Lake Toba is an extraordinary natural wonder of the world. This enormous crater lake consists of an island almost the size of Singapore in its center. At over 1,145 square km, and a depth of 450 meters, Lake Toba is actually more like an ocean. This is the largest lake in Southeast Asia and one of the deepest lakes in the world.
A Comforting Escapade
Toba is a place to sit back, relax and absorb some beautiful pristine scenery. As you sit and take in the view of the picturesque mountains set against the cool clear lake, you will feel the worries of the world melt away. As the lake sits 900 meters above sea level, therefore the climate here is cooler which gives a well-needed break from the heat, humidity, and pollution of the city.
How To Get There
Medan is an international gateway. A number of airlines fly daily between the Kualanamu Airport Medan and all major cities in Indonesia and international flights also go from Medan to Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand.
Parapat, the town by Lake Toba, is 176 km away from Medan and can be reached in under 6 hours by public buses that follow two routes: Medan-Parapat or via Medan-Berastagi.
Travel agents in Medan can also organize a rental car plus a chauffeur for you. If you are coming overland from the south via Bukittinggi and Tarutung there is a public bus available.
Once you arrive in Parapat, you can catch the ferry to Samosir Island. The ferry travels every hour and a half. The two landing points on Samosir are the traditional village of Tomok, or Tuk Tuk, where the island’s hotels and restaurants are concentrated.
How To Get Around
Feel the wind in your hair and do as the locals do by hiring a motorbike to explore this beautiful part of the world. If you’re on Samosir Island, take the day to explore by taking a drive on the road running around the edge of the island. Although rough and unpaved in places, this road offers some spectacular views of the lake from the highest points on the island. If you’re staying in the popular village of Tuk Tuk on Samosir, the best way to get around is to walk or wander, down the main street at a leisurely pace.
There are many ways for you to enjoy Lake Toba’s breathtaking natural wonders. Many people said that kayaking in Lake Toba is a once-in-a-lifetime-experience. Commonly, there are three routes that you can explore by paddling the kayak, which is Tongging – Silalahi (12 km – Easy), Tongging – Samosir (50 km – Medium), and Northern Circle (175 km – Demanding). You can also savor the cool breeze from around the lake by glamping (glamorous camping) on The Kaldera Nomadic Escape. Located on Sibisa, Ajibata Sub-district, Toba Samosir Regency, you can immerse yourself in nature without having to bother with the common hassles of conventional camping. Moreover, you can also be pampered with its luxurious facilities such as Bohemian-style tents, bubble tents, eco pods, and also an amphitheater with a capacity of 300 people.
Lake Toba is also home to two ethnic groups of Tomok and Simanindo. Located on the island of Samosir, the traditional village is protected by surrounding barriers of earthen ramparts with bamboo fencing and trees. The village also dwells many unique and authentic traditional houses, especially from Tomok, which consists of a row of massive wooden houses with striking saddle-shaped thatch roofs made of sugar palm fiber (called ijuk).
Batak tribe is widely known for its festive culture. Among others, Tor-Tor Dance is considered to be the most elegant one. This traditional dance is usually performed in celebrations such as harvest time or a wedding ceremony. However, according to history, Tor-Tor Dance is used in a ritual to invoke spirit and ‘walk’ them into the stone statues, which erected as a symbol of the ancestors.
Also, there is a wooden puppet called Sigale-gale, which has become a tourist attraction in Samosir Island because of the mystical value within the myth and belief surrounding the puppet itself. The locals believed that Sigale-gale can wail and dance by itself without music. Some also said that Sigale-gale can only be placed in a coffin. This statue is also commonly used in family death ceremonies in the Samosir area because Sigale-gale dance is believed by local residents to deliver the spirit of the deceased to the afterlife.
Those of you who are looking for souvenirs might want to take a look at Ulos, a meticulously handwoven textile which not only functions as clothing, but also is a significant status symbol, serves as a precious heirloom, or can be a ceremonial gift during a human’s life cycle from birth and wedding to death.
There are also authentic wood carvings that you can get in the souvenir shops. Don’t forget to also buy the delightful Arabica coffee beans called Sumatra Mandheling for all of you coffee-aficionado.
Photo by Max Grabert
Our Hotel Pick Near the Lake Toba
Located in Tuktuk Siadong, Bagus Bay Homestay features a restaurant, bar, garden, and free WiFi. Private parking can be arranged at an extra charge.
