in the morning
views of the massive volcano are unimpeded. Fertile
alluvial plains with picturesque, finely crafted rice
terraces slope gradually down to the sea.
Although wildlife and bird life proliferate, they are
species apart from the islands to the west. Separating
Bali and Lombok is a four-kilometre-deep trench that
for millennia halted the natural migration of plants
and animals. This trough marks the legendary Wallace
Line, the divide between Asia and Australasia, the storied
realm of Wallacea.
Lombok’s population of nearly three million is
a mixture of Islamic Sasak, Hindu Balinese and Chinese
and Arab merchants. In the 14th century, Lombok was
settled by Hindu-Javanese under the auspices of the
powerful Majapahit Empire. The Sasak - the island’s
native people - reveal their Hindu roots by the adoption
of a caste system and special vocabulary used when addressing
commoners and noblemen, yet they also possess their
own unique traditions and age-old rituals.
In the 17th century, the Sasaks allowed the Balinese
to settle in western Lombok where to this day their
culture thrives – revealing serene temples and
palaces, Balinese food and customs, gamelan orchestras
and dances, and where Balinese religious festivals such
as Galungan and Kuningan are celebrated with full gusto.
Narmada, the former raja’s summer palace, 10 kilometres
east of Cakranegara, is a large complex encompassing a
mixture of Balinese, Islamic and Sasak architecture. At
Suranadi Temple, in the hills four kilometres north of
Narmada, you may see the gardens and the rebuilt baths
of kings carved in Balinese style with crystal clear water
bubbling up from natural springs.
In Lombok’s small villages, islanders congregate
at busy roadside markets, two-wheeled horse carts (cidomo)
transport goods, and women carry almost any imaginable
object on their heads: vassals, mats, coconuts and even
huge terracotta water vases. In fishing communities
red- and blue-striped outriggers line shores pounded
by heavy surf. In the hilly regions are thick bamboo
groves, rocky rivers, grey Asian monkeys and swaying
fields of mountain rice.
Although Lombok’s pace is decidedly laid back,
its tourism infrastructure is fully developed. From
the port of Padangbai in East Bali, the island is serviced
by government-run passenger ferries bearing long-distance
express buses; domestic airline services fly from Jakarta,
Bali and Surabaya; and Silk Air, an international carrier,
flies directly from Singapore.
Accommodation on the island’s idyllic coasts and
offshore resort-islands is of outstandingly good value,
covering the range from luxurious hotels to rustic home-stays.
Of Lombok’s three large, closely linked towns
- Ampenan, Mataram and Cakranegara - historic Ampenan
is the most colourful for sightseers. The island’s
west coast beaches are readily accessible from these
urban centres, as are the island’s principle historical
and cultural sights.
Lingsar is a sacred eel pool and large Balinese temple
complex - the holiest on the island - and a place of pilgrimage
for four faiths. This worn and faded temple and its pretty
courtyard, believed to have been built in 1714, feels
more like an Indian temple than any similar structure
Senggigi, the island’s main resort area, is eight
kilometres north of Ampenan. Here, you will find first-class
hotels, fine restaurants and cafés, shopping complexes,
bookshops, tour and travel agencies, post and telecommunications
offices, dive centres, motorbike and car rental agents,
and antique and art shops galore.
Let’s not forget shopping. Sasak pottery is a high
art-form possessing an aesthetic beauty and simplicity
unparalleled in Indonesia. Giant terracotta vases and
water pots, seen carried on bicycles down country lanes,
are made at Banyumulek and around the Kediri area in West
Lombok where visitors may view the whole process of building,
shaping and firing the pots.
Gorgeous fabrics are also woven on this island, evidenced
by the exquisitely embroidered kebaya (traditional blouses),
headscarves and sarongs worn by Sasak women. Although
Sukarare is the main weaving centre, the villages of Sengkol,
Puyung, Punjuruk and Ketap also produce hand-woven fabrics
using traditional back-strap looms, spinning wheels and
Exuding an air of seclusion, there are no dogs, no banks
and few motorcycles on these enchanting islands.
Coconut trees cover the interiors and a walk around
each isle is leisurely and unhurried. With abundant
sunshine, white-sand beaches, fine swimming, and superlative
underwater scenery, 'the Gilis’ offer peace and
contentment. There are frequent boat connections to
each of the islands from Senggigi and Bangsal Harbour
at Pemenang on Lombok’s west coast.
The road eventually winds its way down to Kuta, a green,
tree-blanketed oasis along an arcing, unblemished beach
at the base of barren hills. Unlike its celebrated namesake
on Bali, to every side of Lombok’s Kuta are blinding
blue skies, an expansive blue-green ocean, peculiar rock
formations, inexhaustible forests of palms, clusters of
high-roofed houses draped in elephant grass, and stairways
of tobacco and peanut plantations.
The trip to Lombok’s south coast on a new two-lane
highway is a journey back through time, passing traditional
hill-top Sasak villages of thatched houses which are
surrounded by fields of sweet potato, corn, tobacco
and cassava. Life is primitive in this isolated, sparsely
populated, dry and scrubby region – a land of
cacti, slow-moving bullocks, stooped women in sombre
black clothing, men tilling fields by hand hoe, and
black palm-fibre rice barns that resemble mop-haired
Each of the area’s beaches - Mawun, Selong Balanak
and Ekas - rivals the next in utter solitude and raw beauty.
Except for a few bamboo huts, fishermen mending nets,
or a wayward herd of mud-caked water buffalo, the beaches
are totally empty, waiting for a ‘Robinson Crusoe’
to splash ashore.
Bali-based convention extension managers are able to arrange
three- and five-day tour packages, car and motorbike rental,
as well as sea and air tickets to Lombok. With an increasing
demand for sporting vacations, Lombok, with her spectacular
mountains, fast-flowing rivers, and extensive marine environments
proves to be a natural haven.
Famed for its great beauty and eerie isolation, Mt. Rinjani
towers over all parts of the island. The destination for
most climbers, however, is not the summit itself but the
spectacular emerald-green lake inside the calderas - nearly
four kilometres across - an otherworldly home to boiling
hot springs, cascading falls, steep slopes covered in
dense forests, rare waterfowl, but not a single inhabitant.
For trekkers, the two-day ascent is an extreme physical
and spiritual adventure unmatched by few other destinations
in eastern Indonesia.
Rinjani treks are run in accordance to the Rinjani Trek
Ecotourism Program. In 2004, this community-based cooperative,
supported by New Zealand’s International Aid and
Development Agency, gained international recognition by
being awarded the prestigious World Legacy Award for environmental
responsibility and respect for cultural heritage. Trekking
here, you can be assured that revenue from tourism activities
and entry fees is used for conservation, training, management
and assisting the national park with maintenance of the
Golfing holidays to either of Lombok’s two international-standard
golf courses can also be organised. Rinjani Country Club,
at 500-metres above sea level, is bestowed with an abundance
of water traps, bunkers and ravines – ideal to test
any player’s skills. The other course, Kosaido Country
Club, overlooks the sea and includes a signature hole
laid out along a white sand beach. These strikingly different
greens make the perfect compliment to the Bali golfing
Hotels & Resorts in this area: