Travel in colour
At school they teach you that water is colourless, but the lakes of Kelimutu volcano will make you seriously question this statement.
We’re travelling to Indonesia, specifically to the island of Flores, so that you can discover the three lakes of Kelimutu. The unique feature of these lakes is that they change colour, as if in another life they had belonged to a painter’s palette. Generally they are green, but sometimes they are grey, almost-black blue, turquoise, coffee brown or even red. A whole range of colours that vary depending on the seasons. But why? The inhabitants of the island will give you a mystical answer, according to which the heavenly spirits preside over the volcano and work their magic. However, scientists have a slightly different opinion…More pragmatically, they point to the geological activity inside the volcano: a mixture of vapours and gases that emanate from its interior due to its high temperatures, which cause chemical reactions that change the oxidation of the elements in the lake, such as sulphur, barium, copper and arsenic, releasing other elements that change the water’s colour.
Submerge your soul
For the local people, the souls of the recently deceased travel to this place: they submerge themselves in one of the three lakes depending on their age and character.
Let’s put a name to this natural wonder. The first is Lake Tiwu Ata Bupu, although it’s simpler if we refer to it by its English name “lake of old people”. Generally (and until the spirits decide otherwise) the lake is blue. It’s located on the west side of Kelimutu, and has a capacity of 245,000 cubic meters. The second is Lake Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai (“lake of young men and maidens” in English) with a capacity of 501,000 cubic metres. Very close to it, separated only by a one-metre thick wall of rock, is Lake Tiwu Ata Polo, the “bewitched or enchanted lake”, with a capacity of 446,000 cubic metres. All three change colour over time: the “lake of old people” used to be greenish-blue but has become darker. The “enchanted lake” has gone from having a reddish colour to a browner shade. Finally, the “lake of young men and maidens” is the only one to have retained its colour more or less constantly over recent decades. The real visual spectacle takes place when the sun comes out, being reflected in the lakes and intensifying their colours. Early morning is an especially good time to visit, although the most convenient thing to do is to find accommodation close to the volcano. The village of Moni is just10 kilometres from where the ascent to Kelimutu begins and is therefore the perfect place to spend the night before visiting the lakes.