through excellent bird-rich forest and 2 very traditional villages, one of them only reachable on foot. It’s a 5-6 hours hike, mostly going down.