Hiking the Lombok Waterfalls: Sendang Gile and Tiu Kelep

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If you were to look at me, you wouldn’t think that hiking is something that I’m a huge proponent of. With my perpetual beer gut, it might come as a surprise that I really enjoy hiking through nature.

One of the highlights of a year that has seen me visit ten countries and tackle countless amazing adventures was hiking along the Great Wall of China, getting away from the seething masses of tourists and instead soaking in the serenity along the Jinshanling length of the crumbling wall.

While I didn’t get to stretch my legs with a walking safari during my five months in Africa, I did brave the jungle of Kibale National Park in pursuit of chimpanzees and wring sweat out of myself with a bike tour of Koh Yao Ni in Thailand. It’s safe to say that, despite my shape, I’m somebody who really does enjoy getting a bit of a work-out while I travel.

Hell, I’m that idiot who whips his shoes off as soon as he can so that he can feel the rocks and earth beneath his bare feet.

So, when I saw the itinerary during my recent trip to Indonesia included some hiking to see some of Lombok’s waterfalls, I was feeling pretty excited about it.

Sendang Gile: The Accessible Waterfall

Our first stop of the day was a short hike to Sendang Gile, a beautiful cascade surrounded by tumble rocks and trees whose leaves seem to perpetually weep for the beauty they’re witnessing.

sendang gili waterfall selfie
I cut a noble figure, right?

It’s a relatively easy 10 minute descent from the park entrance to Sendang Gile, with the only real test being the knowledge that you’re going to have to ascend the same way when you’re done.

Sendang Gille is accessible in more ways than one, with a few small stalls and rest areas clearly intended for those wishing to enjoy a peaceful picnic lunch.

Tiu Kelep Waterfall: Isolated Beauty

It’s a longer hike to Tiu Kelep, although its rarely as steep as the descent/ascent from and to the park’s entrance.

In fact, aside from the last portion, it’s all relatively level ground with occasional passes over an aqueduct piping the cold, clear water to wherever it can be best used.

The final third of the 30-40 minute hike requires hikers to remove their shoes, as you ford the shallow stream a few times. It’s never deeper than your knees, but with loose and sometimes slippery rocks to contend with, it’s definitely a good idea to keep your valuables in a waterproof bag or high above your head.

lombok waterfall hike
The crew slogging through the steam as we make our way towards its source. Image courtesy of Jones Around the World.

The occasional slip and the pumicing your feet get along the way is totally worth it though. Tiu Kelep comes into view with first a murmur and then a roar – it’s a towering cascade that plummets into a stone amphitheatre whose high walls amplify the falls’ throaty song and send out thick clouds of cold mist to those daring to approach.

There’s something at once both sacred and horrible about this ferocious sound and the cold wind that accompanies it.

tiu kelep waterfall lombok
Image courtesy of Jones Around the World

Wading into the icy pool that has formed at the base of the falls feels like either baptism or the final approach of an offering to sacrifice. The cold mist that the waterfall calls up attacks with a force that seems to shout: “Stay away!”

Christian rock band waterfall lombok tiu kelep bearded man
Jones Around the World, myself, and Tiki Touring Kiwi braved the water and gave a barbaric yawp in celebration. Image courtesy of Jones Around the World.

It’s beautiful, of course, but there’s something very sobering about the sheer power of the deluge and the unknowable darkness of the water we stand in.

We snap our photos and tolerate the icy cold as long as we can, and then it’s time to head back for lunch.

There’s just one problem…

Lombok Waterfalls Have Nothing on a Tropical Storm

At first, I think it’s just the waterfall throwing water at us, but soon I realize that the heavens have opened at some point during our swim.

Those of us who hadn’t chosen to brave the water seek shelter under a rocky outcrop, but it’s soon evident that the rain isn’t going to stop anytime soon. Tucking precious cameras and phones into ziplock bags or under shirts, we begin the long, slippery trek back.

It’s not long before even those who didn’t take a dip are thoroughly soaked, and the increasingly muddy paths become treacherous as we pick our way cautiously back towards the swelling aqueduct and the stairs that have become a cascade all of their own.

Our tight knit posse soon breaks up like flotsam in the water, swept up by sore feet or damaged cameras or the foolish desire to commit the experience to SnapChat mid-torrential downpour.

Some of us seek shelter under ‘Lombok umbrellas’ – large fronds held overhead as we pick our way through the forest. Others, such as myself, strip our shirts off and fashion sodden capes from there – the world’s most bedraggled superheroes.

The rain did a wonderful job of cooling us off on what might have otherwise been a hot and sweaty ascent, and (predictably) stops almost as soon as we get to the restaurant where we’ll be having lunch.

We aren’t complaining. There are cold beers and underwhelming lunches to be eaten, and damned if the view wasn’t spectacular.

lombok farm terraces indonesia
Not actually the view from lunch, but the view on the way home.

Want to Read More?

Have I whet your appetite for Indonesian waterfalls? The others from my trip have also shared their experiences!

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3 comments

  1. i love to hike also. when living in hong kong I would find a different hike to do every weekend – one of the best ways to see a new “hometown”, and often something the usual local resident normally fails to see. hong kong is surprisingly a great place to hike – although lots of stairs to climb – great views, easy to navigate and lots of public transport to and from the start.

    other memorable waterfall hikes i have enjoyed were in the northern territory and western australia – i think nearly every hike i did ended in a waterfall. one of favourite was where at the beginning you had to swim across the river ferrying your clothes and possessions in polystyrene boxes

    • I hadn’t thought of Hong Kong as a hiking destination! I guess that isn’t a surprise, given my only visit there was a twelve hour enforced visit when my flight to the mainland was cancelled. Something to consider for my Chinese return in 2016!

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