Located on the central Flores Island of Indonesia, about 50 km east of the Indonesian capital of Ende, is a volcano. This volcano is called Kelimutu, towering over the local surrounding villages of this generally unindustrialized region of Indonesia. Yet, the volcanic focal point of this national park is quickly gaining recognition as one of the most beautiful natural phenomena throughout the south Pacific.
Kelimutu is one of the few volcanoes of Indonesia classified as ‘ribu’—meaning it is taller than 1000 meters—measuring around 1600 meters; yet this is not why I have chosen it for my blog. Rather, close to the summit of the volcano lies three crater lakes with outstandingly dynamic characteristics. Each of the three lakes are known to change colors, alternating between various shades of reds, blues, whites, blacks, and greens. The local villages believe that the lakes are the resting place of the souls of their ancestors, and therefore manifesting their anger, happiness, nostalgia, or love through the variety of magnificent colors they unknowingly cast.
Tiwu Ata Mbupu (Lake of the Old People) is the westernmost lake, slightly alienated from the other two, and usually emits a dark blue/black tint. This is where the spirits of the old go when they have lived a fully righteous life. The other two adjacent lakes, Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai (Lake of Young Men and Maidens) and Tiwu Ata Polo (Enchanted/Bewitched Lake), share one crater but are separated by a midway crater wall. Both of these bipolar lakes are usually blood-red, fluorescent green, shades of an aquatic blue, or olive-black. Any young soul, male or female, if they have lived an unexpectedly short life, experiencing death at too soon of an age, will forever reside in the Lake of Young Men and Maidens. On the other hand, anyone young, old, male, female, if they have lived an amoral life, they will seek the Enchanted blood-red Lake. It is an anticipatory trek up the volcano, especially for the neighboring village members, who await to see the current mood of the spirits.
The change in water color is due to volcanic activation underneath the cratered lakes, triggered by fumaroles. Fumaroles are literally openings of the planet’s surface from which various gases leak. Hydrogen chloride, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and carbon dioxide all spontaneously seep out of the Earth’s crust, revealing the present gaseous emotions of the planet itself. Interestingly, the rim of the craters is loosely made up of unsteady rocks and minerals, occasionally resulting in people slipping into the volcanically steaming waters and boiling to death—physically joining the eternally restless souls who dynamically shape this natural beauty.