3:45… darkness still owned the night, but the countless stars signified a cloudless sky. Piling into a neon orange bemo, the twisting climb to Kelimutu National Park began. From the parking lot a short 30 minute walk lit by narrow beams of light from our torches brought me to the viewpoint. The darkness retreated as I made the final climb to about 1500m. I stood in awe as my eyes first saw the two lakes split only by a thin crater wall. An ethereal white haze seemed to emanate from Tiwu Nua Muri Kooh Tai (lake of young men and maidens, the closest to the viewing platform). A dark turquoise colour came from Tiwu Ata Polo (enchanted lake, on the other side of the crater wall), while the third, Tiwu Ata Mbupu (lake of old people) viewed from the opposite side still sat in darkness.
It happens so quickly. While enjoying a cup of local coffee, the sun breached the horizon, lighting up the volcanic landscape and the lakes bringing it all to life. These moments were only for the eyes, the directness of the sun on my camera lens prevented any good photography. The higher it rose the more distinct the colours in the lakes became. Tiwu Nua Muri Kooh Tai became an off white tinged with a pastel sky blue, while Tiwu Ata Polo became a vibrant florescent turquoise. As the forested crater holding Tiwu Ata Mbupu was lit, it still seemed as if to remain in shadow. A dark green colour giving it a sinister feel in its shaded solitude like the forbidden lake of a fairy tale.
On the way back down to the parking lots, the long tailed macaques have woken and will be jumping from branch to branch above or scrounging around the garbage bins.
Located on the island of Flores, Indonesia, it is an intriguing and unique natural phenomena and geological wonder. Currently a dormant volcano, it is widely open for people to come and view the tri-coloured lakes. The lakes are in a constant state of change, the colours varying from red to black to turquoise. This all depends on the level of oxygen and minerals currently in the lakes from the slowly eroding craters and volcanic gases which causes different chemical reactions.
How to get there:
Arriving first in Ende whether by plane or bus you must get to the Wolowana bus terminal. Jump in a bemo headed for Moni (a few a day) which should cost between 20,000 – 30,000 IDR and take about 1.5 to 2.5hrs depending on traffic and construction. Private car is also an option, but a higher fare. Coming from Maumere in the east buses take about 3-4hrs and costs around 30,000 IDR.
Entrance to the park is 150,000 IDR and the bemo ride arranged from your guesthouse will cost about 100,000 IDR both ways. For only a one way it will be about 75,000 IDR and there is a scenic path to casually walk down if you choose passing a local village and the hot springs near the entrance to the park.