Often marketed as the “unspoiled” Bali of 20 years ago, Lombok is part of Indonesia’s West Nusa Tenggara province, and one of the chain of Lesser Sunda islands. Located to the east of Bali, the island is home to stunning beaches, magnificent waterfalls and the towering Mt Rinjani, Indonesia’s second largest mountain. Compared to Bali, Lombok is relatively undeveloped in terms of tourism, and this is particularly so on the Gili Islands, located just off the west coast. It is this lack of development that means many of Lombok’s beaches have retained their idyllic charm, making them great places for travellers in search of a nature and relaxation.
Not to be confused with its eponymous sister on Bali, Kuta is probably the most popular beach on the island and now well established as Lombok’s centre of tourism development. The town is located 60km south of Mataram and approximately 30-minutes’ drive from the other popular resort destination of Senggigi. Lombok’s Kuta is known to be a lot quieter than its Bali equivalent and retains a more pristine, undeveloped charm. Surrounded by rolling green hills and fringed with coconut palms, Kuta beach is everything many travellers dream off when they think of Indonesia’s exotic shores. Kuta’s reputation as a surfing destination has also grown in recent years, as it is here that the gentle waters surrounding Lombok meet the greater currents of the Indian Ocean, resulting in great swells and surf breaks. For visitors who don’t fancy the surfing, it is also easy to hire other water sports equipment at Kuta.
Senggigi is probably Lombok’s second most popular beach destination after Kuta, largely due to the better quality of sand on Kuta. Located on the west side of the island, Senggigi is fairly well developed for visitors who plan on spending the day exploring the town. Like Kuta, Senggigi is a great place for visitors who want to try out some water sports, as there are plenty of places to hire out equipment. In the evening, the area surrounding Senggigi beach comes alive with restaurants, bars and karaoke venues. Visitors who want to get away from the more developed beach areas on Lombok often head further south of Senggigi. The unspoilt white sand beaches and crystal clear waters off this part of the island are a magnet to visitors who want to enjoy a true desert island paradise whilst they are on vacation.
Tanjuang A’an and Gerupuk beaches
Tanjuang A’an beach can be found approximately 4km east of Kuta, and will not disappoint beach-goers in search of Lombok’s signature white sand that is said to resemble small grains of pepper. This beach is also a good destination for visitors who want to take a refreshing swim in the calm water. Alternatively, the beach is known to be a magical destination at sunset, with the best views available to visitors who climb one of the small hills surrounding the beach to enjoy the tranquil atmosphere. Tanjuang A’an is also gaining popularity with surfers due to the good waves in the area.
Explorers who head further east of Tanjuang A’an will find Gerupuk beach, which is also well known as one of Lombok’s premier surf destinations. Situated on a peninsular of land that extends out into the ocean, visitors who make the journey to Gerupuk can expect spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding area.
Mawun beach is approximately 30-minutes’ drive to the west of Kuta, and boasts immaculate soft white sand and calm waves which make the area great for swimming. Surrounded by rolling green hills, Mawun beach is a good place to search out a secluded picnic spot. Despite its location outside the more developed beach areas of the island, Mawun becomes particularly busy during peak travel season.
Located to the west of Mawun beach, Mawi is another surfer’s haven, with good right and left hand barrels when the swell is strong enough. The beach is sometimes known as Mandalika, and thousands of local people gather here every year to celebrate the vibrant Bau Nyale ritual when hordes of sea worms reproduce in its waters.
Positioned on the southern coast of Lombok, Selong Belanak features more of the stunning scenery that is typical to Lombok, and remains one of the island’s most undeveloped beaches. The beach is becoming increasingly popular with visitors in search of a quiet getaway to enjoy the turquoise stretches of sea and soft white sand. Getting to Selong Belanak via the small, twisting access road can prove a little challenging, but visitors are rewarded once they arrive. There are many more scenic bays located to the west of Selong Belanak which remain largely deserted.
Visitors who want to explore the smaller islands beyond Lombok often choose the Gili islands just off the northwestern coast. Gili Trawangan is the largest of the three Gili islands, and is about a 30-minute boat journey from Lombok. The beaches of Trawangan are becoming increasingly popular with families, particularly the Goodheart and North Beach stretch, which is particularly good for snorkelling. Motorised transport on the island is forbidden, but a stroll around the peaceful beach lined perimeter only takes around two hours. The beaches of Trawangan are also great destinations for visitors who want to get up early and watch the sun rise over Lombok’s magnificent Mt. Rinjani.
The smallest and most undeveloped of the Gili islands, Gili Meno measures only 2km long and 1km wide. The island embodies the qualities of a remote, unspoilt desert island and its reputation has spread as a romantic destination for honeymooners. The most popular stretch of sand lies to the west, where most visiting boats arrive on the beach. This is also where the majority of the island’s accommodation can be found. For visitors not content to spend all day lazing in a hammock on the beach, the island boasts some excellent snorkelling sites, with high visibility all year round. Lucky snorkellers may even catch a glimpse of Hawksbill and Leatherback turtles, as well as blue spotted stingrays and a rainbow of coral.
Like Trawangan and Meno, the perimeter of Gili Air is traversable on foot for visitors who want to explore the enchanting shoreline of the island for themselves. The slow pace of life is perfect for those that really want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the busier beach resorts on Lombok or Bali. The best destinations for swimming can be found off the east coast of the island, where the sand eventually gives way to a coral reef. While the island is unpredictable as a surf destination, the right hand breaks off the south west coast can provide some exhilarating waves for more experienced surfers in search of a challenge.
Posted by Wayne Hue