Kelimutu, tricolor lakes in Indonesia

Kelimutu volcano colored lakes

Volcano Lakes

The multicolored lakes of Kelimutu are said to contain the souls of the dead. In the first lake the souls of the elderly rest in peace, in the second – those who died young, and in the third – the sinners languish. And the misty haze that swirls in the morning and the frequently changing color of the chameleon lakes with intoxicating vapors seem to confirm this theory. Nevertheless, colored lakes and beckon tourists.

Volcano characteristics

Dormant for half a century, Kelimutu Volcano, Indonesia is located in the south of the small island of Florence, between its largest cities of Ende and Maumere, and is one of the volcanoes of the Pacific Ring of Fire, which includes more than three hundred active volcanoes (of the five hundred and forty known). Mount Kelimutu has a height of fifteen hundred meters above sea level, and the last eruption occurred more than half a century ago.

The mountain became famous for its unique crater lakes, which have no analogues in the world. Kelimutu is the only mountain on Earth where from one point you can see as many as three colored pools, and where tourists come from all over the world. These are not just three lakes of different colors that are almost right next to each other, but the reservoirs, which, like a chameleon, periodically change their color. No one (even scientists) can predict exactly when it happens. Each lake may be turquoise, white, mustard, red, green, black and other colors.

Kelimutu Volcano's colored lakes Kelimutu Volcano's colored lakes Kelimutu Volcano's colored lakes

The lakes of Kelimutu are a kind of reservoirs: as they are located in the crater of a volcano, they are almost not fed by underground waters, but are filled with numerous precipitations, which fall here abundantly during the rainy season, which lasts from November to March. The climate on Florence Island in Indonesia is a subcontinental marine monsoon, and water is plentiful at this time.

According to one theory, these very lakes were formed during the last volcanic eruption in 1968, after which the cooled lava appeared in the hollows (in this case – as many as three). These reservoirs are extremely deep – according to unconfirmed information the depth of the crater exceeds 1.5 thousand meters (i.e. the height of the volcano). Judging by the myths of the Lio tribe, it is likely that before the eruption there were also lakes of this type.


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Kelimutu Volcano's colored lakes

The reservoirs are quite deep and the volcano slopes around them drop off sharply, so it’s almost impossible to get close to them in this way, and it’s deadly. So, a few years ago a Danish tourist, climbed over the fence to look at one of the ponds closer, slipped and fell down. His body was never found.

The color of the bodies of water is extremely difficult to predict, so when climbing Kelimuta, you can never tell what color they will be. The same lake can be black, green, brown, white, bottle-colored, turquoise, red over several years (with slight intervals). Although, of course, predictions as to when exactly the color might change are made.

For example, next to the reservoirs hangs a table, which indicates when exactly they changed their color, so you can try to make some calculations. But this is not always possible: you can come to see this amazing phenomenon of nature, and see that two of the three lakes at this time were almost the same color (the phenomenon is rare here, but it happens).

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Observation platform

It is better to admire the lakes from a specially equipped platform, which is located on top of the volcano. It is desirable to walk along the lakes along the specially designed paths, and you must have shoes with non-slip soles on your feet (volcanic stones are extremely slippery, and therefore it’s quite dangerous to walk on them). Coming from the reservoirs of vapor can lead to fainting (unfortunately, there were cases where tourists lost consciousness at the most inopportune moment – and fell down, which almost always ended in death).

It is desirable to come to this wonderful place or early in the morning at dawn or during sunset. Here such a time comes extremely quickly, and the lakes become extremely deep, bright and saturated colors.

Especially beautiful here at dawn, when the lakes are still shrouded in the morning mist and give the landscape a touch of mystery and mystique. Suddenly the Sun makes the sky extremely bright in the blink of an eye, turning from a bright red disk to a dazzling white star in a few seconds. It not only illuminates everything around it, but also decisively disperses the fog swirling over bodies of water, in some places even forming a rainbow (in the shape of a full oval).

