Not only does the volcano dominate Lombok’s skyline, Rinjani trekking packages are widely advertised right across the island. It’s bound to pique one’s curiosity and rightly so. The climb has earned its reputation as one of SE Asia’s must-do treks because it’s got the lot – rainforest and grassland savannahs, wildlife, hot springs, caves, a huge caldera lake and unparalleled views from the summit.
There are actually quite a few trails leading up the mountain but for the vast majority, the main access is from Senaru in the north or Sembalun Lawang to the east. The former is the starting point for the challenging 3 day and 2 night trek incorporating the crater rim, the gorgeous Segara Anak crater lake with side trips to the hot springs and caves, and finally the summit. Camping is up on the mountain; the first night by the lake and the second night up on the crater rim within striking distance of a sunrise assault on the summit on day three. On decent, either return to Senaru village or go down to Sembalun instead.
For those looking for a shorter trekking option, skip the summit on day three and the trip can be condensed into 2 days and 1 night. Alternatively, you can head straight for the summit with an overnight camp on the crater rim and skip the crater lake. This trek is best commenced from Sembalun village but is only suitable for fit and experienced trekkers as it involves 7-8 hours steep climbing on day one, followed up with a 3 hour summit assault and 6 hour decent on day two.
From Senaru, the trek begins with at a fairly gentle gradient over sweeping grasslands but it’s not long before you reach the lower flanks of the mountain and begin a steep ascent that will have the average person’s thighs protesting and lungs burning. There are several resting points along the way and as most treks start early in the morning, there’s no need to rush. The track is well defined but there are rocks and tree roots to negotiate and it can be slippery so good, sturdy shoes are a must (despite the fact the guides and porters sprint up the mountain side in flip-flops). The trek is not technically difficult so most reasonably fit, beginner hikers can handle it.
Be aware that climbing Mount Rinjani independently is no longer permitted. This means you will have to sign on with one of the many Rinjani trekking companies or engage a licenced guide if you prefer not to climb with a group. Whilst experienced climbers may be disappointed with this news, the positive for most climbers is that trekking packages generally include transfers to and from your accommodation, all meals, drinks and camping equipment including tents, sleeping mats, sleeping bags and camp chairs. For a small additional cost, you can engage a porter to carry your personal gear for you, leaving you burdened with only a small daypack and a camera. For what you get, most trekking packages are fairly reasonably priced but shop around as there is plenty of competition.
Your trekking company should provide you with a list of what you should bring along, not least of which is warm clothing. You’ll be camping above the clouds up on the mountain so it will be cold and moist so pack everything into plastic bags to keep it dry. If you don’t have a warm jacket to take along (let’s face it, how many of us pack one for a tropical island holiday) you can probably hire one from your trekking company.
Children as young as seven have made the climb and whilst they are the exception, plenty of families with older children have climbed Rinjani and lived to brag about it. Whilst the minimum age limit seems to vary from one company to the next, most trekking companies will not accept young children along and waiver over preteens. Ultimately, parents understand their children’s capabilities better than anyone else but be realistic and remember, no one will enjoy the trek if little Mary or Johnny are struggling and unhappy. If you are planning on taking children along, do plenty of research to find a family friendly trekking company.
Note, due to safety concerns Rinjani is closed to climbers during the wet season, generally between January to March.