For a refreshing getaway from the normal city-life routine, the quaint villages and fresh air of the less explored Lake Poso may be just what you need to revitalize your mind, body and spirit. Its waters are deep blue and aquamarine and it is one of the clearest lakes in the world.
Lake Poso is an ancient lake located in the Poso District in Central Sulawesi, and is the third largest lake in Indonesia after Lake Toba and Lake Singkarak in Sumatra. The lake spans across an area of 32,000 hectares, and, with a depth of 515 meters at its deepest points, it is almost three times deeper than the Java Sea which has a mean depth of 151 meters only.
Lying just north of the Toraja highlands in South Sulawesi, Lake Poso is bordered by the Pendolo town at the south end of the lake and Tentena at the north, with several smaller villages scattered in between. The water of the lake pours in a river and out into the Tomini Bay by the town of Poso.
Silver and yellow eels criss-cross the lake together with two endemic species of fish. The center of the lake is crystal blue, outlined by a shade of green and bordered with soft white and golden sands. Rolling hills surround this enchanting lake, covered with stretches of bright, green rice fields, fragrant clove trees and tropical forests. Here are found anoas and babirusa (wild boar), endemic to Sulawesi.
At Bancea near Pendolo is the Bancea Orchid Garden which holds a large collection of orchid species, among which is the rare Black Orchid.
There is also a strange phenomenon about Lake Poso. When night falls, a vivid, bright light is often seen glimmering beneath waters. Sometimes stationary, but sometimes moving rapidly from bank to bank across the lake. Some people attribute it to Indonesia’s counterpart of the mysterious “Nessie” in Scotland’s Loch Ness.
Since its first sighting, the tale has evolved from a light within the lake to a light that hovers above the lake and around the nearby hills and fields. This spectacle has been observed for many years, yet the source of the mysterious light has never been confirmed.
A visit to Lake Poso is not complete without taking a culinary tour around the lake. Fishing is among the prime means of sustenance of the local villages, and the lake fish play a large role in the menu of local cuisine served in the small food stalls, restaurants and homestays. The typical Poso food that should be sampled is Sogili Bakar, which is barbecued freshwater eel. This fish is also served boiled, but barbecued is the usual preference. The fish is seasoned with lime juice, tomatoes and onions and served with steamed rice, vegetables and chilli sauce.
UeDatu Cottages is located in the center of Tentena, at the bank of Posolake, surrounded by rice fields. Several types of rooms are available, each with double beds with quality mattresses, clean sheets, comfortable pillows and fresh towels provided. Services include free WiFi, use of a city bike and free coffee and tea all day long. Rates start at about USD 10 – 30 per night. Address : Jalan UeDatu 92, Tentena.
Tando Bone Bungalow Resort offers 8 spacious bungalows, built on the sandy, eastern shore of Lake Poso and overlooking the enchanting highlands and sloping hills of Central Sulawesi. Bungalows can be rented from a day to a year and are fully furnished with solar powered lighting and refrigerator, gas stove, modern toilets and showers with sun-heated water. Prices range from 350,000 – 500,000 Rupiah. Other facilities and services include a restaurant, usage of phone, email and fax machine, jungle excursions and trekking, and lessons in traditional handicrafts, Indonesian cooking, and traditional dancing. Address : Jalan Setia Budi 18, Tentena.
At 657 meters above sea-level, and air is clean and cool and makes for the perfect conditions for a leisurely stroll around this huge sea-like lake. Venture further from Poso’s banks and into the surrounding tropical forests which provide rare sightings of the endangered Dwarf Buffalo and Babirusa (pigdeer.) Several other species of wildlife only found on the island of Sulawesi also call these forests home.
Take a dip in the cool, clear waters at the base of the recently discovered Saluopa Waterfall. In the forests around Tentena, at Poso’s northern end, neatly concealed in the jungle-clad scenery, the Poso Lake flows into a small river, which spills into mild rapids, and finally cascades in surge of water, streaming down a rocky bank into the natural, crystal pool below.
Rent a boat for a cruise around the Poso lake, which locals claim is always perfectly clear, even deep in the throes of the monsoon season. Some experts consider Lake Poso’s water to be among the purest in the world. A variety of vessels are available for this watery adventure from the typical motorboat to a more traditional wooden canoe.
Go fishing in the lake, which holds fishes of such abundance including the Sogili Eel, one of the largest freshwater eels in the world. Take a swim in the crisp, clean waters of the lake, where gusts of wind cause waves that break in a white foam on the shoreline, similar to those in the ocean. The sloping banks of the lake are soft sand with no rocks or reefs hidden below the water, so there is no need to worry about cuts or scrapes while wading. Unlike the ocean though, the water is fresh, and therefore won’t affect your eyes should you choose to take a peek beneath the surface, where clusters of small fish sweep across the water.
In the fourth week of August, a large festival is held at Lake Poso. The Lake Poso Festival is a cultural event exhibiting a wide range of competitions and performing arts from the surrounding provinces and cities of Central Sulawesi, including traditional games, decorative boat races, rowboat races, dance performances and beach volley ball. Locals from other regions of Indonesia also participate in this event to display arts, handicrafts and traditional clothing from various tribes around the country. The main dishes served in the food stalls during the festival is lake fish cuisine of the Pamona Tribe, and tasting this should definitely be on your list of things to do while in Poso.
Another place to visit is the Bancea Orchid Garden in a nearby developing village, about 15 kilometers from Pendolo. Covering over 5,000 hectares, the garden is the largest orchid preserve in Indonesia, and displays a delightful collection of more than 50 species of rare and exotic orchids, both cultivated wild. If you enjoy a good long walk, it is possible to reach the Orchid Garden by foot from Pendolo. Alternatively, you could rent a car to take you there. Aside from inviting tourists, this lake has also attracted the interest of researchers and investors who are interested in developing fisheries. In addition to the plenteous fish, this area is also Indonesia’s largest deposit of the rare Black Orchid.
The nearest transport hubs are Makassar in South Sulawesi and Manado in North Sulawesi, both of which have domestic flights from all the major cities around Indonesia, and a few International flights; from Manado to Singapore and Davao in The Philippines, and from Makassar to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Both of the airports listed above have flights to Palu, a city in the west of Central Sulawesi. Mutiara Airport in Palu is a domestic only airport with flights available from Jakarta, Surabaya, Balikpapan, Manado and Makassar.
From 15 June 2012 Citilink flies Jakarta-Palu daily, leaving Jakarta at 02.45 am West Indonesia Time, arriving Palu at 06.25 Central Indonesia Time. The return flight leaves Palu at 07.00 am and arrives Jakarta 08.40 am local time.
Starting 11 August 2012, Lion Air flies Jakarta-Poso v.v. three times weekly via Makassar, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Alternatively, Sulawesi is extremely well-connected by sea, if you prefer the more scenic, and much longer route over water from the ports of Manado or Makassar to Palu.
From Palu, continue over land to the lake via bus, rented car or motorcycle. The drive is about 280 kilometers and will take approximately 8 hours.