Kelimutu Volcano's colored lakes

Not surprisingly, local aborigines believe that this is where the souls of dead people move, and then, purified, with the dawn, according to one version, rise to heaven. And the color transitions that often occur independently of each other in the reservoirs (that is, the lakes do not change color at the same time) only confirm their beliefs.

Legends of the Lio tribe

According to their beliefs, the Kelimutu Lakes are untouchable, taboo for the natives. The natives of the Lio tribe are convinced that the souls of the deceased rest in the waters of Kelimutu. To this day, every year they organize special ceremonies with dances, etc., specially designed for these spirits.

Volcano Lakes

According to their beliefs, each body of water is for different categories of souls:

  1. Tivu-Ata-Mbupu. The “Lake of old men” is inhabited by the souls of people who not only died in their old age, but also lived their lives with dignity. It is located at some distance from the other bodies of water, which symbolizes the wisdom that comes to man only with age.
  2. Tivu-Nua-Muri-Koh-Tai. This body of water is located between the other two lakes. The souls of people who died at a young age reside here. Interestingly, it changes color most often – it has happened more than twelve times in a quarter of a century. They translate its name as “Lake of Young Souls.”
  3. Tivu-Ata Polo. In the “Enchanted Lake of Evil Spirits” forever settled murderers, sinners, scoundrels and criminals, that is, those who lived their years unworthily and committed a lot of evil. Remarkably, it is separated from the central reservoir by a very narrow volcanic crater wall. Representatives of the Lio tribe are convinced that this symbolizes how thin and fragile the line between good and evil is.
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Why do reservoirs change color?

Why the lakes in this wonderful place permanently change their color is still not fully understood. But there are different and very interesting versions.

Version #1. The theory of the Lio tribe

The locals believe that water bodies change their color when the souls are angry about something, so it is necessary to placate them. For this purpose, they perform appropriate rituals on the top of Kelimutu. At the same time, the natives are convinced that the ancestors respond to them, because during the ceremonies (according to their belief) the water in the reservoirs boils and a mist of blue color appears over the surface.

Kelimutu Volcano's colored lakes

Another of their theories says that the color change signals the approach of big trouble (and not just for the island, but for the whole of Indonesia).

Version #2. Hypotheses of scientists

Scientists explain the phenomenon of this amazing place in their own way. They claim that the reservoirs change their color depending on what kind of chemical reaction at the moment takes place in the bowels of the earth, and even on the climatic conditions.

According to them, there are cracks at the bottom of the lakes through which volcanic gases rise, which, when they get into the bodies of water, react chemically with the minerals dissolved in it. In each lake, the minerals that are on the bottom and walls of the volcano are different.

Kelimutu Volcano's colored lakes Kelimutu Volcano's colored lakes Kelimutu Volcano's colored lakes

The presence of carbon dioxide helps bring deep waters to the surface of the lakes, which are also enriched with minerals. The same process also contributes to the drawing of water downward, which also affects the constant change in the coloration of the lakes.

Lakes of Young Souls and Old Men

The central body of water (this is where the color change occurs most often) has a solfatara – when evaporation of sulfate, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, hydrochloric acid and other substances are released from the cracks in the walls and bottom of the crater.

The temperature of sulfatars usually ranges from 100 ° C to 300 ° C, so it is a constantly smoking crack.

Once on the surface, hydrogen sulfide reacts with air and turns into sulfuric acid. In this body of water, as well as in Starikov Lake, there is an extremely high concentration of sulfuric and hydrochloric acids, which give them mostly green tones. Their hues change periodically – they can be bright green, turquoise, and dark green, deep blue, burgundy, white, and black.

Evil Souls Lake

Evil Souls Lake used to be a gorgeous bright scarlet hue (which may well be why it got its name). Now every year it gets darker and darker. Now it is almost black in color. Such an unusual color is caused by the high concentration of iron in the reservoir, as well as a higher level of acidity than in the bodies of water near it. There are periods when it acquires more traditional for the lake shades, such as turquoise or green.

