Lake Toba is resurgent caldera, meaning that land collapsed over an underground magma chamber, creating the large crater, and then rose up again, pushed by the activity of magma underneath. This has resulted in a lake up to 500 meters high. This island, called Samosir, is the world’s largest island within an island and is the heart of Batak culture.
I was not interested in exploring the island, which is home to well over ninety thousand people, mostly of Batak heritage. There are a lot of cultural attractions to see on the island, as well as beautiful panoramas of the lake and the mainland.
I first visited the village of Tuktuk, which is probably the most popular tourist destination and has most of the accommodation on the island. I stayed at the Sopo Toba Hotel roght on the shore of Samosir looking out across the lake, which is so vast it is like gazing at the sea. From here, I was able to book boat trips on the lake, rent a motorcycle and hire a guide to tour the island, though this did not prove necessary.
As I biked and hiked around Samosir, I encountered a great number of stunning views thanks to the diverse flora and fauna of the area. On the island, I came across swamps, lakes – making them lakes on an island on a lake on an island – and all manner of woodland animals. The tracks I took to get around the island varied in quality, with some being very smooth and others being little more than gravel tracks riddled with potholes.
When I left the hotel, I was told it would take about an hour to get from Tuktuk to the island’s peak, but it took me closer to two with frequent stops to admire the nature, take photos and wander through the forest. Eventually, the tracks faded and the forest became too dense to negotiate further, and so I did not quite make it to summit, but I was actually not all disappointed by this.
I got back to the hotel around dusk, and immediately dived into the lake. After a long day of the sun beating down combined with the effects of the magma so close under the lake, the water were a very comfortable temperature, and I had an invigorating swim to end the day.
I found Lake Toba and its island to be enthralling, and only really scratched the surface of what it has to offer. Next time my business takes me to Medan, I will be sure to steal enough time to head back there and continue exploring!
Text: Karl Millsom
Source: Journey Indonesia Magazine, October 2014 (Page 66-68)
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