Lake Singkarak, Indonesia

Lake Locations:

Indonesia -

One of West Sumatra’s prettiest lakes is Lake Singkarak. Located at an elevation of nearly 1200 feet in the highlands east of Padang, Lake Singkarak’s shoreline is cool and inviting after experiencing the hot and humid coast. The second-largest lake in West Sumatra after Lake Toba, the lake now provides vitally-needed electrical power to the surrounding area. Much of the outflow has been diverted to the Anai River to feed a new hydro-power plant. Nestled against a backdrop of the lush, green Barisan Mountains, Lake Singkarak has long been a favored fishing lake for locals. The shoreline is dotted with cafes, small hotels and hostels, and the rough road around the lake passes through several small settlements. Some of these areas offer small shops to purchase traditional crafts common to the Minangkabau culture.

Lake Singkarak is a favorite spot to swim or simply enjoy the beautiful view. Several areas along the 32-mile shoreline offer natural sandy beaches. Children delight at the sight of the bilih fish swimming around their feet in the crystal clear water. Boat tours may be arranged in the town of Umbilin, and personal boat rentals are a popular way to enjoy the large lake. At least 19 species of fish are known to live in the lake. The sasau is usually the one most sought-after by leisure anglers. This white-fleshed fish is known to reach about five pounds and is considered a fine table fish.

Many of the local inhabitants have survived here for generations on fishing and small farming. Lake Singkarak is one of only two lakes that hold the endemic bilih fish, which is a type of small carp. There are claims that the bilih will survive nowhere else, including in aquarium environments. The bilih has become famous as the main ingredient in several local dishes and is served at nearly all of the local restaurants, crisply fried with green chilies. Recently, complaints have been raised that the lake isn’t producing as many fish as were previously caught. The blame appears to lie in over-fishing, and efforts are underway to correct the situation. Local fish farming of the bilih in nets has been somewhat successful in meeting the always-growing market for these tasty fish.

Located 45 miles east on the coastal resort city of Padang, visitors can take the train to the lake or risk a ride on the somewhat unreliable local buses. Most people rent a car and drive to enjoy the scenic sights along the way. In recent years, more people have become aware of Lake Singkarak’s charms by the publicity generated over the professional “Tour de Singkarak” bicycle race that takes place each year.

The 900-km international UTI-Asia Tour race takes about a week to complete, beginning in Padang and circling Lake Singkarak before heading inland through several West Sumatra cities. As a result, cycling around the lake has become more common and allows the casual bike rider the opportunity to pause at various vantage points and enjoy the scenery at leisure. Hiking along the shoreline and in the surrounding hills has become increasingly popular with visitors. Such interest has convinced West Sumatra officials to try to encourage more tourism to the area. Currently, the nearest three, four and five-star hotels are located as far away as Padang, although local hotel properties are being encouraged to upgrade their facilities.

Visitors who do not expect world-class accommodations at the lakefront will likely find some type of lodgings suitable for a stay of a day or two. Although there don’t appear to be any organized campgrounds, usually hotels in West Sumatra offer a small area for tent campers as long as they eat a meal or two in their restaurant. Tourist agents familiar with the area can easily direct visitors to the best accommodations and campsites.

Lake Singkarak is an excellent addition to any vacation or holiday in West Sumatra. The area around Padang is noted for excellent diving waters and popular for deep sea fishing and water sports. Several resorts there offer every amenity. Padang is noted for surfing, with surfing tours being operated by several companies in the city. Minibuses regularly transport visitors 18 miles north to Bungus Bay where the surfing is excellent, and the off-shore islands support beautiful coral reefs for snorkeling or diving. Ferry travel to nearby offshore islands is also popular. Due to a large Chinese presence because of Chinese shipping concerns, Padang has a bustling Chinatown with many restaurants and spice shops.

Most visitors plan at least one day to visit the colorful city of Bukittinggi, 22 miles north of Lake Singkarak. Bukittinggi is the cultural home of the Minangkabau and features the typical architecture of distinctive buffalo horn roof peaks superimposed even on old Dutch Colonial buildings. Remnants of Dutch rule are still evident in such edifices as the 1926 Clock Tower. The museum across from the ruins of Fort de Kock is worth a visit to brush up on Sumatran history and antiquities. Of interest in Bukittinggi, the Japanese caves built with slave labor are preserved as a glaring example of Japanese occupation during World War II. Nearby, the Military Museum exhibits weapons and historic artifacts from the war for independence from Holland, an attempted communist coup in 1965, and the fight against Fretilin guerrillas in East Timor. Minangkabau culture is on display every evening at the Culture Center with performances of native song and dance. Surrounding it all are the lush green Highlands with cool lakes, spectacular waterfalls and even a few active volcanoes.

The long-held explanation of Lake Singkarak’s origins has been that it was a flooded volcanic crater. Recent scientific explorations have challenged that explanation. Instead, scientists are now certain that ancient lava flows from other volcanoes dammed water outflow, creating the lake. Recently, interested international groups have worked to find a solution to deforestation occurring around the lake to prevent future degraded water quality. These groups hope that a plan to pay the local residents to protect the hillsides may result in both better water protection and additional investment in tourism facilities. Increased tourism may be the solution to the thorny problem of deforestation from farming. Meanwhile, Lake Singkarak is cool, scenic and delightful. And there are enough bilih fish being produced to guarantee everyone a taste of the local delicacy.

Things to do at Lake Singkarak

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Snorkeling
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Waterfall
  • Museum
  • Ruins

Fish species found at Lake Singkarak

  • Carp

Lake Singkarak Photo Gallery

Lake Singkarak Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Surface Area: 26,638 acres

Shoreline Length: 32 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,188 feet

Average Depth: 489 feet

Maximum Depth: 879 feet

Water Volume: 13,052,482 acre-feet

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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".

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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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