LOOKING AT LOMBOK
Most of the foreign tourists visiting Indonesia know about Bali, the Island of Gods, with its tropical setting and fascinating culture. But Lombok is a hidden paradise that lies just 25 minutes by air across the sea to the east. Lombok, part of West Nusa Tenggara Province in Indonesia, is not well-known.
With an area of 5,300 square kilometers, Lombok is slightly smaller than Bali and offers a myriad of natural and cultural tourist attractions. Here the pace is quiet and the atmosphere much more laid-back than in developed Bali. That is why Lombok is rapidly emerging as the new Indonesian destination and there is an old local saying that goes: “You can see Bali in Lombok, but you cannot see Lombok in Bali.”
Lombok is perfectly positioned as a new tourism destination offering a pristine environment, a very unique culture, stunning beaches and tiny islands, jungles and waterfalls. Also, it offers fantastic eco-tourism activities such as swimming, snorkeling, diving, and fishing. The is infrastructure is sufficient and there is, so far, no high-density urban development.
The population of Lombok is just under 3 million. Landing at Selaparang International Airport in Mataram, foreign tourists seem to arrive in a village culture which blends the tradition of the aboriginal Sasak people with Balinese, Hindu and Arabic influences. Mataram is the capital of Lombok and has slowly annexed the nearby two towns of Ampenan and Cakranegara.
There are a variety of old-style markets and neighborhoods featuring traditional crafts like basket ware and weaving. Village life is simple and based on farming and pottery production. The Sasak people are friendly and relatively unaffected by tourism so that foreign tourists can enjoy a traditional hospitality, when exploring the different parts of the island.
Getting around Lombok is easy in a car or on a motorbike. Both can be rented using an international driver’s license. The roads are narrow, but traffic is normally light. There are more attractions to visit in the western, northern and southern parts of the island than in the eastern sector.
The west of the island is lush and green and boasts a series of beautiful bays lining the coast from Sengiggi to Bangsal, north of Mataram. In northern Bangsal, this beach is one of the most scenic and popular beaches on the island of Lombok. Good accommodations are available.
The western coast faces the island of Bali across the Lombok Strait and under good weather conditions one can see the sacred volcano Gunung Agung in the east of Bali. The Gili Islands are clustered together just off the northwest coast of Lombok, where coral gardens abound in clear water around the islands. It is on one of these islands that backpackers used to stay when spending their holiday time in Lombok.
Senggigi Beach on the western coast is the main tourism center on Lombok. The resort area is about 10 kilometres north of Ampenan and just 20 minutes from the airport in Mataram. Activities are centered on the beaches. Day and night, restaurants cater to all tastes and budgets. Live music in bars and nightclubs abound. Senggigi Reef, off the point near the Senggigi Beach Hotel (see www.senggigibeachhotel.com), has good coral for snorkeling and some decent surf breaks. Local outrigger boats can be chartered from the beach.
Pura Batu Bolong is found just before coming to Senggigi and is an interesting Hindu temple facing Bali across the Lombok Strait. Built on an outcrop with a natural hole near the base, it is said that virgin girls were once sacrificed to the sea from the seat-like rock at the outmost point of the place. The coastal road runs further north for another 10 kilometres passing many hotels and bungalows positioned along scenic coconut palm-fringed beaches. Mangsit and Lendang Luar are perched on the long stretch of pristine beach landscapes, followed by the picturesque bays of Malimbu and Nipah.
Dominating the north of the island is a mountain range of 13 peaks, crowned by the 3,726-meter active volcano called Gunung Rinjani. The area around the volcano is a designated national park and offers great opportunities for hiking, trekking and exploring small mountain villages. Gunung Rinjani attracts hundreds of tourists from around the world to Lombok every year, and its waterfalls and rivers are easily accessible. The south coast of Lombok offers some of the most breathtaking coastal scenery in the whole of Indonesia, with long stretches of white sandy beaches, steep coastal cliffs towering above the Indian Ocean and rolling green hills. Kuta- Nyale Ritual is the main resort area there and is not only famous for its fine beaches but also for surfing opportunities.
Right in the center of traditional Sasak culture, the impressive Novotel Lombok is the first hotel in the Mandalika resort complex, a 1250-hectare project being developed by Lombok Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC). The hotel, designed by Lek Bunnag, offers 52 superior rooms, 25 deluxe rooms and 23 Sasak villas (see www. novotel-lombok.com).
Located 45 kilometres south of Cakranegara, the new Lombok International Airport has been under construction since 2007. With a runway of 2,750 meters and a passenger terminal with a local “Sasak” roof-style, the airport should be ready to serve 2 million passengers at the end of 2010. From there, tourists can then easily visit some villages of the aboriginal Sasak people farther south before reaching the finest beach areas..........