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Wednesday
Apr212010

indonesia: lombok is the new bali

lombok's breathtaking sunsets

Lombok island is Bali’s overlooked little brother. While Bali may be far more popular and more easily accessible, Lombok’s unspoiled riches are worth the extra effort it takes to get there.  Though it is right next door to Bali, the waterway between the two islands divides two entirely different ecosystems. Thus, Lombok’s topography and wildlife are not simply a repeat of what visitors have already seen on Bali. Indeed, those who find Bali overly touristy (and many do) will find their haven in Lombok, with its breathtaking sunsets, kind people, and pristine, seemingly untouched beaches.

Highlights

Mount Rinjani

Rinjani is not a mountain for the faint of heart. First of all, it’s an active volcano – its most recent eruption was May 2009. Second of all, it is one of the highest volcanoes in Indonesia. Trekkers in good shape are welcome to attempt the climb to the rim, but the trek is difficult and not everyone makes it to the top. Still, the challenge is what makes it exciting. A caldera, waterfalls, and hot springs, along with breathtaking views, await those who manage to make it to the top.

Gili Trawangan

The Gili islands are world famous, and Gili Trawangan is the most popular of the three. Though it’s a bit pricier than the rest of Lombok, this is the place to be for those who like to dive, and those who like to party (particularly on the eastern coast). It’s not possible to make reservations on this island during high season, so the best thing to do is get there early and avoid arriving on the weekend.

Kuta

Not to be confused with Kuta, Bali, this Kuta is a very special place. Kept something of a secret by surfers in the know, Kuta offers plenty for those non-surfers who love a good beach. The locals are friendly, the food is delicious (check out Ashtari café), and on Tuesday and Saturday nights, everyone heads to Surfer bar, where live music and cheap beer make for a fun night out.

Lombok Tips 

  • Be mindful that the local population is mostly Muslim, and not as liberal as their Hindu neighbours on Bali. Be respectful of their religion by dressing appropriately.
  • Boat trips to see the Komodo dragons are available in abundance, usually leaving from Sengiggi. Keep in mind that you’ll be crossing pretty rocky waters during some parts of the trip, and anyone who gets seasick may want to consider flying to Flores and taking a boat from there, which is a much smoother trip.
  • Public transportation is rare on Lombok, so a great option is to rent a motorbike. In Kuta, the best beaches are about 45 minutes to an hour by motorbike from town centre.

How to Get There

Ferry

The ferry from Padangbai, Bali, to Lembar, Lombok, is a great budget option. The ride itself is about five hours, and is quite scenic. The only trouble is, Padangbai is a bit tricky to get to, and Lembar is one hour away from Sengiggi (a spot where many tourists enjoy stopping). Make sure to buy water before you climb aboard – the local vendors will charge you double or triple the going rate once the boat sets sail.

Speed Boat

The Blue Water Express runs a speed boat service between Benoa (Southern Bali) and Teluk Nare and the Gili Islands. The Gili Cat Fastboat does a similar service, but from Padangbai. The trip takes about two hours, but is significantly more expensive than the ferry.

Plane

The airport in Mataram receives daily planes from Bali, Jakarta, Sumbawa, Singapore, and more. Many airlines fly this route, but do check to make sure that you don’t take a black-listed airline, as your health insurance may not cover you if you do.

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