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Camping on a Live Volcano, Mount Rinjani

After seeing my life’s Best Sunset on Gili Trawangan, I headed to camp on a Live Volcano, Mount Rinjani, on the island of Lombok.

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About Mount Rinjani (Gunung Rinjani)

Mount Rinjani has a height of 3726m , is the second highest volcano in Indonesia. On the top of the volcano is a huge caldera(6×8 km), which is filled partially by the crater lake known as Segara Anak or Anak Laut (Child of the Sea) due to the blue color of water lake as Laut (Sea).Β  The caldera also contains hot sulfur springs.

I booked a guide from Gili T for three days trek to mount Rinjani, paying 1050 K IDR PAX (~105 SGD/~75 USD) after a lot a haggling with multiple agents. No prior booking is really required. Booking companies have quoted obnoxiously high on travel sites.
Tip: Always remember to haggle when in Indonesia. The agents generally quote unreasonably high considering the services provided.

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That’s Me, all Set for the trek πŸ™‚

Day one

started by boarding a public ferry from Gili T to Lombok, where I was picked up by my guide to be transferred to Sembalum Lawang. I dropped my extra baggage with Trek guide to be delivered back in Senaru. Sembalum Lawang is a small sleepy village. We were a group of 6 people from different countries, along with one guide and three porters. This trek is not possible without porters as there are no stay options en route. Porters will carry makeshift tents and food for whatever days you book them. Food served on the trek is very basic. Breakfast include pancake with a slice of fruit, biscuits and Tea/coffee and meals include noodle soup and fried rice etc. It is advisable to carry some high-energy bars like Mars, snickers on this route as they are a source of instant energy.

Trek starts with a lenient ascend but becomes steep as the day progresses and as you climb towards the crater. The final ascent is terrific and will test the best out of you, so better be in the pink of health before you decide to come to Mount Rinjani.

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Trek starts with lenient climb across bushes

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First Break : Noodle Soup

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Trekkers making way amidst bushes

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Molten lava and black sand made sure we remember we are walking on an active volcano

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As Sun starts setting, beautiful hues appear. You can see the gradient of climb from this pic

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Yeah! That’s the first-day camping location

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Day one ends with camping on Sembalum Rim under a brilliant star lit sky with a sneak preview of Crater Lake. I could clearly see Milky Way rising from the east, behind the summit. The night was really cold with the temperature falling below 10 degrees and windy. Thankfully I was carrying my warm thermal jacket.Β It is also advisable to carry a head torch as there is no light after dark. I dozed off a few shots later.

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My 5 billion star hotel under The Milky Way

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Witnessing Milky Way in full glory

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When was the last time your 5 star hotel had this view?

Day two

you can choose to go to the summit for a brilliant sunrise over Lombok, which involves starting at around 3AM for 2-3 hours steep climb and you can be back by 8AM for breakfast and continue ahead to Crater Lake.

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Early morning view of crater lake from First camping location

Descend to crater lake is also tricky, with rough patches to cover. We started at around 9AM and reached the lake at 1PM walking on a slower pace and enjoying the volcanic terrain. The trek is dominated by black rocks and volcanic ash formed during eruptions. You can distinctly recognize the rocks formed after lava flow by looking at the shapes.

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Camp near crater lake

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Locals doing fishing

On reaching crater lake we were served a hot lunch, which was followed by a rejuvenating bath in hot springs. Hot springs have many small pools, so can choose a private pool for yourself and relax your tired body.

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What an amazing place to lay down. I spent considerable time in natural hot bath πŸ™‚

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One of many almost private hot water pools

The water of crater lake is also said to be heated by volcano below and has temperature 2-3 degree higher than surroundings. Due to warm water, lake has abundant aquatic like and many locals can be seen fishing in the lake.

I would have loved to camp near the lake on Day two but was bounded by the group with which I was traveling so had to leave.

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A clearer view of volcano vent towards the end of day

Day two ends with climb back to the crater at Senaru Rim, where we will sleep for the night.

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Day two camping site

Day Three

starts with a amazing view of small cone of volcano spewing off smoke amid the crater lake. Initial descent from the camping site is again steep and on rocky terrain. But later part of the trek takes you through dense Rinjani rain forest with only roots holding the walking track.

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Making way to Senaru village, through dense forest

It was indeed an awesome part of trek. Day ends at the Senaru village from where you can head back to Gili T or explore Lombok further.

