Overview : Lombok
Lombok is an island in West Nusa Tenggara province, Indonesia. It forms part of the chain of the Lesser Sunda Islands, with the Lombok Strait separating it from Bali to the west and the Alas Strait between it and the island of Sumbawa to the east.
It is similar in size to Bali and has a population of 3.5 million. Many people believe that Lombok is similar to how Bali was about thirty years ago, but the truth is that it is nothing like Bali.
For instance, Lombok is a predominantly Islamic island, so has a culture that is markedly different from that of Bali. The island also has a much lower population than does Bali, and far less infrastructure. The similarity is that Lombok also has some fabulous beaches, but there is none of the traffic density that you find in Bali.
The island’s topography is dominated by the centrally-located stratovolcano Mount Rinjani, the second-highest volcano in Indonesia, which rises to 3,726 metres. This last erupted in 2016, causing much damage, some of which is still noticeable as you drive north of Senggigi.
The capital is Mataram, which is a low rise city which seems to have some lovely buildings and few traffic problems.
Senggigi, the most popular beach area, is about 20 minutes north of Mataram.
How to get in and about Lombok
Lombok has a new International and domestic airport that is located about 40 minutes south of Mataram. As the government is actively promoting the southern area around Kuta as a new tourist area, the new airport is handily located.
Prior to Covid-19 there were international flights to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Perth, Western Australia, and these would be expected to resume when the pandemic has run its course. There are also good domestic services. Many people fly from Bali, which is just a 20-minute flight.
There are good ferry services from other islands, and speed boats from Bali serving Lombok, particularly the Gilli Isles.
For getting around Lombok taxis are relatively cheap, although I use the services of a driver who is not only very good, but cheaper than using taxis.
The touristy places
Senggigi – This has been a well-established tourist area for a long time. This is far quieter than anywhere in Bali, and that is part of its charm. There are quite a few good hotels here, many right on the beachfront, also good restaurants and bars but not a lot of shopping as most people go into Mataram for that. Batu Bolong, Kerangdangan and Mangsit are other beach areas that are spread out along the coast. There is a variety of accommodation at all of these places, ranging from cheap and reasonably cheerful to luxury resorts. If you hire a taxi or driver, it is a lovely drive along the coast, with some really good lookouts at high vantage points.
South Lombok – If the name Kuta sounds familiar the one on Lombok is much quieter than its Bali equivalent. Kuta is a drawcard for surfers, and the area is getting more development. The beaches are some of the best in Indonesia, with pristine white sand, and transparent blue-greens in the water. There is a pretty good variety of accommodation and restaurants here too. Many people go to Kuta just to unwind, and lie on the beach. There are some nice bays and islands down south, good places include Tanjung Aan and the island of Gili Gede.
Gili Islands – The Gilis are located are located just off the northwest tip of Lombok. If you want laidback, these are the ideal places. There are three islands – Gili Air, which is nearest to Lombok. This is a very laid back island which is ideal for families and backpackers. Note: there are no cars on any of the islands. Transport is by foot, bicycle or horse drawn carriages. One of the things I love about the Gilis is that you never have to dodge idiots on motorbikes riding on footpaths or down very narrow laneways. Gili Air is the most populated of the islands, but most houses are hidden behind lush gardens, so are not very noticeable. Gili Meno is the middle island, and also very quiet. This is a preferred spot for honeymooners. There is a good channel between Meno and Trawangan, which is a very popular diving spot. The corals are quite good, and you can see a variety of fish and turtles. There are also underwater statues to swim around for a bit of variety. Gili Trawangan – this is known as the party island, although compared to Bali’s Kuta is it very tame. There are good restaurants and bars here, and some great resorts as well. Trawangan is also popular with surfers as the island has a couple of good breaks.
Things to do
Take a cooking class on Gili Air
Learn to cook authentic Lombok and Indonesian food. These classes are hands on, both educational and entertaining, and you do get to eat your creations afterwards. Many of the ingredients come from the restaurant garden, so you know that it is fresh.
Trek Mt Rinjani
This is only possible between April and January to avoid the rainy season, and you can choose a two or a three day tour. The trek is a long slog, but not treacherous. You don’t camp on the summit, but rise early in the morning to get to the peak in time to see the sunrise. You also get good views of the sulphur lake in the crater. Take warm clothes because it does get cold near the summit, and wear very good hiking shoes.
The fields of Pergasingan
This involves another trek of about six hours there and back 1200 mtr-high plateau, but the result is worth it. From your perch at the top of the hill you will not only enjoy fabulous views of Mt Rinjani, but admire the vibrant patchwork of colours and fields that are set out way below.
Wave-driven waterfall at Nambung Beach
A natural waterfall created by waves at Nambung Beach about 60 kms south of Mataram. This natural phenomenon is caused by waves slamming into one side of the rocky headland then flowing down the rock face on the backside where there also happens to be a shallow pool so you can experience this natural seawater spa.
Sunset dinner on Gili Trawangan
This is the perfect way to spend and evening, drinks and dinner overlooking Lombok Strait at sunset with Bali’s Mt Agung in the background. On a balmy night, this is a wonderful way to end the day. Try the beach restaurant and bar at the Hotel Ombak Sunset. Absolutely gorgeous!