Lake Toba is an immense volcanic lake covering an area of 1,707 km² (1,000 km² bigger than Singapore) with an island in its centre.
Formed by a gigantic volcanic eruption some 70,000 years ago, it is probably the largest resurgent caldera on Earth. Some studies say it might have been associated with causing previous ice age/climate change and the largest human population bottleneck ever. Genetic estimates suggests that there were only a few thousand individuals that survived its catastrophic eruption.
The island in the middle – Pulau Samosir – was joined to the caldera wall by a narrow isthmus, which was cut through to enable boats to pass; a road bridge crosses the cutting. Samosir island is the cultural centre of the Batak tribe who are now mostly Christians.
That is the scientific explanation of the origins of Lake Toba, but the local legends told a different story….
A long time ago, there was a farmer that lived alone in a beautiful and fertile valley. His name was Toba. He worked in his field and sold the crops for live. Sometimes he fished various kinds of fishes in a river near by his field and ate them. One day, he fished in the river. After a long wait, a fish finally caught the bait and it was a very big fish, the biggest one he ever caught. He thought,”It’s my lucky day. This fish is so big and must be so delicious. I will have a wonderful dinner.”
He was amazed by the colour of the fish’s scales. They were golden and glowed beautifully. Suddenly, something surprising happened. The fish talked with the voice of a woman, it said, ”Good man, please don’t kill me. I will be your friend if you don’t eat me.” Felt Surprised, Toba dropped the fish onto the floor as it tranformed into a beautiful woman. The woman smiled and said gently, “Good farmer, don’t be afraid. I’m a human like you. I was cursed by the God and became the big fish that you have caught. You have released me from the curse. So, I will marry you.”
Toba was so surprised that he couldn’t move or even say a word. Once he got over his confusion, he agreed to marry the woman. However, the woman gave him a condition, he must take an oath not to tell anyone that she was a fish and he agreed. As the time passed, the woman gave birth to a son, who was named Samosir. Samosir grew as a healthy and strong young boy. Unfortunately, he was so lazy, spoiled and love to eat.
One day, Toba’s wife asked her son to bring lunch for his father who was in their field. Samosir refused the chores although eventually relent to the task reluctantly. On the way to the field he felt tired and fell asleep under a big tree, when he woke up he felt hurngy and ate the foods meant for his father. He ate most of it and left only a little bits for his father. After the meal, he continued his trip. Toba who was waiting for a long time was almost angry when Samosir finally reached him and asked ‘what took you so long?’ Samosir answered that he fell asleep and ate Toba’s food as he was hungry. When Toba found that that his son just left little to nothing for him he became so angry. He snapped at his son, ‘You are a rude and lazy child as you are a fish’s son!”
Samosir cried and ran home then told his mother what Toba had said. His mother was very sad as her huband has broken his oath. She askd Samosir to go to a hill near their house and to climb the highest tree on the hill. Without asking, Samosir did what his mother said. After she saw her son climbed the highest tree on the hill, she went to the river thear their house. She jumped into the river and turned into a big fish as she was before. Later, the river overflew and flooded the valley and it became a huge lake. At the center of the lake there was an island. People named the lake as Toba Lake and the island was called Samosir Island.
Lake Toba is one of the most popular natural wonders in Indonesia. The cool breeze and blue water is magical and enchanting. Based on its size, Lake Toba is more like an ocan than a lake. It is the largest and deepest lake in South East Asia and second in the world after Victoria Lake in Africa.
Local people believe in a myth that said Lake Toba is the place where Namborru (seven goddess of Batak ancestors) lives. If Batak (the North Sumatera tribe) will hold a ceremony somewhere around the lake, they pray as a way to ask permission of Namborru beforehand.