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Kelimutu Volcano's colored lakes

Trip to Flores

On the island of Flores, Indonesia is worth visiting not only to see the colorful lakes, but also other attractions, which are located quite compactly to each other: the island itself is small – about 350 km long and 70 km wide.

For example, world travelers will be interested to know that on this island was found the skeleton of a very small man (he was so nicknamed – a hobbit), whose age exceeds 18 thousand years and refers to the “reasonable man”.

Kelimutu Volcano's colored lakes

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There are 19 species of animals that are unique to this area. To see them, you have to climb into the impenetrable jungle, but on the way to the reservoirs you can often see small monkeys that live on the island, and at the observation deck they even run out on their own to people for handouts.

On the way to the unique reservoirs you can admire the flowering trees, beautiful mountain scenery and landscapes. The colorful Kelimutu lakes themselves are surrounded by a small jungle (4.5 hectares) with mahogany, pines, casuarina, and the grass cover is decorated with edelweiss. There is also a protected forest, waterfalls and caves with stalactites and stalagmites.

In short, if you have the opportunity, near Kelimutu, Indonesia is definitely worth a visit. Do not postpone the trip too long: the volcano, although considered extinct, no guarantee that it will not wake up, in principle, no. And after the eruption is not the fact that the reservoirs will remain in the same place or will exist. After all, recently the activity of volcanoes “Ring of Fire” has increased significantly.

Lakes of Kelimutu Volcano

Kelimutu volcano lakes are one of the most beautiful natural wonders. They attract many tourists to the island of Flores and Kelimutu National Park. The peculiarity of the lakes is that the water in the neighboring lakes differs in color. And what’s more, the waters of one lake change color over time. Travelers are willing to endure a difficult journey to the top of the volcano to admire the beautiful mountain scenery, the lush vegetation on the mountain slopes and the amazing lakes in the crater of the majestic volcano.

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Kelimutu Volcano

Kelimutu Volcano is part of the fiery Pacific ring of volcanoes. It is 1,639 m above sea level. It is occasionally active, although it is not accompanied by much destruction. The last eruption took place in 1968 in the form of puffs of yellow smoke, ash and a small magma release. The maximum height of emissions was 48 meters. Since then the volcano is calm and no signs of seismic and volcanic activity have been observed nearby.

The National Park near Kelimutu impresses with its beautiful nature and large number of animals. The area of the park exceeds 4.5 hectares, on which there are many flowering lianas, pine trees, redwoods. There are also casuarinas and edelweiss. Among the mountains you can find the entrance to picturesque caves. Among the fauna of the park are found 19 species of endemics – animals that live only here.

These places are good for walks and recreation in the lap of nature. Although, at times, to get through the dense thickets, you need good physical preparation. Because of the high humidity and constantly warm weather, the slopes to the top are covered with greenery.

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Description and legends

The upper part of Kelimutu consists of bare rocks formed by solidified lava with three small depressions. Water has accumulated in the depressions and lakes have formed. Two of them are quite close and are separated by a narrow stone cofferdam. The third lake is 1.4 km away. The water gradually destroys the rocky walls and washes out the minerals from their thickness. Some scientists believe that there is a fissure at the bottom, through which volcanic gases penetrate to the surface.

Dyeing minerals vary in color and are found in the rock. By getting to the next mineral, the lake is colored anew. That is, reservoirs not only differ in color from one another, periodically the coloring changes dramatically. The color is also affected by chemical reactions of substances with gases and acids that rise from the bowels of the volcano. In water samples you can find iron, hydrogen sulfide, sulfuric and hydrochloric acids.

The lakes are recharged only during the rainy season, as they have no underground sources. At the same time, their depth is very large, according to scientists, the crater goes down to 1.5 km.

The locals have attributed mystical properties to this unexplained phenomenon, and the process of color change is associated with changes in their lives or in the mood of the spirits. Each lake has its own name and legend. At the top climb not only tourists. Here you can meet the locals who come to communicate with their dead ancestors or ask advice from the gods.

