Staying at the Rinjani Mountain Garden in Senaru was an interesting experience to say the least. Its location is magnificent. The hotel is situated high on top of a slope of Mount Rinjani, one of Indonesia’s highest mountains, at about 600m above sea level. From the kitchen and terraced seating area you can see the top of Mount Rinjani on a clear day. And in front of the hotel are many stunning rice fields, known as sawah-sawah in Indonesian, and you’ll often see local people working the farm fields as well. The fact that the hotel is placed in the middle of a farming area gives the place such a very interesting local character. I highly recommend taking a stroll during sunset to see the amazing sights around the area. On a clear day the view is breathtaking and can reach quite far, sometimes even the Bali Sea is visible.
The rooms at the Rinjani Mountain Garden are only a few, but comfortable for the most part and I had some great sleep here. Some of the rooms are in wooden cottages reminiscent of the wilderness adventures of Davy Crockett. There is no air-conditioning inside the rooms, but you will not need it as it can get quite chilly this high up the mountain in the evening and night. During the day, the temperature outside is very pleasant and enjoyable. There is a little shower cabin outside the rooms and in front of our room was a very relaxing patio or deck thing where we had an amazing view of the mountainous slopes of Mount Rinjani.
To my surprise, the hotel actually had a pool. However, this was not a pool in the usual sense, as this pool was stated by the management to be “all natural”. This meant that the pool is natural in the sense that it is more like a swimmable fishpond. I think the water is coming from Rinjani mountain, but it was green and there were fish, frogs, and other animals in it. So, swimming there will surely place you right in the middle of nature. It looked quite fun actually, but I didn’t go in.
I love the fact that the Rinjani Mountain Garden reminded me of a farm, it is very homely and rural. Everywhere you look there will be animals; turkeys, chickens, dogs, cats, horses, fishes, and birds were on the grounds and walked around freely during the day. Sadly, we later discovered more animals near the owners’ house (at least, I think it was their house), which were much more questionable, such as a black monkey and a hornbill bird in a cage. I don’t think keeping such animals is appropriate. So, this was somewhat of a downer.
I also quite like the fact that hotel management trusted their guests enough to use an honor system when it comes to drinks and snacks. This meant that each time we took something from the public refrigerator or from the coffee and tea stand, we had to mark it on a piece of paper. And at the end of our stay the totals were added up to our bill. I thought this was kind of neat actually and it is something you’ll often find in hostels.
Now, I only stayed a few days at this hotel, but I do feel there are areas where management can improve upon and issues that we weren’t so happy about.
Firstly, the security, one of the most important features of a hotel, was lacking. It is obvious that you want to stay in a place where you feel safe and comfortable. And I think the Rinjani Mountain Garden hotel can improve this by providing better and stronger locks on the windows and doors of the cabins to replace the flimsy ones that we had there. Also, lock up all your suitcases and bags when you leave the room, because the hotel has been violently robbed before (we learned this through our driver in Lombok, but later confirmed it by reading online reviews). The hotel is located in a wide-open area that is easily accessible for people with bad intentions. There is supposed to be a security guard on the grounds at night, but every time I saw him he was sleeping around.
Secondly, I’m not sure how I feel about the management. The Rinjani Mountain Garden hotel is managed by a German couple and the atmosphere at the hotel was strange. And one evening, during dinner, one of the owners had a very loud shouting argument with an Indonesian employee and I felt very uncomfortable as we were right in the middle of it. It was not professional to do that in front of the guests. Take it behind closed doors or discuss it in a less loud way. I also think one of the owners should also drink less alcohol in general. He is one of the managers and starting in the afternoon he hangs around the bar the whole evening drinking his homemade brem or arak, an alcoholic fermented palm or rice drink. At times he seemed quite drunk and even fed one of the horses some alcohol… Every evening we were also pressed if we wanted to drink, but we don’t drink that much, so we didn’t. It’s kind of annoying to be constantly pushed for a drink.
Thirdly, no toiletries were given from the hotel. Which is strange since most people want to take a shower there and not everyone brings their own soap. I thought this was especially disappointing since the majority of guests probably stay there to do some trekking and hiking. They, like us, surely would want to clean up after a long hot day of walking, hiking, climbing, and sweating. A small bottle of shampoo or soap would be much appreciated, especially since there are also hardly any warung or shops in walking distance to the hotel.
Finally, the food was terrible. There is no other way to go about this. This hotel served some of the worst food I have had in Indonesia. Especially compared to the amazing delicious meals we had during Little Wayan’s cooking class and at Bali Asli. And I don’t really understand why the food was so bad. I think it is because the German owner decided to micromanage and cook everything herself (or gave instructions on how to prepare it). And I’m sorry to say it, but it wasn’t very tasty. As it is said sometimes, keep it simple. We ate a few Indonesian dishes that were made in a “German style”, such as nasi goreng with something that resembles a potato or pumpkin, which was kind of weird. A simple solution would perhaps be to just have the Indonesian staff cook the food. They will surely know how to make some yummy local Indonesian dishes such as ayam goreng, mie goreng, gado-gado, ayam bakar taliwang (a Lombok specialty), etc.
I get that the hotel tries to cater to Western tourists mostly, but I am sure that these guests would love to have some delicious local Indonesian food as well. We stayed here for two nights and did not really have an outstanding meal here, except for the breakfast, which was passable and sort of impossible to mess up.
Also, I don’t like how we had to inform management what we wanted to eat hours before dinner was served. I just wanted to select something from the menu in the evening. It’s not hard. Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention this particular and somewhat strange issue that just popped back in my head. We were a party of three and during dinner time all other guests were sitting together eating on one long table, except for us. I found it very weird that they kept separating us from the other guests. And it could not be because we were not German as there were other non-German guests on that table as well. I felt a bit unwelcome there.
So, yeah, the Rinjani Mountain Garden in Senaru is one of the most contrasting hotels I have stayed at. The views around the hotel are spectacular and it can be quite a relaxing place. The hotel is also very well maintained and it just looks very good and homely. I just think the lodging can become so much better with some changes such as better management, tastier food, and improved security on the premises. Still, since we did not stay there very long it was fine. And I think most other people will be like us and not stay there very long either and only use the place as a basecamp for trekking and hiking trips around Rinjani Mountain. But, just set your expectations accordingly.