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Volcanic Beauty and Cascading Wonder: Unveiling the Secret Waterfalls of Rinjani Geopark

"Do you want to go to the secret waterfalls?" asked the guide, "It is a very hard trek, but you look strong." Of course, I enthusiastically answered "Yes!". On my recent trip to Indonesia, I spent a couple of days on the island of Lombok, near Bali. I chose the beach town of Senggigi as my base but I knew I wanted to visit Rinjani Geopark, a UNESCO Global Geopark surrounding Mount Rinjani, the second-highest mountain in Indonesia... the promise of secret waterfalls was just too much for me to resist.

Mount Rinjani is one of the three sacred mountains of Indonesia, along with Agung (Bali) and Bromo (Java). Unfortunately on this trip, I wouldn't have time for a long trek but the waterfalls were recommended by all the locals, so that's where I was heading. Nestled amidst the captivating landscapes of this island paradise, Rinjani Geopark boasts a treasure trove of natural wonders, and in this blog, I'll be focusing on its mesmerizing waterfalls including the "secret waterfalls".


The waterfalls are essential to the Geopark's ecological system, not only for the park's jungle and animals but also for the farms and residential districts surrounding the park who depend upon the water for their household and growing needs.

Mount Ringani is one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia. It is a stratovolcano, with the quintessential cone-shape. It is also a sacred site for the local people and is featured in many local legends and folk stories as well as used for ceremonies throughout the year. The frequent seismic activity have created the steep valleys, gorges, escarpements and valleys and also feeds the soil and contributes to the lush vegetation throughout the park.


Practical Information

The entrance closest to the Benang Kelambu Waterfall is about an hour's drive from the main city of Mataram. As mentioned earlier, I hired a private driver for 500,000 IDR (about $50 CAD) for the half-day trip. Entrance to the park is 60 000 IDR (about $6 CAD) but if you want to see the "secret waterfalls", you must hire a guide for an additional 60 000 IDR. I have to admit that I thought this was a bit of a money-grab but later realized that the guide was essential. It would be foolish to attempt this trek without a guide.

You will be fording streams and slogging through mud on steep and uneven ground. Although the locals wear flip-flops, I would suggest wearing sturdier waterproof shoes. I wore sandals which made my trek much more difficult than it needed to be, as I slipped around and had to retrieve my shoes several times from the muck. This is not an excursion for people who have any mobility issues. If you are less fit, you will still be able to enjoy Benang Kelambu and Benang Stokel, but it is probably wiser to avoid the secret falls. Either way, take plenty of water. There are a lot of insects, including mosquitos, so long-sleeves or insect-repellant is strongly advised unless you want to be scratching for several days following your excursion. You may wish to get wet in a couple of the waterfalls. Due to local sensibilities and the sacredness of the park, wear shorts and a T-shirt as even a swimsuit can be seen as quite immodest by local standards.


Exploring the Waterfalls

After paying my fee and hiring a guide, I climbed onto the back of a motorbike for the ride Benang Kelambu, our starting point. This was a terrible road, with giant potholes, steep hills, deep ruts, and slippery mud. I would not advise anyone who isn't very experienced to drive themselves to this starting point. I own a Vespa and wouldn't attempt this under any circumstances. I saw several people walking their motorbikes after making the same determination. If you are just planning to see the two main waterfalls (Kelambu and Stokel), it will be easier to park near Stokel and use the walking trail to get to Kelambu.


Benang Kelambu

We arrived at the starting point near Benang Kelambu and headed into the jungle. Benang Kelambu is not a powerful and high-energy waterfall, instead it's a curtain of soft cascades dropping off the escarpment into a stream that runs into an artificial pool area with terraces and splash pipes. It was still fairly early and there were very few people around.

Besides the guide and myself, there was a group of school boys swimming naked in the pool. As I enjoyed the scenery and worked the angles of my camera to avoid the boys, my guide went into the jungle and returned with ferns that he weaved into a headpiece for me. Throughout the rest of our trek, he would stop and pick various blooms and add to the headpiece.


Benang Kilwun: The first of the secret waterfalls of Rinjani Geopark

We crossed the bridge into the jungle. There was very little evidence of a path it was more like a little more space between the vegetation leading to the river. The path was muddy and rough and we crossed the river several times as we clambered over roots and around large rocks. We even inched our way along a plastic water pipe... a slightly terrifying experience knowing how slippery my sandals had become. It was a tough trek and I was very grateful to have a guide. The pathways are not marked and would be next to impossible to spot, especially when crossing water. A thrill along this part of the trek was when I spotted some black Lutung monkeys, on the opposite side of the ravine.

