The Magical, Mysterious Danau Tamblingan

Secret Bali | Written By, Ayu Sekar | August 2nd, 2016

For a lake that is so far away and so remote, the misty and mystical Danau Tamblingan gets mighty crowded at sunrise. One of the holy trinity of lakes lying by Bedugul, her quiet beauty attracts hordes of people who come to take advantage of her remoteness and natural charm which is at its best around sunrise.

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Lost in the cool air of the volcanic mountains that surround Bedugul, this lake becomes swathed with mysterious mists as the sun rises above the surrounding caldera. This other worldly appearance and stillness is what makes it a favourite for photographers.

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This sacral spot is home to several holy temples, and because it is sacred, there is nothing here save a couple of small pavilions and the perahu (boats) of the fishermen who used to fish there. Now these little wooden boats, carved out of whole tree trunks are stapled together to make better transport to get to the temple across the lake, and to hold the hordes of photographers and their subjects who make their way here.

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Although there is a perfectly acceptable guesthouse nearby, most groups prefer to drive up from Denpasar or Ubud in the dead of the night to arrive by 5am. Perhaps the lack of sleep makes for an even more exotic event than staying nearby. Come first light and the lake’s shore is already crowded. Not Kuta Beach crowded, not yet! But crowded enough to resemble a mystical Disneyland.

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Our last visit revealed plenty of surprises when we climbed out of bed at 5.30 and headed lakeside. Looming out of the misty gloom, several groups became discernable.

Imagine my surprise when, on arriving, in the dark, I was regaled with a cup of coffee from a member of what seemed to be a film crew and the news that their leader was an Ubud Luminary. He had brought a group of tourists and arranged a fabulous photo jaunt for them, complete with exotically costumed Balinese girls and a colourful mangku (priest). You never know who you will bump into in the outback! Always ready to take advantage of a great photo op, I followed them down to the water’s edge.

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Two pre-wedding parties were already there setting up for their own shows. Assistants and important looking helpers buzzed around with their huge reflectors and all the props needed to take out on their boats. Often a well off Jakarta wedding group will also make their way here for their pre-wedding shots.

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A group of campers from Denpasar had made their own camp nearby plus another group from out of town were parked across the way. The Denpasar Vespa Club was there with their tents and Vespas and lots of good humour. The lakeside was buzzing.

But as the sun rose brilliantly above the caldera, illuminating the still dew-laden grasses and causing the mist to rise above the lake like some kind of primeval dinosaur scene, the deep silence and stillness of the lake prevailed. All the groups went happily about their doings while the lake reigned silent and sublime above the action. By 10am all the crowds have left. The photographic teams, the models, the Balinese troupe, the wedding couples and even the campers and Vespa boys. Tamblingan is left to bathe in her quiet serenity until another quiet onslaught the next day.

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Come holy days when the main Gubug Temple is the focus of its six monthly ceremony, the shores are filled with Balinese in their best temple gear, but for the rest of the time, it is home to the wild dogs and the dedicated photographers who continue to make use of the incredible natural beauty.

Non-photographers and trekkers also find it a most beguiling place to while away a few hours and a jaunt into the wild jungles surrounding the lake cannot even be ventured without a guide and his parang (machete). Look for the guide station along the top of the caldera. In the meantime, Tamblingan dozes on in quiet serenity.

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Ayu Sekar

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