Lake Toba (Indonesian: Danau Toba) is a large natural lake in Sumatra, Indonesia occupying the caldera of a supervolcano. The lake is located in the middle of the northern part of the island of Sumatra, with a surface elevation of about 900 metres (2,953 ft), the lake stretches from 2.88°N 98.52°E to 2.35°N 99.1°E. The lake is about 100 kilometres (62 miles) long, 30 kilometres (19 mi) wide, and up to 505 metres (1,657 ft) deep. It is the largest lake in Indonesia and the largest volcanic lake in the world.Lake Toba Caldera is one of the nineteen Geoparks in Indonesia, which is proposed to be included in the UNESCO Global Geopark.
Lake Toba is the site of a massive supervolcanic eruption estimated at VEI 8 that occurred 69,000 to 77,000 years ago,representing a climate-changing event. Recent advances in dating methods suggest a more accurate identification of 74,000 years ago as the date.It is the largest-known explosive eruption on Earth in the last 25 million years. According to the Toba catastrophe theory, it had global consequences for human populations; it killed most humans living at that time and is believed to have created a population bottleneck in central east Africa and India, which affects the genetic make-up of the human worldwide population to the present.
It has been accepted that the eruption of Toba led to a volcanic winter with a worldwide decrease in temperature between 3 to 5 °C (5.4 to 9.0 °F), and up to 15 °C (27 °F) in higher latitudes. Additional studies in Lake Malawi in East Africa show significant amounts of ash being deposited from the Toba eruptions, even at that great distance, but little indication of a significant climatic effect in East Africa.
The Toba caldera complex in North Sumatra comprises four overlapping volcanic craters that adjoin the Sumatran “volcanic front”. With 100 by 30 km [62 by 19 mi] it is the world’s largest Quaternary caldera, and the fourth and youngest caldera. It intersects the three older calderas. An estimated 2,800 km3 (670 cu mi) of dense-rock equivalent pyroclastic material, known as the youngest Toba tuff, was released during one of the largest explosive volcanic eruptions in recent geological history. Following this eruption, a resurgent dome formed within the new caldera, joining two half-domes separated by a longitudinal graben.
At least four cones, four stratovolcanoes, and three craters are visible in the lake. The Tandukbenua cone on the northwestern edge of the caldera has only sparse vegetation, suggesting a young age of several hundred years. Also, the Pusubukit (Hill Center) volcano (1,971 m (6,467 ft) above sea level) on the south edge of the caldera is solfatarically active.
The Toba eruption (the Toba event) occurred at what is now Lake Toba about 75,000±900 years ago. It was the last in a series of at least four caldera-forming eruptions at this location, with earlier calderas having formed around 788,000±2,200 years ago. This last eruption had an estimated VEI=8, making it the largest-known explosive volcanic eruption within the last 25 million years.
Bill Rose and Craig Chesner of Michigan Technological University have estimated that the total amount of material released in the eruption was about 2,800 km3 (670 cu mi) —about 2,000 km3 (480 cu mi) of ignimbrite that flowed over the ground, and approximately 800 km3 (190 cu mi) that fell as ash mostly to the west. However, based on the new method (crystal concentration and exponential), Toba possibly erupted 3,200 km3 (770 cu mi) of ignimbrite and co-ignimbrite. The pyroclastic flows of the eruption destroyed an area of least 20,000 km2 (7,700 sq mi), with ash deposits as thick as 600 m (2,000 ft) by the main vent.
The eruption was large enough to have deposited an ash layer approximately 15 cm (6 in) thick over all of South Asia; at one site in central India, the Toba ash layer today is up to 6 m (20 ft) thick and parts of Malaysia were covered with 9 m (30 ft) of ash fall. In addition it has been variously calculated that 10,000 million tonnes (1.1×1010 short tons) of sulfurous acid or 6,000 million tonnes (6.6×109 short tons) of sulfur dioxide were ejected into the atmosphere by the event.
The subsequent collapse formed a caldera that filled with water, creating Lake Toba. The island in the center of the lake is formed by a resurgent dome.
The exact year of the eruption is unknown, but the pattern of ash deposits suggests that it occurred during the northern summer because only the summer monsoon could have deposited Toba ashfall in the South China Sea. The eruption lasted perhaps two weeks, and the ensuing volcanic winter resulted in a decrease in average global temperatures by 3.0 to 3.5 °C (5 to 6 °F) for several years. Ice cores from Greenland record a pulse of starkly reduced levels of organic carbon sequestration. Very few plants or animals in southeast Asia would have survived, and it is possible that the eruption caused a planet-wide die-off. However, the global cooling has been discussed by Rampino and Self. Their conclusion is that the cooling had already started before Toba’s eruption. This conclusion was supported by Lane and Zielinski who studied the lake-core from Africa and GISP2. They concluded that there was no volcanic winter after Toba eruption and that high H2SO4 deposits do not cause long-term effects.
