Want to climb an Active Volcano? We suggest Mt. Rinjani, Indonesia
About Mt. Rinjani
Mount Rinjani (Gunung Rinjani) is an active volcano on the island of Lombok. It’s Indonesia’s second highest, after Mt. Kerinci on the island of Sumatra.
Rinjani is the most picturesque volcano we’ve ever seen, as if taken straight out of a picture book. Its summit reaches 3726 meters above sea level and dominates the landscape of the northern part of the island. The crater rim surrounds a sunken caldera with very steep walls and a crater lake with dark blue water. Out of the water rises a perfectly round volcanic cone formed by the last lava eruption in 1994. Inside the caldera there are a few cold springs with drinking water and hot springs that you can bathe in.
Rinjani is a sacred mountain for the Hindu and Sasak people who live around the volcano, and several times a year there are religious ceremonies practiced on the crater rim and on the summit.
UPDATE: On October 25, 2015 Mount Rinjani erupted once again. Check out this image to see our favorite volcano in action!
Climbing the Mountain
Katja and Bojidar climbed Mt. Rinjani in September of 2014 after a long Internet search of the possible routes and the companies organizing the treks. Since there are many contradicting reports online, we wrote this detailed post which hopefully will clear all confusion.
With a guide, in a group, or alone?
The mountain is located inside the Rinjani National Park, so you have to pay an entrance fee of 150 000 IDR, but you don’t have to hire a guide. Indonesian locals usually set out for the summit without a guide or porters, so each person carries a large backpack filled up with food, water and sleeping gear for two or three days.
For tourists it’s easier and far more practical to join a trek organized by a commercial company. You get a complete package including the entrance fee, guide, porters, food, water, tent and sleeping gear as well as transport to the mountain and back. You can book these packages at any tourist office in any city on the island of Lombok, and they will pick you up from your hotel, do the tour with you, then drive you to the Gilis, Sengiggi, Mataram, the Airport or Kuta afterwards.
See our upcoming trip description to central Indonesia for a specific suggestion of how to best integrate the Rinjani climb into your Indonesian vacation.
How many days and how many nights?
The most popular package is 3D/2N. This means “three days and two nights” and lets you experience two different points on the rim, the crater lake, the hot springs and the summit.
If you cannot spare the extra day or are just making your first experience with higher mountains, then you might want to investigate the 2D/1N package. You will only be able to see the rim and not the lake or the summit, but that’s still an awesome experience.
You can also go on 4D/3N or 5D/4N tours which allow you to see some caves as well as climb slower, but our favorite package is definitely the 3D/2N. On this one you can experience virtually everything that the area has to offer, and you will be rewarded by two sunsets and two sunrises, each extraordinary in its own way.
Actually there is an extra 1D/1N added before the start of any of the above packages, but since it’s not part of the trek, it doesn’t get officially counted. The extra day is needed for traveling from your last location to the starting point of your trek and the extra night is spent at the lodge or hotel of the company organizing the trek. You will have to buy your food on that day, but all other expenses should be included in your climbing package.
Start in Senaru or Sembalun?
There are two towns from which you can start your Rinjani trek: Senaru (located at 570 meters above sea level) and Sembalun (1100 meters). On the 2D/1N packages you return to your starting point and on the 3D/2N packages you typically climb from one of the above locations and come down at the other.
Our clear preference is to start in Senaru, for these reasons:
- Although you climb more vertical meters, the way from Senaru to the rim is shorter and is covered by a lush forrest all the way up to the tree-line, which makes for a much nicer climbing experience.
- You have fewer vertical meters coming down to Sembalun, and in the case of Rinjani (and in many other cases also) coming down is more exhausting than going up.
- In Senaru you can visit two splendid waterfalls on your free afternoon before the climb. These are called Singgang Gila and Tiu Kelep. Almost everyone in Senaru will offer you to lead you there, and if they want less than 100000 IDR, you can certainly accept their offer. But you can also find the way on your own. Just ask where the entrance is, then pay your 10000 IDR entrance fee and follow the way down. You should have no trouble finding Singgang Gila, aka “the first waterfall,” which is very nice. But Tiu Kelep, aka “the second waterfall,” is spectacular, so do visit that one also. To reach Tiu Kelep first go to Singgang Gila then on the way back take the very first path which splits up to the left. You will have to cross the river by foot, but it’s max 30 cm deep. You will get wet at the second waterfall, so it’s best to have your swimsuit already on. If you take any valuables, pack them in a water-resistant bag.
Here is a rough itinerary for the 3D/2N program starting in Senaru:
- Day 1: Start around 8–8:30 am, then climb 2067 vertical meters to reach the crater rim by 6 pm at the latest. Enjoy an incredible sunset, then sleep in a tent close to the rim at 2641 meters above sea level.
- Day 2: Wake up at 5:30 am, enjoy the sunrise, descend 600 vertical meters (in 2–2.5 hours) down to the lake, relax and enjoy the hot springs, then climb 600 vertical meters up to another point on the rim (another 2–2.5 hours). Sleep in a tent on the rim just below the summit.
- Day 3: If you want to climb the rim wake up at 2:15 am and start climbing by 2:30. Climb for a maximum of 4 hours, which gives you plenty of time to reach the summit (1050 vertical meters, of which the first third is difficult, the second third is relatively easy and the last third is pretty exhausting). Enjoy a most incredible sunrise, then descend to base camp by 8:30. If you don’t want to climb the summit you can sleep until 8 am, then have breakfast with the entire group at 8:30. At 9 am you will start the long descent and you should reach Sembalun by 1:30 pm. Here you’ll be picked up and transported to Senaru where you reunite with your luggage which you left there 3 days ago.
