Lombok, Stay and surf in Indonesia’s beautiful Lombok
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MT RINJANI bursts triumphantly through thick, white clouds, providing our first real glimpse of Lombok from the windows of the inaugural direct flight between Australia and the idyllic Indonesian island.
Despite being active, the enormous folds of the country’s second-tallest volcano are blanketed by a lush green, much like most of Lombok’s northern regions. Flying overhead, the healthy terrain and budding crops below look something like an emerald patchwork quilt covering the earth.
The Lesser Sunda Island, in the West Nusa Tenggara province, is Jetstar’s fifth destination in Indonesia and the carrier now flies there, direct from Perth, four times a week.
It’s no secret that Australians, and in particular Western Australians, love Indonesia. It’s a picturesque and relatively cheap getaway, which can be tailored to suit those from honeymooning couples to party-loving 20-somethings.
With an estimated 850,000 WA travellers jetting across to Indonesia every year, Bali has become a holiday hot spot and tourism there is well and truly booming. But, with its white and black sand beaches, surf breaks, mountain trekking, natural beauty, traditional villages and luxurious resorts, the less-frequented island of Lombok, is vying for attention.
Our plane cruises into the international airport and we’re greeted by the warmest of welcomes. Cheerful children, dressed in beautiful traditional outfits, sing and dance as we’re offered welcome drinks and scarfs to celebrate the first flight. The excitement in the air is as palpable as the humidity.
The plunge pool in the presidential suite. Source: Supplied
During our airconditioned bus ride to our first accommodation, Novotel Lombok, it quickly becomes apparent what people mean when they say the island is like “Bali 20 to 30 years ago”.
It’s a slower pace of life here, tourists are relaxing rather than partying or shopping, and much of the land seems untouched by the effects of tourism.
The streets are lined with makeshift stalls selling anything from fruits to fizzy drinks and there is litter everywhere.
A 19km drive from the airport, Novotel Lombok is secluded 4-star beach resort in the island’s south.
It’s a clean, private paradise on the edge of Kuta beach, which boasts white sand and warm, crystal clear waters.
But if you don’t fancy braving the rough coral and reef, there’s an infinity pool and a volleyball net just metres from the water’s edge. I opted for a dip in the warm waters of the pool as soon as we arrived and spent about an hour floating lazily around in a plastic tube.
As well as a spa and a fitness centre, there are two bars and two restaurants in the complex.
We ate at the Novotel Spice Market restaurant, which features a daily themed-buffet of international foods and is situated on the beachfront, for both dinner and breakfast. The bars are low-key and I lounged around at the beachfront Breeze Bar with an inexpensive pina colada in hand, watching the sunset before the buffet opened that night.
The resort offers an array of different rooms and suites and I set up home in one of the lavish one-bedroom private pool villas for the night. They’re neat, spacious abodes, with big beds, big bathrooms and a private deck overlooking a plunge pool, which is shared by about four bungalows.
Not even a minute’s walk from my room, there is a convenience store, which is open until 10pm, selling everything from snacks to stylish clothes. Not one for haggling in the villages, I picked up two gorgeous scarfs there for about $14 each.
I only wish we had a little more time at the Novotel although I manage to squeeze in a relaxing morning walk on the private beach, I would have loved to try my hand at the activities offered such as kayaking, snorkelling or beach football. Plus, there are plenty of activities nearby, such as horse treks.
A day bed on the beach out the front of Hotel Tugu. Picture: Kristy Symonds Source: Supplied
After a buffet breakfast, which served everything from fresh fruit, including tiny bananas, to crispy bacon and an assortment of cheeses, we pack our bags and head on a road trip to Sade Traditional Village and Sukarara Weaving Village, where we get a glimpse of what life is like for the locals.
Sade, a few kilometres north of Kuta, is home to about 700 Sasak people and, with its inhabitants encouraged to marry cousins, 15 generations of the one family have lived there. They make their living selling handmade textiles.
In Sukarara, girls begin learning how to weave beautiful garments including scarves and sarongs by the age of 14.
Apparently, those who don’t know how to weave will have a little trouble landing a hubby.
As for the men, they work in the fields. Sukarara is in the south, and the dry land means crops are only planted about once a year unlike in the island’s west, where planting happens three times a year.
Don’t let the unkempt animals wandering the village grounds deter you, the people are fascinating and full of warmth. Having a chat to them and learning about their everyday lives is worth the visit alone.
Just like in Bali, the tap water isn’t fit for drinking in Lombok so it’s wise to keep bottled water on hand to help fight off the humidity. Most guided tours use airconditioned buses and hand out fresh, moist towels to cool off with during the day.
Lunch on the second-storey dining area of boutique hotel Villa Sayang provides another breathtaking view of Mt Rinjani. The quiet little hotel is a bit off the beaten track but it’s only a two-hour drive to reach the national park at the foot of Rinjani and it is only 30 minutes from Senggigi town.
We have a buffet dinner at The Santosa Villas and Resort, a privately owned hotel about 10 minutes’ drive from where I checked in for the next two nights, the Puri Mas. The buffet was delicious and featured a variety of salads, soft beef tenderloin and sauteed potatoes and mushrooms.
After a long day, Puri Mas is a sight for sore eyes. It’s a 37-room Senggigi hotel with rooms for both the budget-conscious and the bigger spenders. I was living the life of luxury within the gated presidential villa in the sultan room. The villa has a private plunge pool and my room had a gorgeous outdoor bathroom, which featured a twin shower and huge bathtub.
There’s even a little lounge area to sit in and sip your tea, rich wooden flooring and what can only be described as a giant bed, draped in a mosquito net.
The view from the poolside bungalow at Novotel Lombok. Source: Supplied
The main space is decked out in traditional artefacts and a china cabinet. While the presidential villa will set you back anywhere between $US950 and $US1500 ($A1007 to $A1590) a night, the cozy budget room starts from just $US90 a night and there’s plenty of options in between.
Breakfast the next morning is another buffet at Puri Mas’ elegant beachfront restaurant The Beach Terrace. After a couple of pieces of french toast, it was off to scope out Hotel Tugu. The owner of this detail- rich 19-room resort is an avid antique collector and bits and bobs from many different cultures pepper the place.
There’s an 18- hole golf course across the road and a white sand beach with turquoise waters in the front yard. It’s from here we catch a wet and bumpy ride on a traditional wooden boat to the picturesque Gili Meno Island.
Gili Meno is paradise – I’ve never seen such blues in the water and such white sand.
Lombok boasts some pretty stunning scenery but, for me, this took the cake. It’s unspoilt and unlike Gili Trawangan, which is known for its faster paced and partying lifestyle, Meno is relaxed and quiet.
Snorkelling here is a must – there are dozens of turtles swimming freely in the waters.
A three-course lunch at Mahamaya on Meno was backed up by a three-course dinner back at Puri Mas. You won’t go hungry in Lombok.
Although Puri Mas has a spa resort a couple of minutes down the road, I opted to soak up the last of the sunlight in my plunge pool before grabbing a cocktail and watching a famous Puri Mas sunset from the beach.
Puri Mas is the perfect place to relax. There’s an infinity pool, which has its own bar, beach views and lush green gardens to stroll through. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the staff are so caring and involved that it feels like staying with a friend of a friend.
Whether you want to kick back and relax or take on a few adventures, Lombok is a must-go destination in Indonesia.