Evidence from studies of mitochondrial DNA suggests that humans may have passed through a genetic bottleneck around this time that reduced genetic diversity below what would be expected given the age of the species. According to the Toba catastrophe theory, proposed by Stanley H. Ambrose of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign in 1998, the effects of the Toba eruption may have decreased the size of human populations to only a few tens of thousands of individuals.However, this hypothesis is not widely accepted because similar effects on other animal species have not been observed, and paleoanthropology suggests there was no population bottleneck.
More recent activity
Since the major eruption ~70,000 years ago, eruptions of smaller magnitude have also occurred at Toba. The small cone of Pusukbukit formed on the southwestern margin of the caldera and lava domes. The most recent eruption may have been at Tandukbenua on the northwestern caldera edge, suggested by a lack of vegetation that could be due to an eruption within the last few hundred years.
Some parts of the caldera have shown uplift due to partial refilling of the magma chamber, for example, pushing Samosir Island and the Uluan Peninsula above the surface of the lake. The lake sediments on Samosir Island show that it has risen by at least 450 m (1,476 ft) since the cataclysmic eruption. Such uplifts are common in very large calderas, apparently due to the upward pressure of below-ground magma. Toba is probably the largest resurgent caldera on Earth. Large earthquakes have recently occurred in the vicinity of the volcano, notably in 1987 along the southern shore of the lake at a depth of 11 km (6.8 mi). Such earthquakes have also been recorded in 1892, 1916, and 1920–1922.
Lake Toba lies near the Great Sumatran fault, which runs along the centre of Sumatra in the Sumatra Fracture Zone. The volcanoes of Sumatra and Java are part of the Sunda Arc, a result of the northeasterly movement of the Indo-Australian Plate, which is sliding under the eastward-moving Eurasian Plate. The subduction zone in this area is very active: the seabed near the west coast of Sumatra has had several major earthquakes since 1995, including the 9.1 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and the 8.7 2005 Nias–Simeulue earthquake, the epicenters of which were around 300 km (190 mi) from Toba.
Most of the people who live around Lake Toba are ethnically Bataks. Traditional Batak houses are noted for their distinctive roofs (which curve upwards at each end, as a boat’s hull does) and their colorful decor.
Flora and fauna
The flora of the lake includes various types of phytoplankton, emerged macrophytes, floating macrophytes, and submerged macrophytes, while the surrounding countryside is rainforest including areas of Sumatran tropical pine forests on the higher mountainsides.
The fauna includes several species of zooplankton and benthic animals. Since the lake is oligotrophic (nutrient-poor), the native fish fauna is relatively scarce, and the only endemics are Rasbora tobana (strictly speaking near-endemic, since also found in some tributary rivers that run into the lake) and Neolissochilus thienemanni, locally known as the Batak fish. The latter species is threatened by deforestation (causing siltation), pollution, changes in water level and the numerous fish species that have been introduced to the lake. Other native fishes include species such as Aplocheilus panchax, Nemacheilus pfeifferae, Homaloptera gymnogaster, Channa gachua, Channa striata, Clarias batrachus, Barbonymus gonionotus, Barbonymus schwanenfeldii, Danio albolineatus, Osteochilus vittatus, Puntius binotatus, Rasbora jacobsoni, Tor tambra, Betta imbellis, Betta taeniata and Monopterus albus.Among the many introduced species are Anabas testudineus, Oreochromis mossambicus, Oreochromis niloticus, Ctenopharyngodon idella, Cyprinus carpio, Osphronemus goramy, Trichogaster pectoralis, Trichopodus trichopterus, Poecilia reticulata and Xiphophorus hellerii.
Sinking of MV Sinar Bangun
On 18 June 2018, Lake Toba was the scene of a ferry disaster, in which over 190 people drowned. MV Sinar Bangun was an irregular operating vessel traveling at the lake capsized with many passengers on board. The incident caused the death of 190 people and injuries to a number of others. Preliminary reports found the vessel was in operation with irregularities. Ignoring overloading on the vessel and operating in rough weather conditions were concluded as the main reason leading to the disaster. Around 50 cars and 100 motorbikes, which were aboard, also sank into the lake on that day.
Featured Photo by kenner116