How Fit Do You Need to Be?
- The climb is not for everyone, but if you are healthy, fit and not horribly afraid of heights you’ll probably be OK. Bojidar (age 43, BMI 28) found the climb very strenuous, but doable. On the day of our climb to the rim about 100 other people started and we didn’t see anyone turn back.
- The biggest physical challenge is reaching the rim on day one. To check if you can do this find a tall building then go climb stairs for 3 hours without a long break. If you find it extremely boring but doable, then you are good to go.
- Climbing the summit is very difficult, but it’s optional. You can tell your guide if you want to attempt the climb, or if you prefer to stay in the tent and sleep instead. You can even attempt the climb and turn around partway if you don’t feel like continuing. From the 9 people in our group 6 attempted the climb and only three completed it. But everyone had an unforgettable experience! 🙂
- Descending is even more strenuous than climbing up, and on day three you’ll have to descend through 2626 or 1539 vertical meters (including and excluding the summit descent). That’s a lot, so don’t force it if you have troubles with your knees or ankles.
Does Mt. Rinjani Have a Trash problem?
It certainly does (see yourself: 1, 2, 3, 4), but it’s not as horrible as some make it out to be. Still, if the park authorities do not act quickly and educate their guides and porters, the problem will get worse.
So please gather all your personal trash and insist that the guides and porters collect theirs and bring it down. Tell them that that’s the only way that they’ll get any tip and be prepared to repeat this threat a few times as Indonesians seem to think that the mountain cleans itself.
Also important: don’t let the porters burn the trash since these burnings are the main reason for the many fires on the Rinjani slopes.
Prices and Companies
You get what you pay for — this slogan certainly holds true for Mt. Rinjani, and it’s the reason for most contradicting opinions on the Internet.
Restu Adventure seems to be the low-cost/high-volume player in the game, so if you book with some “travel agent” on the street or in a tourist office you’ll probably end up climbing with Restu. For about 100 EUR = 150 USD you join a group of 8–10 people, 1 young guide with mediocre English and 4–5 porters. You get comfortable transport, very simple (but nonetheless very tasty) meals, very thin sleeping mats, older (but relatively clean) sleeping bags and older and smaller tents. One-hundred EUR for a three-day climb including meals and transport is very chap, so expect your trek to be very simple, but that’s fine since you are here to enjoy nature and not live in luxury. Restu employs fewer porters per tourist than the other companies, but the porters carry less equipment and less food, so it probably evens out in the end.
Most Restu competitors charge 2–3 times higher prices but provide more luxurious service: thick sleeping mats, larger tents, chairs to sit, a better location for your tent on the rim, way too much food, a variety of fruits after each meal and a coke or a beer when you reach the summit. The groups are much smaller (2–5 people), their guides speak better English and the porters dig a pit toilet so you don’t have to hide behind the bushes. They also collect the trash more rigorously. While it seems a bit exaggerated to us to employ one porter per tourist and to have so much food cooked and potentially thrown away, having your own toilet and not having to preach ecology to the guide and the porters is a great thing.
We felt OK with Restu, but only you can decide what level of service you wish and how much your climb should cost. Here are some examples of the companies with higher prices and better service: Ahmed’s Expedition, Rudy Trekker, Green Rinjani, Karat Adventure, Galangijo, Salanamo.
How much tip is appropriate?
The amount depends mostly on your experience and on how much the guide and porters cared for your safety and well-being, but to us it seemed appropriate to collect enough from the entire group so that the guide and each porter got about 10 EUR = 15 USD.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Visit the Singgang Gila and Tiu Kelep waterfalls in Senaru on your free afternoon before the trek.
- If you think you’ll make it up the rim but are unsure of the summit book the 3D/2N package anyway. Days 1 and 2 will show you if you are fit enough to attempt the summit in the darkness. If not, just sleep until 8 am and have breakfast with the rest of the group.
- Book with a company which provides a level of service fitting to your needs.
- Check and if necessary recharge the batteries of your headlamp and camera.
- On your trek take only the things that are absolutely necessary.
- The descent is long and steep, so cut your toe nails immediately before the tour.
- Get to know the people in your group — many of them have great travel stories to tell.
- Good hiking boots or at the very least stable trekking shoes.
- A headlamp is essential for the evenings and for climbing the summit. Your batteries should last for at least 4 hours, otherwise bring spares.
- 2–3 layers of warm clothes for the nights and for the summit climb. Ideally a down jacket as the top layer.
- Also for climbing the summit: thin gloves and (if you don’t have enough warm clothes with you) your sleeping bag. You can thank us later. 🙂
- Sun screen, sunglasses, a hat and a long-sleeved thin shirt to protect you from the sun on days 2 and 3.
- If you put value on sleeping comfort and are going with a low-budget company you might like to bring your own sleeping bag and sleeping mat.
- A small package of moist hygienic towels (wipes, towelettes, tissues) for “washing” yourself before slipping into your warm sleeping bag.
- Dust mask for the summit and the steep dusty descent to Sembalun (will be provided by the more expensive companies).
P.S. We hope our description answers all your questions and motivates you to attempt this extraordinary climb. If you have any questions or comments please write to us. And have a great climb!