It’s a contentious call.
Many of us West Aussies love a good easy hop, skip and jump to Bali but as much as we love our treasured island playground, its time to swim out of the comfort zone and explore its sister island – Lombok.
Known as the Bali of yesteryear, Lombok is Indonesia’s untapped paradise. Previously, it had been a mission (two flights or boat ride) to access Bali’s easterly neighbour from Perth but thanks to Air Asia, accessibility just got made easier with direct flights from Perth to Lombok launching on 9th June.
Here we highlight the best bits of Lombok to help determine why it should be your next Indonesian getaway.
So what does Lombok have that Bali doesn’t have?
It has been said by many that Lombok is what Bali used to be 30 years ago. Lombok’s draw cards can crosscheck those with Bali – yoga, hiking, diving, surfing – except its scenery is what makes this island the peaceful paradise it is.
Forming part of the Sunda Islands chain, Lombok is the Ying to Bali’s Yang, with a different pace of life experienced on the island as a whole. It remains relatively untapped and not overcrowded with tourists (unlike Bali), so you are less likely to be in earshot of a fellow Australian accent.
Lombok’s towns are sparsely spread out, and its coastline almost void of massive beachside developments (except for some major hotel chains) stacked around the island coastline. Instead, many of its pristine sandy beaches are occupied with small boats and wooden shacks (if that) including low key beaches Mawun, Tanjung Aan and Selong Belanak, making a trip to the coast a much humbler experience without the gritty tourist fanfare.
Despite being the island’s focal point for tourist shops, bars and restaurants, its central hub Senggigi does not mirror all day and all night hustle and bustle of Kuta. Like Bali, Lombok has its unique natural wonders that are worth venturing to beyond the island’s main tourist strip (so get ready for the workout!).
Diving into adventure
The island’s main attractions are the heavenly Gili Islands (Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno), located off Lombok’s west coast (15 minutes by speedboat). These islands are a haven for those ocean babies wanting to dip their toes in calm turquoise waters or who want to experience the depths of Indonesia’s most famed snorkelling and diving spots.
As popular as the Gilis are for its vibrant marine life and reefs, it is also a well-known breeding ground for sea turtles. It is possible to arrange tours to see the hatchings so expect cuteness overload.
It’s not all about seeking out the living and breathing as found within swimming distance of the Gili Meno coast are Indonesia’s most impressive underwater art sculptures. The famous life-size monument comprises of 48 life-size humans both standing and curled together in a circular formation. The epic artwork is expected to help rejuvenate coral life.
Above ground, the most bustling island out of the three is Gili Trawangan. It’s Lombok’s answer to our very own Rottnest Island with bikes dominating the car-free island. It the ultimate low-key backpacker mecca, favoured for its simple yet basic, quirky beach bars dotting its coastline and jungle vibes felt inland.
Reaching new heights
Lombok has several scenic vantage points to soak up the stunning landscapes of the island from all angles.
Merese Hill is a local favourite clifftop spot to catch a glimpse of an epic Indonesian sunset producing enough colour pastels to rival a Rainbow Paddlepop.
Sitting shy of 3,800 metres above sea level is Indonesia’s second highest volcano, Mount Rinjani. Hiking the mountain is currently off limits due to 2018 deadly earthquake however you can still take in its stunning views around Crater Lake.
Traditional life is all (martial) arts and crafts
Lombok is home to one of the country’s most colourful indigenous populations, Sasak, which accounts for 85% of the island’s population. To have a glimpse into the traditional life of the Sasak culture, take a tour through the local Sasak village, Sade.
The tiny village is home to around 700 inhabitants living in thatched housing with floors sporadically polished with cow dung. The village’s local economy thrives with crafting traditional pottery and weaving products – both of which can be witnessed in the creation and purchased onsite.
A visit to Sade is not all about the crafts with the exciting martial art Peresehan also practised within the small community. It makes for a nail-biting watch as the technique involves two men dressed as warriors whacking rattan sticks at each other using a cowhide shield used for defence. Luckily, it only a friendly match, so you don’t need to be fearful with each blow felt.
However, the only thing you would need to feel fearful of is how Lombok will leave you with an unrelenting urge to keep returning to its peaceful, pristine shores.
Kila Senggigi Beach Hotel – 4-star hotel. Garden rooms and beach and deluxe bungalows available.
Novotel Lombok – 4-star hotel. Room, suites, traditional Sasak and private pool villas available.
Book your flights to Lombok with AirAsia.
Image Source: Julia D’Orazio
Julia travelled as a guest of Visit Indonesia Tourism and AirAsia.