Indonesia is one of the world`s most geologically active countries and among its volcanoes, Kelimutu is one of the most remarkable. For its brightly-coloured exotic lakes, it is considered to be a national treasure and even featured on the local currency. Every year, in the dry season, thousands of visitors come to the Flores island to hike to the Kelimutu’s tri-coloured crater lakes and learn the reason for their distinct features. And there is more to discover…
The lazy port of Ende is the second largest town in Flores, lying between the flat-topped volcano Pelabuhan Ipi and Mount Iya. The past eruptions and earthquakes caused massive damage and the locals live their everyday life in constant tension.
Ash-black beaches stretch down both east and west coast, providing refuge to the tireless fishermen and the leafy hills from the other side serve as a shelter for the ikat-famous villages. Ende is a starting point to Moni and the attractive volcanic Kelimutu National Park as well as the gateway to the West Timor.
KELIMUTU NATIONAL PARK
Heading to Moni – the starting point for the marvellous Kelimutu crater lakes, you will have to drive around the volcano and its protected area. Moni is a picturesque village stretching along the road from the lower slopes of the volcano down to the valley floor and makes a great base from which to take the thrilling Kelimutu trek and reach the three strangely coloured crater lakes.
WHAT CAUSES THE CRATER LAKES` DISTINCT FEATURES?
The lakes are considered to be the most startling natural phenomena in Indonesia. One lake an incredible milky jade-like tint, the other one is coloured in a kind of unreal shade of turquoise and the last lake appearing more like a big bowl full of chocolate.
Tiwu Ata Polo (enchanted lake) features a thermal plume that creates a white froth on its surface, indicating that gas or hot water is being vented into the lake from the volcano.
Tiwu Nua Muri Koohi Fah (lake of young man and maidens) is the deepest. A sizable tear in the western wall is apparent and a large thermal plume in the centre of the lake causes a yellow froth to appear.
Tiwu Ata Mbupu (lake of elders) is structurally different to the other two; the pit crater itself is located in the centre of the crater and small landslides together with large boulders dropping into the lake, constantly add to the steep slopes of scree along the lake`s shore. Its shoreline is coated with a film of various shades of red, brown, orange and yellow, depending on its density.
Besides, an important determinant of the colours of the lakes – that constantly changes – is oxygen. When the lakes lack oxygen their colour tends to turn greenish and conversely when they are rich in it, the colour darkens and sometimes even blackens.
To hike up to Kelimutu (1620 m), you will have to start just before 4 am to make it in time, before the sunrise, in order to get the most spectacular views. It is a short, 45 min trek to reach the lip of Kelimutu. Most of the visitors will arrange a local guide who brings them up and makes sure they do not get lost in the network of pathways in this volcanic land.
Don`t skip Murukeba Waterfall on your way back – it offers a perfect refreshment after the long day.
OTHER THINGS TO DO & SEE IN EAST FLORES
1.Mata Menge Caves in Liang Bua, not far from Rutang, is an archaeological site with a word’s significance. Remains of Homo Floresiensis, so-called Hobbit, were found here in 2003. This dwarfed human individual was only 1.1 m tall and might have lived in Flores more than 700,000 years ago.
2.Trek up to Gunung Inerie volcano (2245 m) to appreciate the staggering views of the Sumba Island in the far horizon. It is a one-day moderate hike starting from the altitude of about 900 m at the Watumeze village, near Bajawa.
3.Dip into the hot springs at Soa and enjoy the arresting surrounds, particularly in the evening, when it gets chilly. Optionally, you can have a nice walk starting at Ngoranale village to reach the picturesque, red coloured crater lake of Wawomudha (2-3 hr walk).
4.Climb Mount Iya (627 m) in Ende so that you can delight in the excellent views standing on the edge of the very cliffs dropping off to the sea.
5.Enjoy the lazy charm of Moni while strolling at the local ikat markets and you might bargain a deal of your life. There are some nice walkways in the surrounding hills as well.
6.Hike to the three coloured crater lakes of Kelimutu and dive into the natural pools of the Air Tenjun Waterfall.
WHEN TO TRAVEL
The dry season spans from May till September and it is the best time to travel.
HOW TO GET THERE
Fly to Jakarta/Java or Denpasar/Bali. Catch a local flight to Labuan Bajo or Maumere. To move around, there are frequent local or tourist buses, operating between Labuan Bajo-Ende or Labuan Bajo-Maumere.
For all domestic flights see https://www.garuda-indonesia.com/
Optionally, the cheap large ferry boats Pelni are quite popular means of transport between the Indonesian islands, especially among the local people and independent travellers. If you travel overland see https://www.pelni.co.id/welcome?lang=en
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