Lake Tivu-Ata-Mbupu

The Lake of the Elderly and Wise Souls (Tiwu Ata Mbupu) is a place where the spirits of people who died in old age move. They have lived a long life and gained wisdom that comes with the years. Therefore, the waters are colored in a deep dark color. The lake used to be brown, black or dark green. The body of water is set apart from the rest and is almost circular in shape with high rocky shores.

Lake Tivu-Ata-Mbupu

Lake Tiwu-Nua-Muri-Koo-Fai.

Young Souls Lake (Tiwu Nua Muri Kooh Fai) is a refuge for the spirits of boys and girls who left this world prematurely. It is one of two paired lakes, which is located on the left. Its water is lighter, taking on milky, light green, turquoise and pinkish hues. The waters in the lake are most variable and change once every 1 to 3 years. There is a plaque near each body of water with the main characteristics and dates of color change. The lake is surrounded by high cliffs, they go down almost steeply.

Lake Tivu-Nua-Muri-Koo-Fai

Lake Tivu-Ata Polo.

Across a narrow rocky divide from Lake Nua Muri Kooh Fai is Tiwu Ata Polo, an enchanted or villainous lake. It serves as the last refuge of villains and sinners. The narrow border symbolizes the temptation for young people to set foot on the wrong path. Tivu-Ata Polo often takes on a bloody or brown color.

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Lake Tivu-Ata Polo

Excursions to the lakes.

To admire the beautiful views of the lakes and surrounding areas, you should leave very early for an excursion. The most suitable time is 4 am. Then before dawn you can get to the observation deck and see the landscape in all its glory, and admire the unforgettable sunrise. A few hours after dawn, a thick fog rises over the reservoirs and holds until noon. Of course, you can come to the mountain in the afternoon, but the heat and high humidity makes the hike very tiring. If you don’t make it back before sunset, you’ll have to spend the night here.

Excursions to lakes

You can get to the Kelimutu National Park by car. There are also large tourist buses. The roads are of good quality, but narrow and winding. From the nearest village of Moni you have to drive 12 km to the park entrance.

At the entrance you need to buy tickets and permission to take pictures (1-2$ per person). The whole area of the park is accessible, not just Kelimutu with lakes. The driveway ends at a small site with souvenir shops and parking lot. The rest of the way is on foot. Among the sparse forests are constantly scurrying monkeys and flocks of colorful birds. In 15-20 minutes along a winding path you can get to the observation deck. It offers a picturesque view of all three lakes.

For safety reasons, there are metal fences, beyond which tourists are not recommended to go. There were recorded cases where people stumbled and rolled into the lakes, forever disappearing into the bowels of the volcano. Another reason to keep your distance is the poisonous fog. In the immediate vicinity of the lakes, the air is saturated with acidic fumes, which can lead to unconsciousness. However, some dare to make the extreme journey over the rocks.

To see the third lake up close, you have to walk along a special path and a small staircase. There is a wonderful view from the observation deck. Up close, the funnel, surrounded by forests, is not as picturesque.

How to get there?

You can get to Flores by water or by air. The island has two small airports serving domestic flights. One is on the south coast (Ende) and the other is on the north coast (Maumere).

The intermediate point between Kelimutu National Park and the other major cities of Flores is the village of Moli. It is located at the foot of the mountain. The distance from Moli to Ende is 51 km, and to Maumere 102 km. In 2-4 hours on the winding serpentine narrow roads you can get to Moli and rest before the tour.

Where to stay?

It is better to visit Moli for a few days, because it’s difficult to overcome the long road and walk in the park at once. In the heat and high humidity, fatigue sets in more quickly. In the village there are many small restaurants and hotels to comfortably spend a few days. One of the rooms you can rent from locals. In July and August there is the greatest influx of tourists, so it is harder to rent accommodations.

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