While many first-time visitors to Flores get little further than the port town of Labuan Bajo and its immediate surrounds, one of the highlights of Flores is the peak of Kelimutu which lies to the northeast of Ende and offers fabulous views of the surrounds. Best of all? You don’t need to be a mountaineer to enjoy them.
Views aside, Gunung Kelimutu is best known for its three lakes, whose colours slowly change over time, but to the people of Flores the peak is a sacred and magical place. Local people believe that when they die their soul will reside in one of the three lakes.
Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo is the turquoise lake and it hosts those who died young, Tiwu Ata Mbupu, the brown lake, hosts the old and wise, while Tiwu Ata Polo hosts the evil ones.
Before a soul can rest in the lake it must first pass by an old grandmother in Tiwu Ata Mbupu and so it is here that local people make offerings — hedging their bets for safe passage when their number is up.
Whether it’s the blending of souls or slow chemical changes, the court is out on exactly what causes the slow transitioning in colour. The Flores Trails book suggests that the colour is due the the oxidation of metals in each of the bodies of water, but we like the idea of them reflecting the general level of surrounding evil …
Set within the 1992 gazetted, 5,300 hectare Kelimutu National Park, at 1,639 metres tall, Gunung Kelimutu is far from the highest peak in Flores, and with a road most of the way followed by some stairs and a gentle path through the woods, it is certainly among the easiest to summit. It’s easy going and while we had to carry Mr Four, Ms Six had no problems at all with the ascent.
If you wish to reach the viewpoint for dawn, you need to base yourself in the village of Moni, which lies roughly 45 minutes away by car. While guesthouses will suggest you can leave at 04:30 and still catch dawn, we’d say if you really want to see the full light show, leave at 04:00. It will take you around 45 minutes to the car park, and from there it is another 30 minutes walk to the aptly named Inspiration Point.
On the way to the viewpoint the first lake you’ll pass, on your right, is Tiwu Ata Polo (for naughty souls) then as you climb to Inspiration Point, Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo (young souls) is to your right and Tiwu Ata Mbupu (old and wise) is to your left. The latter is heavily wooded and has steeper walls, meaning it is often mist-filled — as it was when we visited.
As the sun rises the colours play out across the horizon and slowly bring the colours to attention in the lakes. At the viewpoint there is some simple fencing along with a second viewpoint back at Tiwu Ata Polo, though neither of these are actually the summit. In both cases stay behind the fences — they are there for a reason.
While the lakes and the sunset view are the main attraction here, the woods are also pleasant and are full of birdlife and (though we didn’t see them) long-tailed macaques. Down towards the car park there is a well-regarded arboretum, but we didn’t check that out.
Coffee and simple snacks are available from the viewpoint from local people who haul the stuff up every morning.
To reach the viewpoint from Moni you have two main methods of transport to choose from. You can hire a bemo for the trip there and back or an ojek will take a single passenger there and back. Haggle your own way, or any guesthouse should be able to assist in arranging transport.
Park admission is a rather expensive 150,000 per foreign tourist (225,000 rupiah on Sunday) -- THIRTY TIMES what a local is charged (5,000/7.500 respectively).
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
Our top 1 other sights and activities in and around Moni