The monkeys in this park are very different than the Balinese monkeys. These monkeys are larger and much less habituated to humans. They are truly wild animals. They are also quite rare. Even the guide was thrilled to see them and emphasized how lucky we were to spot them.

After about 15 minutes we came to the first secret waterfall known as Kilwun. This is a small double-streamed waterfall in a narrow canyon. The water plunges hard into the pool in front. This waterfall is considered too strong to stand under during the rainy season but was very appealing during the lighter flow of the dry season. I had dressed stupidly for this kind of a trek and the thought of wearing a wet summer dress was not at all appealing as I continued the hike, so I chose not to wade in.


Sesere Waterfall

As we carried on to the next "secret" waterfall, the path deteriorated even further. Even though it was a short trek between the waterfalls, there was no longer any discernible trail. It was even more muddy and slippery. I crossed streams, mountain-goated my way over and around rocks and roots. I was scrambling and literally climbing along several portions and was very grateful for the guide's steadying hand during several sections. Sesere Waterfall is hidden in a crevice. It is not as powerful and you can stand underneath to enjoy a shower or sit in the natural pool below the falls. As I stood there, lit by sun streaks through the canopy and the sounds of the monkeys in the distance and birds all around, it was one of those magical "I love my life" moments.

After enjoying Sesere, it was time to climb back up the escarpment. We stopped at a clearing for me to gulp some water and wait for my muscles to calm. As we were sitting there a large group of black monkeys crossed the clearing, calling out to each other and leaping tree to tree. I counted at least 30 animals!



Benang Stokel Waterfall

Back on the motorbike, we followed the treacherous road to the park entrance where we would walk to the last waterfall of the day. This is a fairly easy walk, with much of the path paved (although the pavement is broken in several places). This is likely the only waterfall that those with mobility aids could navigate, although it would still be challenging.


Benang Stokel Waterfall is a large, plunging double waterfall (during dry season) flowing into a flat, open clearing . During the rainy season, the falls become more impressive and will have three runs instead of two.

The water is more muddy. If you choose to swim, you should wear a t-shirt and shorts as a sign of respect to the locals' practice of modesty and the sacredness of the park. As the easiest waterfall to access, it was busier.


Returning to the gates, there is a line of vendors and warungs for those looking for souvenirs or lunch. My headpiece was admired by the vendors, who recognized it as a sign that I had done the secret waterfall trek.


The entire trek had taken about 1.5 hours, including stops for water and rest breaks and play time in the waterfalls but I was invigorated as if I had just completed a full day's hike. My muscles knew they'd a good workout and I was proud of myself for accomplishing it. More than that, however, I had seen the secret waterfalls that few visit, been treated to several sightings of the black monkeys and had been humbled by the power and tranquility of the falls. I am eager to return to explore more of Rinjani Geopark. The natural beauty, the sacred places, and the stunning volcano need much deeper discovery. On a return trip, I will definitely do a 2 or 3 day trek that will include hot springs, traditional villages, and a climb to the crater lake.


 

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4 Comments


Guest
May 31, 2023

Secret waterfall? Hm yes please! When you're in such a stunning location, having travelled across the globe for this site to be hold, then I would say screw the additional cost and go for it. I do agree it feels a bit odd when you have to pay for sections separately, I rather have an end price and that's about it. The $6 were a great investment tho. I've not heard of the Rinjani Geopark but I'm glad I've discovered it now through your blog.


Carolin | <a href="https://solotravelstory.com/">Solo Travel Story</a>

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Lyn (aka Jazz)
Lyn (aka Jazz)
Jun 08, 2023
Replying to

I'm a firm believer in splurging on unique experiences when travelling. I have found my memory holds the experience but I quickly forget the cost.

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I guess it's true when they say that most rewarding sights and places require every traveler to go through ardous journeys before arriving at the destination. I haven't been to Indonesia and I imagine that Rinjani Geopark as is one of those places that fulfills the idea that its really the journey that matters not the destination. Loving the snippets and shots Jazz ;-)


Jan - https://flyingbaguette.com/

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Lyn (aka Jazz)
Lyn (aka Jazz)
May 27, 2023
Replying to

For these waterfalls, that is absolutely true. I was really glad that my desire to see "secret" waterfalls was stronger than my trepidation when told it was a very hard trek. For those who are strong enough to do the trek, I absolutely recommend it!


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