When I was planning our three week trip to Indonesia with my family of 6 (13, 14, 16 and 20 year old children), I wanted to include at least one Indonesian volcano. Indonesia has more active volcanoes than any other country in the world. Currently, there are approximately 127 active ones, with many more dormant. When I researched the various options, Kelimutu rose to the top of my list.
Why This Indonesia Volcano?
- I was fascinated to learn that Kelimutu has three different coloured lakes at its peak. In addition, they change colour throughout the year. The lakes sit in enormous craters that were formed from previous volcanic eruptions.
- I liked that Kelimutu was located in an isolated and rural part of the island of Flores. In addition to exploring an Indonesia volcano, I also wanted my family to spend time in small villages learning more about local customs and traditions. I was curious to see the countryside and the day to day life of the people.
- We were already planning to visit Komodo National Park, several islands off the coast of Flores, to hike with Komodo dragons, swim with manta rays and explore deserted pink beaches. We could reach Kelimutu with a one hour flight across Flores (from Labuan Bajo to Ende airports), followed by a two hour drive. If you are interested in reading about our time at Komodo National Park, please read my two articles – The Unbelievable Wonders of Komodo National Park and Komodo Dragons And Pink Beaches: Just Another Day in Indonesia
- Finally, I found Kelimutu Crater Lakes Ecolodge, near the Indonesia volcano, that offered comfortable western accommodation. Included in the price of our stay, was a full three day program exploring local villages and Kelimutu. All of our meals were also included in the cost of our accommodation.
We were collected at Ende airport by the General Manager of the Lodge, two cars and two drivers. We loaded up the cars and started our two hour drive to the Lodge. Ende is the largest city on Flores. From a North American perspective, this was an interesting city. Apparently, there is approximately 60,000 people living there, but I’m not exactly sure where! We saw lots of one room homes on the side of the road (some in very bad condition) on little plots of land with roosters, chickens and dogs running wild. We saw a few one and two story buildings, with a couple of banks and stores, but no apartment buildings or anything like that. Truthfully, it felt more like a town than a city. However, after we left Ende, we understood.
Within minutes, we were on the outskirts of Ende and into the countryside. It was spectacularly beautiful. Everywhere we looked, there were hills and mountains that were covered in trees and lush greenery. In between mountains, we saw terraced rice paddy fields or other farming. Occasionally, we passed a group of small little ramshackle huts with kids running around outside, or a small run down shop selling bottles of gas, treats, and some household items. But, over two hours, that was pretty much it. In terms of population and infrastructure, this journey to the Indonesia volcano was isolated and sparsely populated. There was one road in and one road out. We spent most of our trip on a winding paved road cut out of the mountain with endless views. Thankfully, the road and its conditions were good.
Kelimutu Crater Lakes Ecolodge
We eventually arrived in Moni, the village nestled below Kelimutu and where our lodge was located. The lodge was beautiful. The buildings were settled into the hills and seemed to be an extension of them. Everywhere we looked, we saw exotic flowers with brilliant colours . A lovely creek ran just below. Every night and every morning, we fell asleep and woke up to the sound of the creek.
We had three large rooms in our own separate building with comfortable beds and a small patio out front. All meals were served outside in a separate building nearby. We chose what time to eat for every meal and each meal was freshly cooked for us.
From what we saw during our time in Moni and around the Indonesia volcano, this hotel was the nicest by far. In fact, when we saw the poverty and harsh living conditions of the locals, we realized that we were very fortunate to be staying at this lodge.
However, it was not perfect. Depending on what kind of traveller you are, some of these might bother you. Others might read the “problems” and find it ridiculous that I am even mentioning them. For us, they were minor annoyances that we quickly forgot. We soaked up the beauty of our surroundings and met many kind people who were excited to welcome us into their villages and their homes.
Nevertheless, if you are interested in this Lodge, you should be aware that:
- The Lodge did not have wifi.
- There wasn’t any air conditioning
- The bedrooms did not have ceiling fans.
- It cooled down at night, but none of us were brave enough to sleep with the windows open. They did not have any screens on them. Mosquitos were not bad for most of the day, but they were around. There were also some ginormous unidentifiable (we think harmless…) bugs floating/crawling around that I had no interest waking up to in my bed. Accordingly, the windows stayed shut, and the rooms were a bit warm and stale at night.
- Each bedroom had its own private bathroom but hot water was touch and go. We had to be quite strategic and organized about showers.
- Food was plentiful, healthy and offered with lots of pride, but overall, was not a highlight of our stay. I think they did the best they could with the ingredients available, but it likely impacted the quality of the dishes.
- We were not really consulted about meals. We often sat down and dishes appeared. In retrospect, I wish that we could have had some input. I hated how much food was wasted because they served too much food. On the flip side, I also ended up eating way too much food at many meals because I did not want to offend them.
After arriving and eating lunch, our guide took us to explore Moni. Compared to what we had seen on our road trip between Ende and Moni, this was a happening place. Along the main road, I saw a dozen or so one and two storey concrete buildings with modest restaurants and rooms to rent. However, it was still a fundamentally undeveloped and rural scene with green landscapes dominating most every direction.
We drove around 10 minutes from the Lodge along the main road, where we got out and walked down a path to a pretty waterfall called Muru Nda’o. Then, we had to cross two somewhat treacherous bridges to continue on the path. This was a little dicey! Thin tree trunks were bound together to form the bridges. There wasn’t any guard rails. The bridges were narrow, and chunks of wood were missing in certain spots. We kind of bounced as we walked over them – not the most reassuring feeling when there is nothing stopping you from toppling down 6m or 20 feet into the sharp rocks and water below!
Thankfully, we all did it. Not with a lot of grace or athletic finesse. I am sure local children run over them blindfolded and would have laughed at how slowly and cautiously we crossed.
The Hidden Village
After we transversed the bridges, we followed a paved path that first took us back up to ground level. However, we were now deep within the jungle. After a few minutes, we came into a clearing and were surrounded by traditional farms. We continued on the path, meeting children playing in the fields and farmers at work. Our guide identified various plants, and began telling us the history of Flores.
After 15 minutes, we arrived at a very poor settlement filled with small run-down houses, many without windows or doors. Most of the houses were without electricity, running water or any indoor plumbing. Barefoot children ran around and apart from the path, mud and dirt were everywhere. Nevertheless, the people smiled, welcomed us and permitted us to take their photos.
Apparently, this was the traditional village of Moni. The guest houses and restaurants found on the main road just minutes away were solely for the benefit of the tourists. This was where the locals lived and raised their families.
Day One Done
By the end of our first day, our senses were overwhelmed. We were surrounded by truly spectacular scenery. Some of the greenest greens that I have ever seen. But, interspersed were squalid houses and poor locals living in very difficult circumstances. I found the contrasts unsettling.
Thankfully, over the next couple of days, we explored many more villages, and hiked to the peak of Kelimutu volcano at sunrise. These experiences unveiled a rich history of traditions and customs. Beautiful traditional homes and ceremonial huts were gently tucked into lush mountainsides. And of course, reaching the summit at Kelimutu and watching the sunrise was truly awe-inspiring and breathtaking. To read more about our experiences, including our hike to the peak of Kelimutu to watch the sunrise, please read my next blog Exploring the Untouched Beauty of Kelimutu Indonesia .
If you are interested in reading more about my adventures during our three week trip in Indonesia, here is a list of all the articles that I have written:
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