The Crater Lakes of Mount Kelimutu

The multi-coloured crater lakes of the Kelimutu volcano are truly the biggest touristic highlights the Indonesian island of Flores has on offer. To get there, needs some talent for spontaneity, especially in low season. It doesn’t matter where you start your travel, if in Ende, Maumere or Moni, travellers are most welcome; helping them is a matter of importance for the locals.

Having tons of cash in the pockets I flew from Bali to Ende literally at the last second. Actually the Merpati plane already left, but the smile of the white man’s cash must have been widely visiblem, even till the runway, as the pilot returned back to the airport to pick me up. While gazing at the new passenger the first curious questions came up, in particular where I am coming from. “Germany”, said I and an “Ah, Jermahn! Michael Ballack!” came back all too often. Interesting how football can connect people…

Short before sunset, and 5pm definitely is such a late time of day, all things called travelling are becoming more and more difficult as only a few transports are leaving A to arrive to B. Fortunately I found a private driver who was willing to drive from Ende to Moni for 100.000 Rupees. The distance is only 50 ridiculous kilometres, but due to the twisted road it takes 2 hours to make it. Flores is one of the most beautiful Sunda Islands. Its dramatic topography, dominated by volcanic activity is densely forested through and through. It’s a great pleasure to wander through bamboo groves and woods of hundreds of banana trees.

At 4 o’clock in the morning there’s somebody knocking on the bungalow’s door. My driver just turned up, willing to take me and my photo equipment on his ojek up to the summit of the Kelimutu. It is chilly, dew is in the air. For the locals it is even damned cold, as I got to know later. After driving for about half an hour we reached the car park below the peak. At the same time a small old man is making tracks to the Inspiration Point, a centrally located viewing point above the crater lakes. Every morning the old man is carrying hot water, real coffee and tea to the Kelimutu, selling it for humane prices to the tourists. Short before 5am the sun is starting its play of colours by sending the first beams over the summits in the far away distance. Though, it takes some time until the sunlight reaches the water of the lakes, that is floating deep down in the craters. At about 07:30 that changes and the sun is enlightening the surreal coloured waters. Due to its remote location the third crater even needs to wait longer for sunlight.

The crater walls are incredibly steep. People falling into the lakes get a serious problem, as a rescue is actually only possible if there are other person on site. To some extent the water is quite saturated with minerals, which enables sulphur to float on the water surface as yellow patches. From distance that looks a bit like an ocean and landmass en miniature. The mornings at the Kelimutu are often crystal-clear and your eyes can look over the land endlessly.

Living on Flores means living close to nature and of course that becomes noticeable when staying over night. From everywhere cheeky Gekko eyes are watching you; when eating, taking a shower, sleeping and surely also when having a session on the toilet. The food on Flores is by far some of the best you can get in entire Indonesia. You are literally lusting for yet another Nasi Soto Ayam. Also seafood is great, as it is served incredibly fresh and to boot at excellent prices. Drinking the mandatory daily bottle of Bintang beer is something that must not be missed as well. Speaking of Bintang, for whatever reason my host named herself after the beer. Regardless of her name choice, she is offering one of the better accommodations in Moni.

Flores – That is an island of endlessly seeming, eternally curling roads, that are rarely running straight for longer than 100m. Along those life lines are living some of the most authentic people of Indonesia. Petrol literally seems to be those veins’ lifeblood, as on almost every petrol station there is an unbelievably long queue of people waiting for benzine. The small minibus driving me back from Moni, via Ende to Ruteng needs about 10 hours for only 300 kilometres. Again and again ojeks are suddenly appearing, urging the driver to brake unbelievably hard. So hard, that it seems as if he even could stop a particle accelerator.

Kelimutu crater lakes, Indonesia