Lake Maninjau

دانااو مانينجاو

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Lake Maninjau

Known locally as Danau Maninjau, meaning to 'overlook', Lake Maninjau settles in the base of a vast volcanic crater about 30 kilometres west of Bukittinggi in western Sumatra, Indonesia's largest island. In parts 165 metres deep, the lake is 17 kilometres long and 8 kilometres at its widest point. The excess drains to form the Batang Sri Antokan river which since 1983 has been used to generate hydroelectric power for the whole of western Sumatra.

Now extinct, the caldera is a result of a massive volcanic eruption estimated to have occurred around 52,000 years ago. The remnants of which have been found in a radial distribution extending up to 75 kilometres away.

At 461 metres above sea level, the air at Maninjau is cool and agreeable, a welcome respite from the heat and humidity of lowland Sumatra. Rice paddies paint a vibrant patchwork of green and yellow hues enveloping such villages as Manidjau and Bayur. Eeking out a simple existence from land and lake, the local population of mainly Minangkabau harvest local delicacies like Pensi, a species of small mussel, and palai rinuak, a type of small fry.

Photographing Lake Maninjau

A trip along the edge of the lake is a great way to fill spend a day, particularly on a bicycle which can be rented locally. With tourist numbers receding generally in Sumatra, Maninjau is now pretty much off the beaten track. Consequently, you'll likely encounter friendly and inquisitive locals. Fortune favours the brave, start a conversation and work your way into taking some memorable portraits.

High up on the rim of the crater, Puncak Lawang AKA Lawang Top provides a spectacular vista of the caldera. The hike up there weaves its way through villages teeming with life. Curious kids are fantastic lens fodder. Don't be shy, snap away, they love it.

Completely useless facts about Lake Maninjau

  • It's the only lake in Sumatra which has a natural outlet to the west coast
  • Due to excessive fish farming over the last 20 years, the depth of the lake has been reduced by an average of 16 metres. That's 16 metres worth of food sediment!
  • Mainly due to the overuse of fertiliser, Maninjau is currently facing a eutrophication problem and is in urgent need of recovery

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