Umbul Ponggok, Indonesia: From polluted pond to Instagram hit

A village in central Java, Indonesia has become a bit of an unlikely star on social media, and it's all thanks to the forward-thinking of one man.

Tourists are flocking to Umbul Ponggok to have their photos taken underwater.

The pool's crystal-clear waters contain a host of exotic fish and quirky props for those ultimate Instagram moments. The pond has also found a fan in President Joko Widodo who posted a photo of a man riding a motorcycle underwater. That got over 640,000 shares.

But this rush of tourists could not have been predicted at the turn of the millennium.


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The pond, 20m by 50m, was a bit of a dump. It was used for bathing and washing clothes. The area had high unemployment, and there seemed little prospect of any improvement.

But in 2006, the newly-elected village head spotted a potential money-maker.

With over 40 natural springs flowing into it, Junaedi Mulyono encouraged the villagers in nearby Ponggok to clean up the pond. The locals then sank money into the new venture, owning 40 per cent of Umbul Ponggok.

Mulyono said it wasn't easy at the start as he was met with scepticism.


"Initially many residents were reluctant to invest, but after seeing the development of the pond, they changed their minds," Mulyono told the South China Morning Post.

The newspaper reports that of the 700 families in Ponggok, 430 invested.


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Now there is no unemployment in the village, with locals working at Umbul Ponggok or selling souvenirs to visitors nearby. The success led Ponggok to be named one of 10 model villages in the country by the Indonesian government.

For an entrance fee of 15,000 rupiah ($A1.57), tourists can swim or snorkel. For an additional 60,000 rupiah ($A6.29), they can hire underwater cameras and have pictures taken with bikes, TV lounges and tents.


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Mulyono said he is happy to share his knowledge with other villages.

"We are very open to sharing our findings if there are other people or village officials who want to learn about village management such as livestock, fisheries, spatial planning, and tourism."

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