Kelimutu is a volcano on the island of Flores. At 1,640 meters above sea level, the mountain forms the highest point on the island; its main attractions are the three colored crater lakes: Tiwu Ata Mbupu (Lake of Old People) is usually blue and is the westernmost of the three lakes. Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai (Lake of Young Men and Women) is usually green, while Tiwu Ata Polo (Bewitched or Enchanted Lake) is reddish in color. The color of the lakes changes as a result of chemical reactions resulting from the minerals contained in the lake, possibly triggered by volcano gas activity.
The name Kelimutu can be roughly translated as the “Getting together mountains;” Keli means mountain, Mutu means get together. The locals believe that Kelimutu is under the reign of Konde Ratu, a supra-natural king, who rules over the spirits of the dead. Young spirits reside happily in Tiwu Koo Fai Nuwa Muri (Lake of the Young Men and Women); the old live in Tiwu Ata Bupu (Lake of Old People), while evil spirits dwell in Tiwu Ata Polo (Bewitched Lake).
The lakes of the young and old lay side by side; a thin crater wall affected by wind, erosion and landslides separates the two. At the water surface fifty meters below, the wind has free reign, often causing small typhoons.
The color of the lakes has changed often in the last three decades. Strangely, this always happens in the middle of the night, nobody has ever seen it happen. In December 2008, the color of two of the three lakes changed. The water in Lake Tiwu Ata Polo turned from black to dark green, while Lake Tiwu Nua Muri Koo Fai turned greenish blue. In 2009 the color changed after only eight months. Last January, the colors changed again.
After intensive studies since 2007, the Indonesian Institute of Sciences’ (LIPI) Geo-technology Research Center concluded that the changes could mean an eruption was imminent. But local people have their own interpretation. According to them the color changes signify political and cultural changes in the region. The last January 2013 color change took place just three months before the East Nusa Tenggara governor election in March.
Kelimutu as a Tourist Destination
In the past, Kelimutu was just a resting place for the dead. Presently, the region has developed into a major tourist destination on Flores and the other main port of call is the tiny island of Komodo; home of the komodo dragon.
In 1992 the Kelimutu region was established as a National Natural Conservation Region. The sanctuary covers more than 5,356.5 hectares of sloping hills and forest, with over 70 different species of flora and fauna. An example is the garugiwa (pachycephala nudigula); a slender black bird with a green and yellowish body.