Kelimutu Tri-Colored Lakes, Indonesia

Lake Locations:

Indonesia -

Also known as:  Tiwu Ata Polo, Tiwu Nua Muri Koo Fai, Tiwu Ata Mbupu

No trip to the exotic islands of Indonesia would be complete without a visit to Flores Island and the Kelimutu Lakes. Part of the Lesser Sunda Islands, the Island of Flores is also territory to the famed and fierce Komodo Dragon. A land of beautiful beaches, tropical forests, sandy deserts and barely-extinct volcanoes, the Tri-Colored Lakes have increasingly become a tourism attraction worthy of a ‘bucket list’ Indonesian vacation. The lakes have no swimming, boating, fishing or water sports. What they do have is an ever-changing water colored by volcanic action and escaping volcanic gases. Various myths, legends and lay scientific guesses attribute the color of the waters of the three adjacent lakes to different causes. The most common is that minerals in the small lakes cause the waters to take on their bright hues. That isn’t exactly true, however: the Kelimutu Lakes owe their colors to a slightly more complex set of circumstances.

The Kelimutu Tri-Colored Lakes are considered sacred by the local native villagers. Considered the resting place of departed souls, their names reflect that legend. Tiwu Ata Polo, or the “enchanted lake”, is the eternal home of evil spirits. It is currently blackish-green in color. Tiwu Nua Muri Koo Fai, the “lake of young men and maidens”, is the home of the souls of those who die young and is currently bluish-green in color. Tiwu Ata Mbupu, the “lake of elders”, houses the souls of those who die of old age and is now black in color. Prior to the most recent color changes, the “enchanted lake” was red, and the “lake of young men and maidens” was turquoise blue. A rock wall is all that separates the “lake of elders” from the “lake of young men and maidens”, and some evidence of seepage between the two lakes has been discovered. The “enchanted lake” is about a mile to the west. Some tourism sites reverse the location of the “lake of elders” and the “enchanted lake”. Whatever their location, the tri-colored lakes provide a stunning panorama.

Located within the Kelimutu National Park, the Kelimutu Lakes can be reached by paved road from near the village of Mori. The adventurous used to be able to hike around the three lakes, but the path has been closed as too dangerous. A fall into the lakes would be fatal, and the rising fumes at times make inhaling them hazardous. The current path and vantage points allow for gorgeous views and great photographic possibilities but are much safer.

Filling the multiple craters of a dormant Kelimutu Volcano, the lakes are at an elevation of about 5377 feet. The estimate isn’t exact, but the summit of Kelimutu is generally recorded at that elevation. The surfaces of the lakes are somewhat lower, but there has not been much serious study of the small lakes at Kelimutu’s summit, so exact statistics are not available. Color variations are not unusual among crater lakes in active volcanic zones; what makes the Tri-Colored Lakes unique is that the three lakes have such strikingly different colors even though they are only a few meters from each other and are a result of the same volcano.

Study of similar active crater lakes in Indonesia show that these lakes actually interact with the molten lava below and act as traps for gaseous fumaroles, commonly called ‘steam vents’ when erupting from a dry solid surface. Some crater lakes actually have molten sulfur escaping onto the lake’s floor. These lakes are usually hot, although temperature ranges for the Kelimutu Lakes are not recorded. They therefore don’t provide habitat for the usual fish, crustaceans and plant life, although specialized bacteria often grow in the waters. The waters are usually high in minerals, with sulfur, sodium chloride, calcium and any number of other minerals along with carbon dioxide common. Volcanic lakes can be either highly acidic or highly alkaline, and the amount of oxygen in the resulting chemical soup is quite limited. Technically, the lakes actually don’t contain water, then, but a chemical soup that changes due to changing composition in the liquids and gasses escaping into them. Changes in the amounts of minerals, chemicals, and dissolved oxygen are what cause the lakes to change colors.

Kelimutu National Park has a number of other areas of interest to nature lovers in addition to the Tri-Colored Lakes. The park provides habitat for at least 19 rare bird species. An arboretum, a small jungle area, provides examples of 78 different tree species and preserves the area’s incredible biodiversity. The village of Mori offers a unique look into the cultural heritage of the region, with the locals engaged in ikat weaving, traditional music and dances, and traditional foods. The area also offers hot springs for bathing and a number of waterfalls. Another village nearby that is tourism-friendly is Detusoko village, about 20 from Kelimutu. A number of tour agencies offer transportation and guides into the more interesting areas of the countryside, with a popular detour to the western end of the island where Komodo Dragons still roam. Across a small strait, Komodo Island is part of the Komodo National Park. The sea around the islands is considered an excellent diving location, and the beaches are spectacular.

Much of the island is rather primitive, with intermittent or non-existent electricity. A large number of resort camps have been built to accommodate tourists. Many consist of a small raised one-room hut, often with an attached porch, bed with mosquito netting, and sometimes a private bathroom. Many offer meals prepared by a native chef over a charcoal or propane fire. Several small harbors provide for boating destinations and are the headquarters of diving expeditions. Due the the line of active and extinct volcanoes running the length of the island, the native people have been isolated into several distinct cultures and historical groups that anthropologists and archaeologists are just beginning to explore. Several years ago, the skeletons of several very small adult humanoids were found in a cave on Flores. These bones, dated to between 13,000 and 38,000 years old were dubbed homo floresiensis or ‘hobbits’ and assumed to be a completely new species. It was later found that living pygmy-type individuals in the area could be their descendents. Now, the argument has swung back the other way, with scientists suspecting again that the so-called hobbits were a completely different species of humanoid. Obviously, there is much about this part of Indonesia that isn’t well-understood by modern science.

Visitors to the Island of Flores and the Kelimutu Lakes can arrive via air from Bali or Timor. The adventurous often hike in to the many small resort camps, while others engage tour buses and excursions. There are a number of lodgings available both around the larger villages and along the beaches. It would be wise to arrange reservations prior to arrival. Real estate is available to the foreign buyer only in partnership with a local resident, as foreign citizens are forbidden to purchase property. A large number of Australian citizens have done so and are developing several thriving communities. The Island of Flores and the Tri-Colored Lakes are a must-see destination for any adventurous traveler. So pack up the hiking boots and dig out the travel brochures to find the perfect place to experience a few unhurried weeks in Indonesia. The Kelimutu Lakes await: the young spirits are restless, the color changing with their mood.

Things to do at Kelimutu Tri-Colored Lakes

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Hiking
  • Waterfall
  • National Park

Kelimutu Tri-Colored Lakes Photo Gallery

Kelimutu Tri-Colored Lakes Statistics & Helpful Links

divider

Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 5,377 feet

Spread the word! Share our Kelimutu Tri-Colored Lakes article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!

Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.