Undoubtedly Flores’s best known and most popular attraction, Kelimutu three colour lakes is a fascinating natural phenomenon worthy of the mystical awe with which the locals hold it. The tri-coloured lakes are contained within the cradle of Mount Kelimutu and are famed for periodically changing colour, quite independently of each other and a phenomenon that can occur almost overnight.
The westernmost of the three lakes is known as Tiwu Ata Mbupu (Lake of the Old People’s souls)and is usually a brilliant turquoise blue. Just beyond that, separated by a thin crater wall is Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai (Lake of Young People’s souls), most often green or reddish. A short walk away to the west is Tiwu Ata Polo (Lake of Evil Spirits) which is usually black or brown.
Local lore attributes the colour changes to restless or neglected souls but the scientific explanation is that they are caused by chemical reactions between the minerals contained in the lake and volcanic gas activity beneath the surface of the water. Look closely at the surface of Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai lake and you can see the gases bubbling on the surface.
Many visitors to Kelimutu like to arrive early in time to watch the sunrise over the lakes and the mountains beyond. Whilst this is quite beautiful to see, the trade-off is that lake colours become more vivid as the sun climbs higher in the sky, and very few visitors tend to want to hang around for hours. It really comes down to personal preference. If you do arrive early, rug up, bring a torch to light the trail and don’t be surprised to find some hawkers at the main viewing area selling coffee and snacks.
By Indonesian standards, Kelimutu is a well-developed tourist attraction. The National Park is only a half-hour drive from Moni village on the TransFlores Highway. Just inside the park entrance near the top of the mountain, there’s a ranger’s station where all visitors are required to pay an entrance fee of Rp. 20.000 per person and a camera fee of Rp. 50.000. A few hundred metres beyond the station there’s a large car parking area with a few shops selling cold drinks, snacks and souvenirs. From the car park, it’s an easy 30min walk along well-formed pathway followed by a long flight of stairs to reach the main viewing platform at the highest point of the crater rim. Along the way, keep your eyes open for some lovely wildflowers and resident monkeys.
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