Circling the coastline, I stared out of the window as my flight from Denpasar made its descent into the first stop on our trip with ASEAN for their 50th anniversary, taking us to visit Lombok, Indonesia. Bright turquoise water, white sand beaches, and landscapes I’d only seen in movies grew closer and closer, a dream becoming more real by the second. Yawning to pop my ears, I settled back in my seat as we touched down for my first time on the other side of the world.
If you’re planning a trip to southeast Asia and are looking for an island paradise to take a break and soak up some sun, then you should plan to visit Lombok, Indonesia. Hailed as “the new Bali” since as far back as 2009 (according to a cursory Google search), the better-known island’s western neighbor is less developed and more of an “authentic” experience if that’s what you’re in search of. Driving through the little villages around the island, passing scooters, cars, and carriages pulled by little horses with crazy manes and quick trots, you’ll quickly fall for the local charm that Lombok has yet to lose to mass tourism.
Though the island is undergoing a great deal of development, many investors are learning from mistakes made on Bali and are implementing more eco-friendly ways to provide power and water to new villas and apartments, keeping down the level of pollution and preserving the natural environment. However, with all the new options for places to stay, it’s unlikely to remain untouched for long, so plan your trip to this as-yet-unblemished destination now!
This is why you should visit Lombok, Indonesia ASAP:
First things first: the sunsets are incredible…
… the sunrises, even more so.
There are abundant places to snorkel and dive, so if you’re an underwater enthusiast, Lombok is the destination for you. Gili Trawangan (aka Gili T) and Gili Air, off the northwest coast of the island, are the most popular, but we visited some of the smaller islands in the southwest. Gili Nanggu, Gili Tangkong, and Gili Kedis are all within 10-15 minutes of each other by boat (as is the one other island we didn’t visit, Gili Sudak). We snorkeled on Gili Nanggu, ate the freshest possible fish and coconuts on Gili Tangkong, and sunned ourselves on tiny little Gili Kedis. Our second hotel, Cocotinos Sekotong, made it really easy to access all of the islands- the tour boat picked us up right on the beach by the hotel’s pier!
If you’re a hiker, there are options depending on your level and enthusiasm. Mt. Rinjani (or Gunung Rinjani in Indonesian) is the second highest volcano in Indonesia, still active, and great for more advanced hikes. We opted for more of a soft trek up to the Merese Hills, overlooking Tanjung Aan Bay (pictured below left). At the top, we were rewarded with some amazing views, but unfortunately for our tour guide, we weren’t alone- he dropped his water bottle and a monkey ran off with it!
Tip: if you go hiking in Indonesia, don’t leave anything on the ground; you never know who might be around to grab it!
From local fish to tropical fruits, the food on Lombok is fresh and delicious, especially if you opt for dishes sourced from ingredients that can be found on the island. While the food at our hotels, Novotel Kuta Lombok and Cocotinos Sekotong, was great, my favorites were our lunch places: Laut Biru Bar & Restaurant in Selong Belanak (pictured below), which was the most photogenic, and the restaurant at Qunci Villas in Senggigi, which keeps its coconuts chilled and has the most incredible coconut chicken prawn savory crepes. I still regret not being able to finish them!
There are so many activities that feed into the economy, one of them being pearl farming. We had the chance on our last day to take a tour of Autore Pearl Farm and learn about how they cultivate the pearls, how difficult it is to keep an oyster alive and healthy to maturity (where it can produce a pearl), and the process that they use to implant foreign “debris” into the oyster in a way that the oyster won’t reject and will instead turn into a pearl. Each pearl takes years for the oysters to make, so it was incredibly interesting to see the scale at which the farm has to operate to remain a profitable business- even having to ward off underwater oyster thieves!
One trip to this island is not enough- I can’t wait to go back! Have you ever been to visit Lombok, Indonesia? What were your thoughts?
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