As a rule, visiting volcanoes in Indonesia is a right royal pain in the butt. Thankfully, the sublime Kelimutu on the island of Flores is the exception to the rule. The volcano seems not to attract scammers, the site is not overrun with tourists, there seems to be good litter management in the park, and the views are truly unique and sensational.
The most convenient base for visiting Kelimutu is the delightful village of Moni at the foot of the volcano. We stayed at the best place in town, Angi Homestay. The owner, Johannes, and his wife Rose, have a couple of lovely bungalows overlooking the rice fields. Breakfast was simple but delicious. Pancakes, avocado, passion fruit, and excellent Flores coffee. The price was good too. In low season bargain.
Johannes helped organize our ojeks up to the lakes in the morning and our bus out of town. The village is a pleasant spot to wander around but you are here for the lakes.
We woke up at 4.30am on our second day in town and met up with our motorbike taxis. It is surprisingly chilly on a bike at that time so long pants and a sweater might be in order. The ride up takes 45 minutes. You pick up your tickets to the park (150,000idr), bitch about the obscene foreigner pricing, and then ride another kilometer or so up the hill.
Oh, take a torch/flashlight too! You have to walk another kilometer or so in the dark to get to the sunrise spot. Walk on past the first viewing spot and carry on up the hill to the main Kelimutu viewing platform. And, then prepared to be wowed!
Caffeine addicts need not fear missing out on their morning jolt. As ever in Asia, locals set up wherever tourists gather and mysteriously always know what you need. Strong Flores coffee and cookies.
The sun slowly rises over the main two lakes and the spectacle begins to unfold. I am always amazed by tourists who go up to a sunrise spot and leave once the sun is over the horizon. The best light is almost always later. And, no surprises, this was true for Kelimutu. We stayed there for hours long after most tourists had abandoned the hill.
Droning on and on
I hate drones. Sorry drone lovers, but your hobby is obnoxious. I have no doubt your shots are fucking cool and your friends get to enjoy them. But, you ruined my nice peaceful morning with your annoying noises. And, you are becoming more prevalent. I hope they will never be allowed in US National Parks.
Rant over…back to the Kelimutu view
And, if you are planning to go to Kelimutu, this is what you can look forward too. The lakes often change color and between photos you can read why on the many signs dotted around. There are English and Bahasa signs that explain the geological and chemical transformations that occur in the lakes.
Hiking down from Kelimutu
The lazy can ask their ojek to wait for them and return the way they came. Those wanting a bit more exercise can hike down from the lakes. There are several paths but the easiest can be found just off the main road down the hill. About a km past the main gate you will enter a village. At the end of the village there are two enormous concrete pillars, the remains of a gate. There is a path to the right of the gate. Follow it down.
It will get very narrow but it is easy to follow. Villagers will help you if you feel you have wandered off path, which is near impossible. It is a pleasant 90 minute walk but it is hot. Stock up on water anywhere you see a little store.
At the bottom of the path, you will hit a village where local warungs owners will fight to sell you refreshing mixed fruit juices. Head left at this point and drop down to the waterfall. If luck is on your side, the local youth will entertain you by leaping off the cliffs into the plunge pool. Parents in the US would have their kids taken away for allowing this. But, this is Indonesia. The kids look after themselves here!
Cross the little bridge over a stream and head up the very obvious path. You will pop out by Rainbow Cafe in Moni. You will be sweaty but it is worth it.
Getting to and from Moni
We caught a local bus from Maumere to Moni. The bus stop is out on the main road out of Maumere next to the Sylvia Hotel. The Sylvia is a decent place to overnight in Maumere. It has a pool, good rooms, WiFi, and decent breakfast. The warung next door is really good and cheap.
The bus to Moni took around four hours. The tourist price is 75000idr. Locals seem to pay 50K.
Hotel in Moni
Plenty of options but we went with the clean and comfortable Angi Homestay.
The Bintang Guesthouse had a decent cafe that sells Indonesian staples and good fruit juices. The Rainbow Cafe is a funky little cafe with an interesting local clientele. I got the impression they thought they were Jamaicans. Lots of dreadlocks and reggae.
There is a Government Tourist Office in Moni. It is really good. I reckon it is worth picking up one of the guides to Flores. They cost 130000idr. We read one further down the road and it is packed full of great places to visit. We probably would have visited a few of these places if we had known about them. Lonely Planet, as is the case for most places these days, does not have good info on Flores.
There is also a Flores Homestay Network, that has a bunch of affordable accommodation in slightly out of the way places. You can even stay in the delightful Ngada village of Gurusina. I reckon that would be pretty cool!