I decided to explore (the lesser known) Kuta of Lombok Island and headed towards Sengigi.

How to trek Mount Rinjani

Depending on the number of days in hand, this trek can be completed in 2-4 days. Normally everyone I saw was doing a 3 days trek.
2 Days – Sembalum Crater (Stay) + Summit
3 Days – Sembalum Crater (Stay) + Summit + Lake + Senaru Crater(Stay) + Senaru (OR vice versa)
4 Days – Sembalum Crater (Stay) + Summit + Lake (Stay) + Senaru Crater(Stay) + Senaru (OR vice versa)

As I have already mentioned, this trek is not possible without porters, unless you plan to carry a tent and food on your back. There are no permanent stay options on the crater and lake area. You may either start from Sembalum Lawang and end at Senaru or vice versa. If you intend to do Rinjani summit, it is advisable to start from Sembalum Lawang. Now you make join a trekking group or hire individual porters from Senaru. Joining a trekking group is budget friendly as cost is divided among the group and you do not need to communicate much with porters as a guide will handle all the logistics. Downside is you loose the luxury of choosing what to eat, tents/sleeping bags provided are not the best grade, and you have to stick to the group’s walking pace. You may book the trekking group from GIli islands ( as i did), Kuta (Lombok) and even from Bali. Alternatively you may straight away show up at Senaru and join a trekking group. Make sure you confirm that porters will carry enough food and water to last for three days.

If you choose to go with option of private porters, I will suggest to check in Senaru a day before you intent to start the trek. A couple of porters would be sufficient for the entire trek. You do not really need a guide as trails are more or less apparent, though not well marked. You can always follow the people on trail if you fear getting lost.

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That’s the new vent of volcano emerging above clouds of steam

Some Key Tips

1) Carry some energy bars (Like Mars, Snickers etc) for munching enroute.
2) Carry a head lamp or torch and extra batteries as there is no power available on all three days.
3) A thermal jacket and lower would be good as it is very windy at night and Tents/Sleeping bags provided to you may not of the best qualities.
4) A trekking pole would be handy
5) carry enough sun block and Balaclava to avoid sun burns
6) A wind cheater or rain coat would help in case of light showers. This area is prone to rains.
7) Make sure you are wearing proper hiking or trekking shoes
8) Try to leave early for the day as it become dark early in hills and this trek is horrendous after dark due to unforgiving terrain.
9) In spite of general information on this trek available on web, this trek require moderate to high level of physical fitness. I saw a couple of people piggyback porters on second and third day.
10) You can drop your extra baggage with the trekking company and take it later from Senaru.
11) If you are feeling uncomfortable in carrying your baggage , you can request a porter to carry it for you and in return you can tip him.
12) Very clearly confirm what is included in your package like meal details, sleeping bags, water bottle limits etc. Many trekking companies are thugs and create mess just to extort more money.

I headed to lesser known, Kuta, Lombok after spending night at Senaru village.

13 thoughts on “Camping on a Live Volcano, Mount Rinjani

    1. Ankur Post author

      I am glad you considered visiting this place πŸ™‚
      Please ask any queries you have, I will try to answer to the best of my knowledge.

  1. Chandra

    Ankur, Making the best use of D750 and the Samyang lens.. Wonderful images and very lucid writing. I think i have to plan a very big trip to Bali and this neighbouring islands as well in June 2016. πŸ™‚

    1. Ankur Post author

      Yeah Chandra, There is so much to see in Indonesia. Even after two trips I don’t seem to cover even a fraction of it πŸ˜€
      Samyang truly rocked the show. If we ignore the distortion, this lens is a true gem. Manual focus is really a cake walk with this lens.

