The Tri-Crater “Boiling Lakes” of Mount Kelimutu

Ende is home to the magnificent Mount Kelimutu and its 3-coloured crater lakes. The mountain is located within the Kelimutu National Park, close to the small village of Moni, a quiet little hamlet and the gateway to the National Park with a dozen choices of accommodation, restaurants and warungs available.

Mount Kelimutu with its three-crater lakes is definitely a sight to behold. Aside to being a popular tourist’s attraction, it is also a sacred place for the locals, and it comes with a myth which explains the origins of the mountain. When translated into the local language, Keli means “mount” and Mutu means “boiling”, and together, they literally translate to “mount always active”.

Kelimutu also means “the boiling lake” in the local dialect. The locals, who are the Lio people, believed that the souls of the dead find eternal rest here. Each of the three lakes has its own name; Tiwu Ata Polo or Enchanted Lake, Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai or the Lake of Young Men and Maidens and Tiwu Ata Mbupu, Lake of Ancestors. The locals believe that the changing colours of the lake are caused by the neglected spirits of departed ancestors.

To honour these souls, also the souls of their ancestors, the Lio people will hold a sacred ritual every year on the 14th of August. During the ceremony, different types of sacrifices and foods are turned into offerings for the ancestors. This represents the people’s gratitude for blessings and good fortune received in the past year while they pray for blessings in the coming year.

The ceremony takes place in the form of a procession, where the villagers gather at the parking lot of the Kelimutu National Park before trekking up the mountain to the summit, to the mouth of the crater lakes. The centre of the entire ritual takes place at a stone altar here. Food and offerings are presented on the altar, followed by chanting and prayers by hundreds of people. Thereafter, the villages proceed to descend the mountain to continue with a series of cultural performances.

From a scientific perspective, the tri-coloured crater lakes’ changing colours are due to the water’s mineral contents, the water in each lake changes colours over time.

The Kelimutu National Park is also home to 19 endemic and endangered species. The mountain stands at a height of 1690 metres. It is a 30-minute leisurely stroll to its peak via a paved path through a lush forest where you can view some endemic birds and forest creatures.

From Moni it takes 30 to 45 minutes to reach Kelimutu National Park’s parking lot by car, then another 20 to 30 minutes to walk to the peak. Guests are advised to leave Moni at 4:00am the latest to be able to fully enjoy the sunrise from the peak. If you can’t make it that early, try to reach the peak by 9:00am to enjoy the morning light.


Photo courtesy of: @bryn_north