Telaga Cinta: The lake of love in Papua

Telaga Cinta: The lake of love in Papua
PHOTO: Nethy Dharma Somba

A small lake in the shape of a heart is located near Papua's largest lake, Lake Sentani, and belongs to Ebungfau district, Jayapura regency. With its unique form, many people call it Telaga Cinta or the Lake of Love, although local residents call it Lake Imfote, after the name of the site.

Frequented by visitors almost daily, especially on the weekends, Telaga Cinta is accessible by land and water. The land route by motorcycle or car can start from Jayapura city through Genyem district in Jayapura regency or from Arso district in Keerom regency.

The water route can be covered by boat or speedboat from Yahim port behind Sentani Airport to Kawi port in Putaly village, before climbing a hill or going by motorcycle or car along a highway already built there.

The road to the Lake of Love by land begins from Yoka village, leading to Puay village with a winding way going uphill and downhill. On the right is the blue expanse of Lake Sentani with sago trees on its banks; on the left is the dense forest of Abepura. Only the track leading to the lake is a natural path.

Around 5 kilometers away from Telaga Cinta is another tourist spot, the Jaipuri River, the only stream that channels Lake Sentani's water to the Tami River before emptying into the sea. Jaipuri also offers lodgings to tourists.

"This is my tranquil place for angling and bathing," said Jorsul, a Jayapura resident.

It took about one-and-a-half hours from the river to arrive at the Lake of Love on a hot weekend, where visitors, mostly young motorcyclists, were already lining the edges of the lake and taking pictures with their cameras or selfies with their cell phones.

The beauty of the Lake of Love overwhelmed the heat of the day. There were no huts or structures around apart from a tall cross-shaped wooden frame, erected during the commemoration of Easter. Such crosses can be found along the road of Hansambe hamlet, the last settlement before reaching the barren hill near Imfote.

"Incredible, I've only seen its photos on Facebook so far and this time I can see it directly. It's really gorgeous and looks exactly like the pictures. I'm very happy to be in this location," said Lia Wanwa, 24, a corporate employee from Jayapura.

"It's beautiful and I never get bored despite my frequent visits here," said Angel Afaar, 25. Their friends even chose the place for pre-wedding photos.

Chitra, 32, a Jakarta employee, also claimed to have heard about the lake from her friends. "In Jakarta my friends were talking about it and now I've got the chance to visit Jayapura to witness it myself. The lake truly takes the form of the heart," she said.

The lake has been there for a long time and nobody knows when it began to take shape.

"When I was a child, the lake was already in that shape. We used to swim in the lake after Sunday school or when we returned from the village," said Rudi Sokoy, 48, who was head of Ebungfau village from 2008-2014.

The site started to be filled with visitors after the opening of an access road in 2011, but it rose to fame only at the end of 2014.

"Through the road, people passing the lake took photographs and spread them on social media, making it even more famous," noted Rudi.

The Lake of Love's beauty is enhanced by the vastness of Lake Sentani and the height of Mount Cyclop, which serve as a water source for residents of Jayapura regency and city. Situated at a high altitude, it is visible from the air. Meanwhile, on the ground, the treeless area with strong winds and scorching sunlight forces tourists to use sun block or wear broad-brimmed hats.

Hansambe residents benefit from local tourist visits by selling young coconuts on the roadside for Rp 10,000 (S$1) each. The coconuts come from Putaly.

"On holidays, coconuts sell well, totaling Rp 100,000 [per vendor], but on ordinary days only about six are sold," said Radius Monim, 28, from the hamlet.

Sadly, the location is not yet properly managed. The grass around the edges of the lake is drying out after being trampled on, while used bottles are scattered everywhere.

"Through management, this area would be far better maintained, with a particular place for photography, cabins to take shelter and garbage cans to keep the environment clean, while allowing local vendors to sell here," said Rudi.

Visitors also hope that the government will promptly take care of the spot. "This lake is phenomenal and perhaps the only one in Papua representing a heart. Unless immediately handled, I'm afraid the lake will be covered with rubbish brought by visitors," said Robert, a Jayapura resident.

Good management, according to Rudi, could also generate revenue to support rural welfare through levies. "At present some youngsters are asking for money from visitors, which if left unresolved may discourage tourists if they have to pay illegal fees," added the former village head.

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