Lombok – the Indonesian word for “chilli pepper” – is located 70km from Bali, and home to a stunning range of natural treasures, including Indonesia’s second highest mountain, Mt. Rinjani. Travellers that make their way to the idyllic isle between March and October can expect to encounter year round warm temperatures, usually between 27 and 30 degrees with the most rain from November to March during the island’s monsoon season.
Like Bali, Lombok is known as one of the best scuba diving destinations in Southeast Asia. In addition to the multitude of exciting dive sites scattered in the waters off the coast of Lombok itself, many more exciting dives can be enjoyed in the waters just off the Gili Islands, which are found to the north of Lombok. The strong currents from the Indonesian through-flow mean that an vibrant exhibition of marine life is always on display in the area, including sharks, turtles and manta rays.
The waters off the town of Senggigi are also home to several impressive dive sites. Nipah Slope boasts a 50m drop off and a rainbow of coral outcrop for divers to explore, while divers in the mood for something a little more adventurous will discover a network of underwater caves at Malimbu. When the conditions are ideal, divers discovering the underwater treasures off the coast of Senggigi should also look out for turtles and rays.
Belongas Bay offers divers a more exhilarating adventure and more of a challenge than Senggigi, and schools of hammerhead sharks can often be glimpsed between the months of June and October. Another popular dive site is Sekotong, where the water is fairly shallow, and home to an abundance of macrolife. Sharp divers can keep their eyes peeled for ghost pipe fish and seahorses living in the reef.
Divers that make their way to Gili Air, the first of the three Gili Islands, are in for a treat should they chose to explore the remains of a sunken Japanese patrol vessel that can be found 45m to the south of the island. The shipwreck has become home to many underwater residents, including frogfish, pipefish and octopus.
For travellers who don’t have time to sink to the depths of the ocean and explore the tropical waters surrounding Lombok, a day snorkelling is also a great way to get a good look at the island’s diverse array of marine life. Snorkelling excursions can generally be arranged through the manager of your private villa, or through local travel agents in tourist areas. Packages usually include transfers to and from your place of accommodation, lunch and a boat ride to several top snorkelling spots around the island.
The tranquil waters off the Gili Islands offer several interesting snorkelling sites. Gili Nanggu lies just a short 15-minute ride from Lombok’s Taun harbour, making it perfect for an afternoon snorkelling trip. Typical day trips take in the snorkelling sites of Gili Nanggu, Rengit and Sudak, and the local guides on many tours are able to provide interesting information on the marine life at each site, as well as the type of underwater creatures snorkellers can hope to encounter.
Adventurous travellers often make time for a spot of kayaking during their trip to Lombok. Sea kayaking off the south-western peninsula of Lombok island in Sekotong Bay is particularly popular. As well as being an eco-friendly activity, kayaking also offers the chance to explore the remote nooks and crannies of Lombok’s coast that larger boats can’t get to. A kayaking trip off the Gili Islands is an excellent way to observe the life of the local people who continue to harvest fish and pearls from the sea in the same way they have for centuries. A typical kayaking trip around the Gili Islands often begins with a gentle paddle from Gili Ph to Gili Ringgit, where the seas are abundant with marine life. Some kayak tours even offer the option of overnight camping on one of the islands’ remote tropical beaches as part of the itinerary.
Sailing enthusiasts keen to explore the tropical waters off the coast of Lombok often include destinations like Desert Point, Air Guling, Mawi Bay and Belongas are part of their itineraries. However, sailors who want to travel a little further afield may choose to indulge in a five-day excursion to Komodo Island, home to the legendary Komodo Dragon, the largest carnivore lizard in the world. Over the course of the five-day trip, the boat stops off at a number of enchanting destinations so guests have a chance to spend a few days swimming, snorkelling and fishing. Islands often included in the tour include Gili Bedil, Satonda, Kalong Island and Rinca, among others.
As Bali’s beaches become more crowded with surfers from all over the globe, a good number of wave seekers are choosing to ride the curls off the more peaceful beaches of Lombok. Surfers that head to Senggigi Reef on the west coast of the island can expect to encounter deep tube rights and a fast moving left with a fast bowl section on a good day. The beach is situated about 20-minutes’ drive from Lombok Airport. To the north of Senggigi Beach lies Alang Alang Point, which has also become a popular destination for surfers. The consistency of Belongas’ long, powerful rides also means it’s becoming one of Lombok’s surfing hotspots. Seger Beach, which can be found not far from the central tourist area of Kuta, is an excellent place for visitors to enjoy the spectacular views of Lombok’s natural scenery in addition to some larger waves.
In recent years, Lombok has established something of a reputation as a golfers’ paradise, in addition to being a prime destination for water sports and activities. Lombok is home to two golf courses: the Rinjani Golf Club and the Lombok Golf Kasaido Country Club. The Lombok Kasaido Golf Club, which was designed by Peter Thompson, Michael Wolderidge and Perett, is an 18-hole course where golfers can take in spectacular views of Mt. Rinjani whilst they are playing. Alternatively, Rinjani Golf Club is located a 30-minute drive from Mataram, and is positioned 500m above sea level. The course comprises two nine-hole layouts, and is designed to offer golfers of all levels an enjoyable day out.
Lombok is packed with a wealth of treasures that never fail to fascinate families that arrive on the tropical shores of the island each year. Indeed, the lack of modern shopping malls and amusement parks on the island actually works in its favour, and visitors are greeted with many unspoilt natural wonders. Families that make their way to the Kuta region in the south of the island encounter sugar-white beaches and crystal clear waters where it is possible to indulge in a day or swimming, kiting and sunbathing. Lombok is also home to a number of impressive waterfalls that are popular with families looking for a cool break away from the sun. Sendang Gile and Tiu Kelep are two of the island’s most popular cascades; the first of which is easy for visitors to reach by following a path down about 400 steps before reaching the magical waterfall. Families who travel to Tiu Kelep can cool off with a revitalising swim in the refreshing fresh water pool at the base of the waterfall. Narmada Water Park is also something of a hit with families on holiday in Lombok, situated 10km to the east of Mataram. The park comprises a Hindu temple and a swimming pool that is fed by fresh water forest springs. During the time of feudalism, the park was a favourite relaxation spot for the King. On hot days, the swimming pool attracts plenty of local visitors.
Visitors keen to immerse themselves in Lombok’s unique and fascinating local culture often enjoy a trip to one of the rustic villages peppered across the island. Senaru Traditional Village provides an excellent window for visitors to learn a little more about the day-to-day lives of Lombok’s indigenous people, a way of life that has changed very little in centuries. This that want to learn about the island’s traditonal method of weaving can take a trip to the small village of Sukarare to see the weaving process in action. A trip to the oldest mosque on the island, Bayan Old Mosque, should also be at the top of any “To Do” list. 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. Bertais is Lombok’s largest market;full of local people selling exotic vegetables and 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.
Posted by Max Vee