Ende Kelimutu, East Nusa Tenggara

Some people dream about trekking to Mt Kelimutu on the island of Flores with its three coloured lakes, while others make it a reality. The challenging trip in a rented seven-seat car can keep one entertained for hours along the ever-winding road that cuts through the 350km-long Flores Island. However, being shaken by the sharp curves in the road is a worthy price to pay to witness the ultimate panoramas that Flores has to offer.

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Mt. Kelimutu National Park is the smallest of six national parks in the stretch between Bali and the Nusa Tenggara islands. Its size obviously does not matter much when it boasts 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 colours and a local name. But all are believed to be the resting place of departed souls.

As travellers start to ascend from Moni, a small rural town and a basecamp for backpackers, idyllic views appear that will remain imprinted in the mind. The westernmost lake is named Tiwu Ata Mbupu, meaning ‘the lake of old people’. The middle lake is called Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai, or ‘the lake for young men and maiden’. The easternmost lake is called Tiwu Ata Polo, or ‘the lake for evils spirits’. The three lakes are quite a display as their colours keep changing.

Unlike the Blue Lake in Mt. Gambier, South Australia, that changes colour 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 colour they will transform into. Sometimes the colours are blue, green, and black; and other times they change to white, red, and blue. The last time a traveller saw them, one was dark brown like a pond of chocolate. Previously, the east lake was red and the middle lake was blue.

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Scientifically speaking, lakes change colour due to subaqueous fumaroles. Scientists believe these are the result of minor phreatic eruptions in ancient times. The local people in Moni, however, believe that somehow people around the mountain have done something evil and died there.

Getting There

Koanara village in the Wolowaru sub-district is closest to Mt. Kelimutu. It is about 66km from the town of Ende or 83km from Maumere. Moni is the closest small town, lying at the foot of Mount Kelimutu. It is the gate to Lake Kelimutu and the distance between them is 15km.

You can take an ojek, a motorbike taxi, car or public transportation 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.

There are daily flights from Denpasar and Kupang to Maumere. Please refer to information on how to get there when in Labuan Bajo.

Getting Around

The Kelimutu area is surrounded with forests containing flora which is scarcely found in the Flores area. Other than pines, there are also casuarinas, red wood and edelweiss. Pine forest grows well on this side of Kelimutu Mountain. The other side of the mountain is dried land with highly unstable sand and soil. The local community believes that Kelimutu Mountain is sacred and donates fertility to the nature nearby.

Visitors can walk around Lake Kelimutu but not all areas can be explored as some are dangerous and therefore restricted. If you like to go trekking, there is a path from Moni to Kelimutu which is shorter than the route by car.

The distance from Moni to the top is about 12km. The distance to the parking lot by motor vehicle is 11km. Visitors will then climb on foot through the pathway for 30 minutes.

To Stay

Moni has a simplicity that sometimes only backpackers can accept. The term bungalow is far from luxurious. It represents locals creating hospitality in their colourless huts. If you wish to have a better sleep on a more comfortable bed, Maumere is three hours away or else there is Ende.

To Buy

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.

To Eat

There are a few restaurants in Moni. Simple warungs are available in Moni’s local market but are limited to the needs of the local people. If going to Kelimutu, you do not have to take food as the hiking is only an hour or so in duration. You must bring your own food and beverage before going to the national park, especially fresh drinking water. Ginger tea sellers are available at the top of the mountain where people flock to watch the sunrise. Arwanti Restaurant and Bintang Restaurant are most recommended.

Arwanti Restaurant and Bintang Restaurant are most recommended.

Tips

  • Kelimutu is usually blanketed by thick fog. Travellers go very early in the morning to catch the sunrise when the fog clears and 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 3.30am.
  • The best time to visit is in July and August. Book your hotel early if possible, as people tend to reserve a room one or two months ahead.
  • A hike to Lake Kelimutu is certainly the ultimate reason for travellers coming to Moni or Ende. The Kelimutu area is surrounded by forests containing flora that are rarely found in other parts of Flores.
  • 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 12km rocky off-the-beaten-path route. Climbing to the peak from the parking area takes around 30 minutes on foot.