Climbing Rinjani… Lombok’s Sacred Volcano

Lombok is home to many natural attractions, most notably the world famous volcano, Mt Rinjani, located on the north of the island. Rinjani soars 3726m above sea level and is the second highest volcano in Indonesia, annually attracting thousands of trekkers and climbers to Lombok.

Particularly at this time of the year, during the European holidays and Lombok’s “high season”, visitors from around the world come to Lombok to climb Gunung Rinjani; either to its awe-inspiring crater lake, or to the demanding summit with its panoramic views across the waters to Gunung Agung, Bali’s famous sister volcano. “Gunung” is Bahasa Indonesia for “mountain”.

The two volcanoes create a visual connection for Balinese Hindus living on Lombok and, historically and culturally, Gunung Rinjani has important significance to Lombok Sasaks and Balinese, Muslim and Hindu alike, and is considered a “Home of the Gods”. Pilgrimages are often made to the mountain, and many people visit the volcano to pray, and bathe in the pools and hot springs, which are said to have healing powers.

The huge caldera near the top of the volcano is around 4 kms wide and is almost filled by a beautiful crescent-shaped lake, Danau Segara Anak (Child of the Sea). The lake is around 230m deep and contains plentiful fish, as well as being home to birds and other wildlife.

A smaller volcanic cone, Gunung Baru Jari, was formed a couple of hundred years ago and juts from the crater’s interior at the edge of the lake. It’s been estimated that the force needed to create the new cone and the lake would have been equal to around 300 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs. There are a number of caves, small waterfalls and hot springs located around the volcano, most importantly Aik Kalak on the northeast of the crater, where the volcanically heated waters are said to cure illnesses, particularly skin diseases.

The northern gateway to the Rinjani National Park, at Senaru, is a pretty village set in lovely scenery with fantastic views of the mountain range. The Rinjani National Park is a nature reserve of 41 330 hectares surrounding the volcano and provides many opportunities for eco-tourism. The whole area is picturesque, featuring magnificent waterfalls, lush and accessible jungle trekking, and traditional villages, with plantations of tobacco and cashew nuts, grown alongside verdant rice terraces.

Native wildlife, including monkeys and tropical birds, live in the surrounding jungle, as well as abundant varieties of tropical plants and flowers. The Sendang Gile waterfall at Senaru is amongst Lombok’s most spectacular. Sheets of thundering water cascade in a steep vertical drop down the hillside, into a rocky stream below.

Senaru is the usual starting point for climbing Gunung Rinjani. Other options, for a slightly shorter route to the summit, are Sembalun Lawang and Sembalun Bumbung to the northeast. Both are rustic mountain villages, with basic home-stays available and experienced tour centres that can organise your trek.

In 2004 the Rinjani Trek won the World Legacy Award for Destination Stewardship and the volcano is recognised internationally as an important eco-tourism destination. The Rinjani Trek, funded by the New Zealand government, set up a series of programmes that involve the local communities and guides, for climbing the volcano and for trekking in the National Park – ensuring better management and safety for trekkers. However, it is always prudent to use an authorised guide, deal with a reputable trekking business and carry as few valuables as possible with you.

There are a variety of different options for climbing Gunung Rinjani. Two day, one night treks are the shortest available, taking visitors to the crater rim, to view the wide crater and the emerald green lake within. However the most popular is the three day, two night trek which allows trekkers to climb down into the lake district and enjoy a soak in the hot springs. It takes three to four days to reach the summit of the volcano, a demanding climb with magnificent views from the highest point on Lombok – taking in the vista of the surrounding mountain range, the lush green landscape below, and the ocean to the west studded with the Gili islands and Bali floating in the distance.

Trekking on the volcano is not for everyone. A certain level of fitness is needed for those intending the three and four day treks and climbing to the summit is particularly strenuous. Time magazine, who featured the volcano in 2001, described climbing Rinjani as “difficult, treacherous and extremely worthwhile”. Altitudes of over 2700 m are reached in all these treks and, even on the equator, night time temperatures can be very cold, with strong winds and occasional rain.

The best time to climb Gunung Rinjani is in the dry season from around April to October, or before the rainy season starts. The sunny days and cooler temperatures make this time of the year the most comfortable for climbing, and enable the clearest views of the stunning scenery both on and around the mountain.

Tips for Trekking
Treks can be organised at tour offices in Senggigi, Senaru, Sembalun Lawang and Sembalun Bumbung. Typical treks include an experienced guide, porters to carry equipment, water, food and cooking utensils, and tents and sleeping bags.
Always use a reputable trekking business and check that they have facilities to cope with emergencies.
Never wander away on your own, even if you’re an experienced climber. A number of deaths and injuries have occurred on the mountain. Loose shale and unstable surfaces are hazards.
Use good quality, comfortable shoes and take a walking stick to help with the inclines.
Make sure you have a warm jacket and enough clothes – it’s cold on the mountain
Check that your trekking company is supplying sleeping bags and blankets.
Don’t try to save money by trekking on your own or using unauthorised guides. Licensed guides will have identification, and are experienced to handle your trek and the conditions on the mountain.
Don’t take passports or carry valuables
that aren’t essential to your trek.
Please respect this natural wonder. Don’t litter or leave anything on the mountain, except your footprints.

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