  2. Andapo

    hmmm… ouch trekking is hard(: I can imagine but totally worth it … five star nights here and hot springs, very nice. I know now trekking even basic ones some work more than just walking. Told ya about my night trek, it was Ramnagar where Slolay was taken… it was not hard but full rocky terrain and walking, climbing on bulging rocks and spoting places you should not step into, bending and taking grip and going up. I left my stick as I needed one hand free to climb up… I did wish not go further but went by anyway, as it happened in my last morning trek… some night veiws of lights around and pondering where Basanti danced in Slolay… after reaching up just staying up feeling the wind, wondering how comfortable it is to lie on rocks!!, more than on beds and just forgetting self(: … something exciting and peaceful with the wind and seeing the far city from a hill… I could not see any stars that day, just a slightly glowing moonie(: … and the terrain looks different at day too… lots of rock hills around(: and water body on the hill I was not aware of before. I had ok time… going down was challenging as well, bulging rocks looks scary but they not slippery and I fell trying to climb down unable to find proper rock stone to put foot on… but I did it as all others did… including two kids… I did not lose weight with the trek): … but yes did engage me physically… I did not drink one pint of water in the night trek nor have any nourishment because no toilet facilities for taking “leak”, as they call it… maybe I may trek again, if I begin to exercise, I know I am pretty strong, amazing creature to some extent as all are but need work to be strong all the time and when required… I wanted to see star studded sky, not there… it was freezing when I got up in the night, if you call it night as must have gone to lie late hours like 4 or 4:30 something… I did not want to go inside sleeping bag removing shoes but I had to do it and also ignore one mosquito that came all of a sudden to me… it was interesting watching how strangers make friends easily like their temporary travelling companion(: … and breakfat in the morning after that decent down was delicious even though it was odinary food – idli sambar, upma, vada and halwa, I guess was hungry… and proceeded out of my will to try rappeling as well(: … had to climb rock holding rope and I did not believe it is possible but tried it and yes climbing rocks was a breeze with a rope, then went down the wall, rapelling, I hated it): but did it as everyone did… then was dropped to check out Decathon store, and even at this sleepy state the shop was super exciting with reasonably prized gear… I went home and slept well at night… I actually was very worried for some reason so not able to sleep… that day after reaching home, I decided to buy some chocolate milk and sit and watch the sun rays and night I went to sleep so soundly, in peace and that day I killed a demon of insecurity of future… I mean everything looks difficult but anyone can face it… nature does heal a lot as life and stress takes toll… I failed at one thing that day(still sad about it) but passed at another thing, the failing scared me that that aternoon at home I refused to sleep for fear of scary dreams a bit… but at night I had the trek tiredness to rest me… it’s like finding strenght or comfort, or things like that from yourself, within yourself and being in control… its fun… perhapes I will go for more treks in future and grow… anyway… its no answer but it gears you up to be strong, fit, explorative, social, helpful, enjoy simple things… it’s nice. Anyway…goodday

    1. Ankur Post author

      Wonderful trek you had! See that’s the beauty of traveling. Strangers become friends, we get to know about ourselves, and our vision towards life gets clearer. Nothing makes a person more wiser than real life experiences. And you just had one. Good to know that you have got rid of your fears!

      All treks even for a day or few days are tiring even if you are having a strict workout regime. Unless you live in hills where you are naturally accustomed to walk uphill or downhill. I am surprised that you did not see any stars. It must be due to bright moon maybe. Moon is a star killer. Above pictures were clicked on a moonless night.

      I hope you will continue to trek more hills and get rid of your fears πŸ™‚

      1. Andapo

        no stars I think it was hill not mountain so not many stars… there was a blurry glowing moon and one star showed one later thats all… trekkers seem to be cool people, like Rajeev says perhapes they are open with their lives, they understand ur need for adventure and give you company you need not the pocessive or excessive company but a free exciting sort of company…just have fun for sake of it without reason, a bond of understanding due to Nature…like cricket or music or food binds people so does travel i guess

        1. Andapo

          Since I am nature lover and also quite a explorer by Nature travel with or without company will surely entertain me and complete me and inspire me to live with zeal… if I learn swimming some day can see how I do with the Oceans, after the trees and mountains…(:…

          1. Ankur Post author

            If you would like to explore under water world you do not have to pro swimmer. But you need to be comfortable with water.
            Learn some basic swimming and start exploring. Life is waiting πŸ™‚

        2. Ankur Post author

          Well you do not have to go to mountains to see stars. All you need is a clear sky and no light light pollution. Looks like you were not too away from Light pollution hence no stars.
          You got it right, travel binds people like any sport. The camaraderie is strong and without any hidden motives, that’s make it unique.

          1. Andapo

            Yes as they as “Kul ke ziteh hai”… yes I will learn swimming and see how I like water, hunch is I must have been a fish only in my previous birth so will like water a lot… yes even with family when travelling some bond was formed we talk about more interesting, fun things than life… also with travel well you forget you in the concreate way and well merge with well new dimension… I think it’s just happy people out of their hard core selves… there was lots of light in that trek but they were down below,,, I enjoy green and foresty treks more, this one was rocky but still that is another terrain…

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