Sumatra is the third largest island in Indonesia after Borneo and Papua and the sixth largest in the world. It is also the westernmost island in Indonesia archipelago. The island is formerly known as the Swarnadwipa or the “Island of Gold”. Many world explorers and traders including Marco Polo had visited the island since the early 13th century to look for gold or spices. Besides its rich soil deposits and commercial plantations, Sumatra has a number of scenic lakes scattered from north to south. As Sumatra is sitting on a volcanic fault that stretches along the western coast of the island, most of the lakes are calderas formed during or after volcanic eruption.
Covering an area of around 1130 square kilometers, Lake Toba is the largest lake in Indonesia and Southeast Asia. It is also one of the deepest lakes on the planet with its deepest point at 500 meters below sea level. Located in the northern part of the island of Sumatra, Lake Toba is not an ordinary lake; it is the crater of a super volcano. The lake has been recorded as the largest volcanic lake in the world. Lake Toba is formed after a massive eruption of Mount Toba that occurred around 70 thousand years ago. The eruption changed climate, caused the temperature to decrease and destroyed an area of more than twenty thousand square kilometers. The ashes spread as far as the Middle East, across the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. The earth was thrown into 10 years of winter followed by one thousand years of cooling episode. This dramatic change led to significant reduction of world’s population, both human and animal.
Today, Lake Toba is a place of enchanting beauty. In the middle of the lake lies an island called the Samosir. The area including the island of Samosir is inhabited by hospitable tribe, the Bataks, who are famous for their distinctive culture, characters and colorful houses. Lake Toba is also the home to various species of fishes and water plants.
Located on the southern tip of Sumatra Island, Lake Ranau lies hidden in the middle of rainforest to the south of Bukit Barisan, the famous volcano arch stretching along the west coast of the island. Lake Ranau covers an area of over 125 square kilometers, making it the second largest lake on the island. Similar to Lake Toba, Lake Ranau is also a caldera formed by volcanic eruption. Bushes, locally known as “ranau” flourish along the edge of the lake, giving the lake its name. An island, called the Marisa, stands in the middle of the lake. On that island, visitors could enjoy hot water springs, waterfalls and the view of extensive green paddy field. Motorboats are available to those who would like to have a tour on the lake. The surrounding hill and its forest is the home to various species of primates. Freshwater fish endemic to the lake is the big size tilapia fish called the “mujair”. The foul-smelling fruit, the “durian” can easily be found around the lake when it is in season.
Lake Singkarak is located in West Sumatra Province, around seventy kilometers from the capital city of Padang. It is the third largest lake on the island of Sumatra with a total area of over one hundred square kilometers. Just like Lake Toba and Ranau, Lake Singkarak is also a volcanic lake surrounded by volcanoes. Its volcanic landscape provides natural beauty in the form of breathtaking view and calm atmosphere. It is a heaven for photography lovers. The excess water flows into Ombilin River and ultimately to the Strait of Malacca. The strong undercurrent created by the fast-moving water had been utilized to generate electricity. Singkarak Hydro Electric Plant provides electricity for the provinces of West Sumatra and Riau. In the lake lives a species of cyprinid fish locally known as “bilih”. It is reported that the fish can only be found in Singkarak Lake. The fish is frequently harvested for daily consumption of local people. Recently, the government had initiated an effort to cultivate this species. Besides the bilih, another 18 species of fishes are also endemic to the lake. An international cycling event, “Tour de Singkarak” is held annually. In this event cyclist from around the world will race for six days through the beautiful region of West Sumatra and finish at Lake Singkarak.
Lake Maninjau is another crater lake formed by volcanic eruption over fifty thousand years ago. This popular tourist destination is also located in West Sumatra Province. The word “maninjau” literally means “to observe” in local language. Located in mountainous area, Lake Maninjau covers an area of 99 square kilometers. On the west side of the lake, the Antokan River acts as natural outlet for excess water from the lake. The strong underwater current had also been used since 1983 to generate electricity. The region is a well-known paragliding site. The area is inhabited by the Minangkabau, a local ethnic group famous for its matrilineal system, spicy foods, exotic culture, colorful wardrobe and distinctive houses. Various aquatic organisms are cultivated in the lake by local people using traditional floating net cages called the “karamba”. The famous species include “rinuak”, a kind of small fish and “pensi”, a kind of mussel. “Pepes rinuak” is the region’s most popular dish. To make the dish, the rinuak is mixed with shredded coconut meat and spices then wrapped in a banana leaf before being grilled. Various kinds of fruits also grow around the lake, for example the durian, rambutan, jackfruit, water apples and golden berries.
Lake Laut Tawar
Lake Laut Tawar is located in Aceh, Indonesia, the northernmost province on Sumatra Island and in Indonesia archipelago. “Laut” in local language means sea, and “tawar” means freshwater. So literally “laut tawar” means “fresh water sea”. Situated on Gayo high plains, Lake Laut Tawar lies over one thousand meters above sea level. The lake is surrounded by soaring cliffs and caves, a perfect spot for rock climbing and cave exploring. Trout can be found easily in the lake. The fish is harvested for local consumption. The nearby forest is the home to various species of orchids, insects and mammals.
Covering an area of more than four thousand hectares, Lake Kerinci is the largest lake in the province of Jambi. The lake is located right in the middle of the island of Sumatra, at the foot of Mount Raja. The lake is surrounded by scenic hills, traditional village with its traditional houses and ancient archeological site. Umoh Laheik is the name of traditional wooden house commonly found around the lake. In a nearby site, visitors can see megalithic remain in the form of large carved stones. Ancient human remain have also been found in the area. The lake is the natural habitat of various species of fishes and other aquatic animals. Cultural event named the Kerinci Festival is held every year in the region. Traditional dances will be performed, music recitals will be held, traditional foods and other local art and craft will be displayed and sold.
Lake Di Atas and Lake Di Bawah
Literally, Lake Di Atas means upper lake and Lake di Bawah means lower lake. The two lakes are known as the twin lakes due to their similar sizes, nearby opposite locations (one is on the left side of a main road and the other is on the right side) and similar environments. The lakes are located in West Sumatra Province. So these are the third and fourth lakes in the province after Lake Singkarak and Lake Maninjau. It takes approximately two hours drive from Padang, the capital of West Sumatra Province to the lakes. The lakes can be reached easily as they are situated on the sides of a busy road that connects two main cities in the province. The lakes are surrounded by tea plantations, green trees and paddy fields. When lucky, visitors can have a look on groups of young ladies plucking tea leaves. Tropical juicy fruit endemic to this area is the orange passion fruit called “markisa”.
Lake Gunung Tujuh
Lake Gunung Tujuh is located within the Kerinci National Park in Jambi Province. It is a caldera formed by volcanic eruption. Gunung Tujuh means seven mountains as the lake is surrounded by seven peaks. Stood at an altitude of almost two thousand meters above sea level, Lake Gunung Tujuh is the highest lake in Indonesia and Southeast Asia. Local people mystically believe that the lake is inhabited by surreal beings that often appear in the form of tigers. In addition, for the local people, the lake is sacred. The lake carries an abundant of fish. It is a source of living for many fishermen. There is no easy way to get to the lake. From the nearest village, one must hike up a steeply hill for about two to three hours. But it’s worth the effort. The sight of sunrise on the foggy lake, the view of seven peaks background, the breeze of cold air, the overall beauty of the place are really spectacular.