Part of Indonesia’s West Nusa Tenggara province, the island of Lombok has often been hailed as an unspoiled version of its more famous neighbour, Bali. The rich and enduring culture of the indigenous Sasak people add to the charm; the Sasak language is more widely spoken here than Bahasa. Capped by the mighty Gunung Rinjani – itself a trekking mecca – in the north of the island, Lombok’s coastline is a drawcard for plenty of visitors who come to dive, snorkel or surf. Although it’s blanketed by lush greenery, its climate is dramatically drier than neighbouring Bali, making it an attractive option during the October/April rainy season.
Recommended Number of Days: 4
Principle Activity: Hiking, Diving, Surfing
A trio of islands (Gili Air, Gili Meno, Gili Trawangan) scattered along the northwestern shore of Lombok, they are popular with divers and backpackers. The turquoise-tinted, warm waters are home to deepwater coral reefs that teem with sharks, rays and turtles. The laid-back islands (especially Gili Trawangan) are slowly gaining notoriety in the luxury resort circle, while Gili Meno is still a good setting for Robinson Crusoe adventures.
Dotted around Lombok are a number of Sasak villages that produce a variety of traditional handicraft. Unique pottery can be bought in the famous villages of Banyumulek (West Lombok), Penujak (Central Lombok) and Masbagik (East Lombok), while weaving villages of Sukarare (West Lombok), Puyung (Central Lombok) and Pringgasela (East Lombok) offer colourful textiles.
An agrarian region of Lombok, the undulating, low-lying hills are blanketed with rice paddies and tobacco fields. Noticeably drier than the rest of Lombok and more sparsely populated, villages here are supported by traditional weaving, pottery and handicraft production, while offshore, the small fishing industry is supported by seaweed and pearl harvesting. Most visitors come for the legendary surf waves, which are bordered by massive headlands and sheer cliffs.
Located near Senaru on the slopes of Mount Rinjani is the picturesque Sindang Gila falls, which is beautifully framed by rich verdant forest. You can swim here, or head 1 hour further up to Tiu Kelep falls, where there is a natural water slide in the deep pool at the top.
Thanks to the protection from the fierce swell of the Indian Ocean, Lombok’s dive sites are suitable for all levels of divers. The Lombok Strait between Bali and Lombok is rich in underwater life, housing over 3,500 different marine species (more than the Great Barrier Reef). Lombok’s better diving spots are situated around Gili Islands and Blongas Bay (South Lombok). Gili’s underwater topography combines slopes, drop-offs and plateaus that house a large variety of marine life including morays, turtles and angelfish. Blongas Bay has a lot of currents and swells, where you can spot large pelagic like sharks, rays and mackerels.
The warm, turquoise waters of South Lombok’s coast draw plenty of international surfers. Huge waves with barrels that run forever and challenging surf can be had at Bang-Bangko (southwestern tip), while the most popular spot for casual surfers (as well as those learning to surf) is around Kuta. The best months to surf are between Sept-Dec and Feb-May.
The second highest volcano in Indonesia, Gunung Rinjani (3,726m) dominates Lombok’s landscape. Surrounding the mountain is Mount Rinjani National Park, which is heavily forested and thrives with birdlife including honeyeaters, cockatoos and green parrots. The (still active) mountain is a major draw for trekkers, and a trek to the top passes thick forests and picturesque waterfalls. Many make it only to the crater rim (with amazing views of the crater lake, Segara Anak), as the further 1,000m ascent is more challenging. An organised 2D/1N trek is the easiest option (the park stipulates the use of a certified guide), although longer 3-4 day treks can also be had. The best time to hike is between April – November.