Lake Maninjau, Indonesia

Lake Locations:

Indonesia -

A desire to take the road less traveled takes many West Sumatra tourists to Lake Maninjau. The 22-mile route from Bukittinggi-the nearest town-is a single lane containing 44 hairpin curves. In fact, the road is called Kelok 44 for that very reason, and the majority of the curves are on the descent into the caldera itself. The lake’s name means ‘overlook’ in the local language, and looking down at the lake from the steep road is a real treat. One section of the road goes through a forest with a large number of monkeys that approach the vehicles to beg for food.

Located in the Highlands, Lake Maninjau formed in the caldera of a volcano that exploded about 50,000 years ago. At 1,500 feet above sea level, the air around Lake Maninjau is cool and refreshing, a considerable change from the humid lowlands not far away. Here visitors find a picturesque lake set beneath steep caldera walls and small villages and farms busy at work when they aren’t entertaining visitors.

Lake Maninjau is unusual as it is the only lake in West Sumatra with a natural outlet to the west coast and the ocean. The Antokan River flows into the lake on the east side and out on the west. A dam was built across the outlet in 1983 to produce hydroelectric power, but other than this modern structure, life continues much as it has for hundreds of years. Swampy areas on the shore are divided into rice paddies with flat lands consisting of fruit and vegetable plots and the homes of fishermen. A paved road encircles the entire lake, and many small coffee shops and cafes provide refreshment to locals and visitors alike. A fishing pier is located in the village near where the Kelok 44 ends at the lakeshore road, but big game fish aren’t the real draw. Most commercial fishing in the lake consists of palai rinua-a small fish-and pensi, a type of mussel. Much of the fishing is in the form of aquaculture; farmed fish make up the larger catch for both local use and commercial trade.

The scenery from Lake Maninjau is epic. Steep caldera walls covered in green forests fall to meet the waters along much of the western shoreline. The nearly 25,000-acre lake is exceptionally clear in most areas. And although sometimes windy, the weather is usually pleasant. Sunrise and sunset are great for photographs, and renting a motorbike to circle the lake is a great way to see all the sites. A number of small guest houses and hotels provide lodging, including some on rafts over the water. Many are reasonable in price but often lack the hygienic standards most western visitors are accustomed to. Those wishing for better accommodations would be advised to book their stay through a knowledgeable travel agent.

Most of the local people are of Minangkabau ethnicity. The two largest villages are Bayur and Maninjau. The lower slopes of the caldera produce tree fruits such as water apples, cempedak, jack fruit and golden berries, while spice bushes provide coffee, cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg. Trees for timber are also raised. The fish farming involves about 600 families, and areas near the fish pens tend to be polluted. Swimming is best enjoyed away from the villages and houses where the water is cleaner. Boats can be hired to take visitors across the lake, and canoes are commonly rented at the guest lodgings. Some areas exist that are open to hiking, but the West Sumatra government has not provided any real tourist guides to the area. A lovely waterfall near the mosque north of Maninjau can be visited, but long socks are advised as leaches are prolific in the undergrowth.

Locally, tourists can find traditional handicrafts made by the Minang for sale, including slippers, bags and a variety of items made with ‘songket’-a hand-woven cloth containing gold and silver threads. Anything found here is unlikely to be duplicated elsewhere and makes a fine souvenir/art piece to take home. One popular activity is paragliding from the rim of the caldera nearby. Arrangements can be made in Bukittinggi. Bicycling around the lake usually takes more than a day, and the road is somewhat rough in spots. A few areas near the dam have been roped off for shore fishing on the west side of the lake, and several islands also provide for shore fishing. One must hitch a ride with a local fisherman to reach them.

The closest real city with tourism attractions is Padang, about 100 miles and an optimistic three-hour trip by car. Buses do travel to Lake Maninjau and leave Bukittinggi about every two hours. Bukittinggi is a cultural center of the Minangkabau people and holds several locations of interest such as the old Dutch Fort de Kock, a small museum, and the geological formation of Slanok Canyon. Traditional singing and dancing are performed at the Cultural Center every night.

The old trading port City of Padang offers a wide variety of activities suited to visitors. Islands off the coast are ideal for snorkeling. Surfing tours take surfers to some of the most famous surfing beaches in Indonesia. The beautiful white sand beaches are great for sunbathing and swimming. A large Chinese population has created a number of Chinese Buddhist temples and pagodas, with the Dutch Old Town containing interesting architecture dating back to colonial rule. A major airport serves Padang and is the best way to reach the interior Highlands of West Sumatra. Most visitors take a few days to enjoy Padang, then plan day trips or longer excursions into the Highlands to visit places like Bukittinggi and Lake Maninjau. In stark comparison to the busy city of Padang, here it is quiet, cool and serene. Make sure you don’t miss seeing Lake Maninjau on your trip to West Sumatra.

*Statistics are listed for informational purposes only. Although these same statistics are published on several websites, no official source for them was found.

Things to do at Lake Maninjau

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Snorkeling
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Waterfall
  • Museum

Lake Maninjau Photo Gallery

Lake Maninjau Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Perusahaan Listrik Negara

Surface Area: 24,587 acres

Shoreline Length: 33 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,506 feet

Average Depth: 345 feet

Maximum Depth: 541 feet

Water Volume: 8,431,417 acre-feet

We strive to keep the information on LakeLubbers as accurate as possible. However, if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you! Please fill out our Content Correction form.

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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.


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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.


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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."


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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