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 Floreshas to offer.
Mt. KelimutuNational Park is the smallest among six national parks in the stretch between Baliand the Nusa Tenggara 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 ofEnde 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.
Watch the video about Kelimutu:
There are a few restaurants in Moni. Simple warungs for locals are also available in Moni’s local market, but very limited to local needs. Going to Kelimutu, you do not have to bring food since the hiking is only an hour or so. You must bring your own before going to the national park, especially drinking water. Ginger tea sellers are available at the top of the mountain where people flock there to watch the sunrise.
Arwanti Restaurant and Bintang Restaurant are most recommended.
Local souvenirs are available at the parking area. You will find kain ikat, the hand woven shawl or sarong made especially in Flores. Each district in Flores has its own motifs.
Harapan Jaya (woven materials, ivory carvings), Jl. Pasar Baru Timur, Maumere
Subur Jaya (woven materials, ivory carvings), Jl. Pasar Baru Timur, Maumere
Karya Baru (woven materials, handicrafts, antiques), Jl. R. Suprapto, Maumere
Moni features simplicity that sometimes only backpackers can accept. The term bungalow is far from luxurious. It is a term that locals know to create hospitality in their colorless huts. If you wish to have a better sleep on a better definition of comfort of a bed, Maumere is three hours away or Ende with its Grand Wisata Hotel.
Kelimutu Crater Lakes Ecolodge (Desa Koanara, Kelimutu, Ende) is built in 2010 and is only a 20 minutes drive to Kelimutu National Park. Hot shower is available as well as western toilet. It is an environmentally conscious hotel. Book it via several hotel directory websites. So far, this is the best resort and accommodation in the village. Honeymooners and backpackers share a universal idea about the place.
Watugana bungalow is a decent guesthouse suitable for backpackers or budget travelers. Its 5 rooms are located on the first floor at the sublevel of the building, and 2 others (the newly built ones) on the upper level. There is very simple shower in each room, together with mosquito-net bed. The price ranges from IDR 150,000 to IDR 250,000. To book the rooms, you must be sure that John, the local keeper of the bungalow, has confirmed the availability. Sometimes, in Moni, the faster person will get the room although you booked one an hour or a day before.
Bintang Lodge has only one room at the moment, but the interior is fresh and new. The room is air-conditioned and the shower is cold and hot. It is part of the café named Bintang Café. The room is tagged for IDR 250,000 per night.
Hotel Arwanti is at the middle of the accommodation area in Moni. The not-so-impressive shower is a cold one with 2 rooms in a spacious wooden bungalow. The bungalows are part of the Arwanti Café.
Hotel Flores Sare is physically the tallest as it is often a place for meetings and workshops on the top floor. The unattended lobby is strangely impressive with lots of Jesus statues. The rooms, however, are not that impressive and you must ask the staff to clean the rooms before you check in. Flores Sare is close to Kelimutu Crater Lake Ecolodge.
Sao Ria Wisata (Local Government-run bungalows), the settingis excellent, overlooking the lush garden and vegetable plantation. Ask the staff to clean the facilities prior to checking in.
Definitely a hike to Lake Kelimutu is the ultimate reason for any traveler coming to Moni or Ende. The Kelimutu area is surrounded by forests containing flora that are rarely found in other parts of Flores. Beside pine trees, there are also ferns, casuarinas, red wood and edelweiss. Pine forests grow well on this height of the Mt. Kelimutu. The other part of the mountain is dry with highly unstable sand and soil. The locals believe that Mt. Kelimutu is sacred and a source of fertility to the lands nearby.
Several parts of the national park are restricted due to geothermal instability. Trekking is best around the safe areas between Moni and Mt. Kelimutu. The track is a challenging 12-km rocky off-the-beaten path. Climbing to the peak from the parking area is around 30 minutes on foot.
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.
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.