If you ever wondered what Bali was like 40 years ago before the major beach resorts and mass tourism took off, then do yourself a favour and plan a holiday in Lombok Indonesia.
Lombok is the next large island to the east of Bali. A much larger island than Bali though with all the same appeal. White sandy beaches, great snorkelling, scuba diving as well as adventure activities like trekking, climbing Rinjani volcano and beautiful small tropical islands dotted around the coastline of Lombok.
The people of Lombok are Sasak, the name of the people and the language they speak which is very different from Balinese. The people of Lombok have a genuine friendliness about them, they genuinely want you to like their island and take pride in everything about Lombok – especially the coffee. Every time you ask for a coffee they will ask if you want to try Lombok coffee! And you should. It is great coffee. There are still some traditional villages where you can visit to see the traditional huts as well as coffee production and various arts and crafts being made.
There are some pockets of areas of Lombok which does have tourist facilities like hotels and restaurants though the development has not been as fast paced as the development in Bali (though this will change!).
In October 2011, the new Lombok International Airport was opened with direct flights from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Perth Australia as well as direct flights from other cities in Indonesia include Bali and Jakarta. The new airport is located in Praya which is just south of the centre of Lombok. The old Selaparang Airport was located close to Mataram, the capital city of Lombok, located in the north west of the island. The investment for the Lombok International Airport was originally fronted by an investment company from the United Arab Emirates. This investment company had plans to build massive beach resorts in South Kuta on the south coast of Lombok. Though in the 2008 global financial crisis, the UAE had their own financial problems and alot of the money for the airport disappeared, leaving the Indonesian government to complete the airport. Unfortunately with the lack of funds the airport is just another standard Indonesian airport. Not the best facilities!
The most interesting and popular areas of Lombok that is worth visiting include:
The Gili Islands
The Gili Islands are the most visited islands just off the north west coast of Lombok. Gili is a Sasak word meaning small island. The Gili islands have been popular for more than 15 years with mainly young travellers and the lovers of scuba diving. The 3 small islands, Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air make up the Gili Islands which are easy to get to by ferry from Lombok (a 15 minute ride from Bangsal harbour). Or there are fast ferries from Bali which take around 2 hours to get to the Gili Islands.
The Gili Islands are often referred to as the Turtle Capital of the World due to the large number of turtles that live in the waters around the Gilis and also lay their eggs on the sandy beaches.
Read our article about the Gili Islands – Turtle Capital of the World
Also see our videos for the Gili Islands
For more information about the Gili Islands
Senggigi Beach is the 2nd most popular area for visitors to Lombok. A small coastal town right on a stretch of white sandy beach. There are heaps of accommodation in Senggigi, ranging from basic backpacker style accommodation up to plenty of luxury beach resorts and villas.
There are also plenty of good restaurants in Senggigi and with many having live music every night of the week.
Sekotong West Lombok
I just visited Sekotong in December 2014 for the first time and will definitely be back. The Sekotong coastline is home to the southern Gili islands, a group of around 12 small islands including Gili Nanggu, Gili Gede, Gili Layar, Gili Poh and Gili Tangkong. Accomodation is only available on Gili Tangkong and Gili Nanggu. On the mainland, Cocotinos is the only beach resort to be found (see our review for Cocotinos Resort). There are some small and basic homestay accommodation found in the Sekotong West village.
The scuba diving along the reefs close to the southern Gili islands is amazing. Diving is suitable all year round with sea temperatures around 27 – 28 degrees. During the rainy season visibility is reduced though still good diving is doable. The best time to visit for scuba diving is from April through to September.
There is also some good surfing around BangkoBangko and Desert Point in the Sekotong area.
Sekotong is only 1 hour drive from the Lombok International Airport or only 20 minutes drive from Lembar Ferry port on the west coast of Lombok (where ferries come from Bali).
Climbing Mount Rinjani
Mount Rinjani is the largest mountain on Lombok and is an active volcano. The climb to the top of Rinjani is a 3 day 2 night trek so not for the inexperienced. Half way up Mount Rinjani is an impressive blue lake with the peak and rim of the volcano on the other side.
For the Hindus of Lombok, Mount Rinjani is a sacred mountain and is the brother volcano for the largest volcano in Bali, Mount Agung.
The trek to Mount Rinjani is closed each year from around late January through to end of March due to the rainy season making the trek very dangerous. Best time to climb Rinjani is during the peak dry season from June through to end of August.
South Kuta in Lombok is nothing like Kuta in Bali. South Kuta, as the name suggests is on the south coast of Lombok as is a very quiet area with beautiful, white sandy beaches and offers some of the best surfing in Lombok. Apart from the Novotel Hotel in South Lombok, the only accommodation found in South Kuta are a handful of backpacker style hotels.
Getting to Lombok
If you want to visit the main island of Lombok then you can either fly directly into the Lombok International airport or you can get there by ferry from either Bali or from Sumbawa. You can fly direct to Lombok International airport from Bali, Jakarta, Singapore or Kuala Lumpur.
If you want to go to the Gili Islands you can either get the small boats from Bangsal Harbour, in the north-west of Lombok, which take 15 minutes to get over to the Gili islands. Or you can take a fast boat direct from Bali’s Padang Bai ferry port. The fast boats from Padang Bai to the Gili islands take around 2 hours.
There are also large ferries that leave from Padang Bai that cross over to the Lombok Mainland at Lembar. From Lembar you can travel to West Sekotong in around 20 minutes. From Lembar up to Senggigi will take around 1.5 hours by car.
For more information about Lombok Indonesia