Lombok …. A Taste Of Indonesia…. Part II
Our trip to Indonesia and Lombok took us not only to mainland Lombok but to some of the outlying Gillis, both the smaller islands, Gilli Nanggu and Sudak in the South of Lombok and Gilli Trawangan off the West Coast – contrasting in every sense. The southern islands are heavenly, largely uninhabited and provide an opportunity for snorkelling – though the Indonesians are yet to fully understand conservation, encouraging tourists to feed the fish with bread in bottles – we did it too I am ashamed to say, without it we were invisible to the sealife. The bread encourages fish to swarm to the area for tourist driven photo opportunities but cheap white bread is not their natural diet … I imagine there are many carb bloated fish around the waters of Lombok!!
Gilli Trawangan is in contrast to Lombok, a party island for the young (and young at heart) … Gilli T is a little grubby around the edges, with a faint waft of the previous nights hedonistic over-indulgence. However head around the island towards the sunset beaches and though dusty there are fewer people and a less trampled-in grimy feel, you do have to be mindful of the speeding Cidomos (horse drawn carriages that speed around the island with tourists and their bags hurtling along and peeping their horns at unwitting pedestrians and cyclists alike, we liked to call them the Lombok Ferraris). Mr H and I enjoyed a cycle ride around the motor free island, the cycling was a triumph but despite my ample in-built padding the two hour stint was enough for both of us in the extreme heat. We attempted to snorkel but this was challenging due to boat traffic and a fierce drift that carried you along into the path of the numerous boats picking up and dropping off to the beach. We were promised turtles but sadly the only ones we got to see were at the turtle hatchery, which were very sweet but not what we had hoped for.
Lombok’s southern coast is drier, a little edgier but with the most spectacular beaches … we were encouraged to visit Kuta beach (nothing like its Bali namesake!) with some sweet little homestays and a clutch of small souvenir shops but for me the beach was a little disappointing, stony and sparse in the central part … it may have been better further around but we had already experienced the stunning sandy bay of Mawun beach and the rolling waves of Selong Balanak – two beautiful and in my mind superior beaches. Mawun is ideal for sheer relaxation with a small reef to snorkel around safely without too much in the way of boat traffic and Selong Balanak or the mirrored beach, a vast expanse of white sand with soft tumbling breaks for novice surfers – even I would have attempted a surf lesson here had I more time. For the serious surfer a boat can be taken to the huge breaks just off the coast.
We split all our sightseeing trips between a private driver from outside the resort and our hotel driver. The driver commissioned outside of the hotel was certainly cheaper and came recommended, pre booking our guide for the trekking to the waterfalls and a private boat transfer to Gilli Nanggu. He invited us to his home for tea and to meet his wife and children. Something we would not have experienced had we stuck only to our hotel driver. Each have their merits, maybe the hotel driver experience was a little more polished but the private driver was more amenable to going ‘off piste’.