Despite coming second to Bali in terms of the tourist numbers it attracts each year, Lombok rivals its larger neighbour in terms of the range of activities on offer to visitors. Situated just 70km from Bali, the island is home to a unique range of natural treasures, including Indonesia’s second highest mountain, Mt. Rinjani. The Indonesian word “Lombok” translates to “chilli pepper”, and visitors than journey to the island between March and October can expect to find the weather just as hot, with temperatures ranging from 27 to 30 degrees. The island’s topical monsoon season runs from November to March.
Lombok is one of the Asia-Pacific’s hotspots for tourists that enjoy taking the plunge with a spot of scuba diving whilst they are on vacation. A lot of the best dive trips in the region are to the Gili Islands to the northwest of Lombok, however, a number of attractive dive sites are also scattered nearer to the island. Strong currents from the Indonesian throughflow bring a wide selection of exciting marine life to the location, including sharks, eagle rays, turtles and manta rays.
Senggigi, situated just off Lombok’s east coast, boasts several impressive dive sites. At Nipah Slope, divers can enjoy the 50m drop-off and a rainbow of coral outcrop, and at Malimbu they can explore a series of underwater caves if the conditions are safe, and there can expect to encounter both turtles and rays.
Sekotong is another of Lombok’s dive destinations, with fairly shallow water and an abundant variety of macrolife. Residents of Sekotong’s reefs include Ghost Pipe Fish and seahorses. For a more exhilarating underwater adventure, divers often choose to explore Belongas Bay, which offers more of a challenge than the relaxed diving at Senggigi. Schools of hammerhead sharks can commonly be found here between June and October.
Divers who make the way to Gili Air, the first of the three Gili islands, can explore the remains of a Japanese patrol vessel located under 45m of water to the south of the island. The wreck is home to many lionfish and scorpionfish, and often barracuda. Hans Reef to the northeast of Gili Air is a good spot to look out for frogfish, pipefish and octopus.
For travellers who don’t fancy delving to the very depths of Lombok’s waters for a display of the area’s marine life, the island is also a great place for snorkelling. Snorkelling trips can usually be arranged through the concierge of your private villa or a local tour agency, and generally come as a package that includes lunch and transportation to several sites around the island. Many snorkellers choose to visit the nearby Gili islands to get their snorkelling fix, with Gili Nanggu just a short 15-minute boat ride from Lombok’s Taun harbour. The islands are a great place for snorkellers who want to discover waters that have been largely untouched by tourism. Day trips usually take in snorkelling sites of Gili Nanggu, Gili Rengit and Gili Sudak, with the local guide on your trip being able to provide interesting information on the marine life of each site and the creatures you can expect to encounter.
Another activity on the to-do list of adventurous travellers is kayaking, particularly sea kayaking off the south western peninsular of Lombok island in Sekotong Bay. Kayaking is an ideal way to explore more remote areas, as well as being more eco-friendly. Kayakers can explore the rustic, undeveloped Gili Islands, where the local population continues to live the way they have for centuries by harvesting fish and pearls. A typical kayaking itinerary will begin with some gentle paddling to Gili Ringgit, whose waters are teeming with marine life. It is even possible to book kayaking tours with companies who offer overnight camping on one of the remote tropical beaches in the kayaking itinerary.
Perhaps one of Lombok’s most popular boat trips is the three to five day excursion to Komodo Island, home to the infamous Komodo Dragon, the largest carnivore lizard in the world. Most of the Komodo tours stop at various idyllic island destinations along the way so guests have the chance to spend a few hours swimming, snorkelling and fishing. Over four days and four nights, visitors take in several of the region’s remote island gems, including Gili Bedil, Satonda, Kalong Island and Rinca, among many others. For sailing enthusiasts who would like to stay a little closer to Lombok, the island is home to a number of great boat trip destinations including Desert Point, Air Guling, Mawi bay and Belongas.
An increasing number of surfers are making the journey to ride Lombok’s waves as some of Bali’s beaches become more crowded. Senggigi Reef lies off the west coast of the island, around 20-minutes’ drive from Lombok international airport. Although good surf in the area is not 100 percent reliable, on a good day surfers can experience deep tubes right and a fast moving left, with a fast bowl section. Alang Alang Point is located north of Senggigi beach in the larger swell that is found off the island’s north western coast. Belongas is also becoming a favourite with surfers due to the consistency of its long, powerful rides. Belongas’ best surfing conditions fall in the island’s rainy season. Not far from the Kuta area is Seger Beach, where visitors can enjoy the spectacular panorama of the natural surroundings and the challenge of some larger waves.
In addition to the range of water sports and activities available to visitors on Lombok, the island is also building its reputation as a prime destination for golfers. The island comprises two golf courses, the Rinjani Golf Club and the Lombok Golf Kosaido Country Club. The latter is an 18-hole course where golfers can enjoy the warm sea breeze and splendid views of Mt. Rinjani to the west. Rinjani Golf Club can be found a 30-minute drive from Mataram, and sits at 500m above sea level. The course has two different nine-hole layouts, and is designed to offer players of all capabilities the chance to enjoy a relaxing challenge.
Families that travel to Lombok never fail to be fascinated by the island’s natural treasures. In fact, a district lack of sprawling shopping malls and amusement parks is one of the island’s main attractions. The Kuta region on the south coast is famous for its crystal clear waters and talcum powder beaches. Families can enjoy a day swimming and playing games on the beach or even just a relaxing afternoon of sunbathing. The island is also also home to a collection of impressive waterfalls, which are often a hit with children on a day out. Sendang Gile and Tiu Kelep are among the island’s most magical waterfalls, the first of which is fairly easy to access by following a path down approximately 400 steps. Visitors at Tiu Kelep waterfall can enjoy a refreshing swim in the cool mountain water at the base of the falls. Narmada water park is also popular with families visiting Lombok, and is located 10km to the east of Mataram. The park is home to a Hindu temple and a swimming pool, and during the time of feudalism, the park was a favourite relaxation spot for the King. The pool also attracts a lot of local visitors who enjoy cooling off in the swimming pool, which is fed by fresh water forest springs.
To experience Lombok’s fascinating local culture, visitors can explore the island’s many rustic villages and many visitors head to Senaru Traditional Village to get a glimpse of the animist way of life that hasn’t changed for hundreds of years. The small village of Sukarare is famous for textile weaving, and visitors can take an excursion there to see the art in action. A trip to Lombok’s oldest mosque, Bayan Old Mosque, is also a must for visitors in search of the island’s local culture. The mosque is believed to have been constructed in the 16th century. A cultural trail round the island would be incomplete without spending some time in Mataram’s Bertais Market, the largest market on Lombok. Packed with local people buying and selling exotic vegetables and animals, the market is perfumed by the many spices on sale at its stalls. Visitors in search of souvenirs can also scour the market in search of locally-made handicrafts and antiques to take home.
by MAX VEE