Indonesia for most travellers begins and ends in Bali. Little do they realize that the Indonesian archipelago has several other stunning islands, too, and Bali’s scenic beauty may fade in comparison to these.
Staying away from the crowded Bali was what we wanted, and a friend living Jakarta suggested Lombok. Thus we discovered this fabulous island, and it was worth it.
The 5-hour public ferry to Lombok starts at Padang Bai in Bali. There is also a fast boat service and there are speed boats, too. The ferry comes at a fraction of the cost of other options. Tickets are available at the harbour only. Buses, trucks, cars, and two-wheelers fill the lower deck of the ferry. Till the ferry starts, various peddlers hang around, selling coffee, snacks, and other knick-knacks. There was even a band playing! An in-ferry snacks bar sells instant noodles, biscuits, soft drinks, etc. The long ride was interesting in its own way. More than tourists, the service is used by locals. The tourists on board were backpackers.
The ferry takes you to the Lembar harbour, which is a good 1 hour drive away from main Lombok. From Lembar, we managed to get a taxi to Senggigi without much haggling. Senggigi is the tourist area of Lombok, while Mataram is the largest settlement. Mataram city is the commercial area.
Though tourism is the mainstay of the economy and there is a significant tourist inflow since the last decade or so, Lombok is, in a way, Bali stripped off its tourist hangover. The airport at Lombok brings in international tourists from Australia and other Asia-Pacific countries.
Rented bikes are the best way to get around Lombok. Well-laid curving roads along the mountainous terrain offer magnificent views of white-sand beaches and bluish-green ocean in every turn. It is lush greenery on one side and the infinite ocean on the other!
Gili Islands, a group of three islands, are famous for its watersports and homestays. Backpackers throng these islands. An hour of boat ride is all it takes to reach Gili from Senggigi.
We spent most of our time in Lombok riding a rented bike along the coastal roads and having lunch and snacks, and of course enough beer, in some of the many seaside restaurants. Rinjani volcano trek was an option, which we didn’t do because then we would not have been able to explore Lombok. But we felt there is too much sea around and it triggered a longing for woods. A hike to Kerandangan National park was how we quenched our thirst for forests.
Lombok also has its Kuta region down south and has enough hotels and beach resorts.
For return, we chose the fast boat service (about 1.5 hours). There are a couple of reliable private operators running this service at fixed times. This needs to be booked in advance.
If you are considering a vacation in Bali, we suggest splitting your time between Bali and Lombok.
There are also direct flights to Lombok from international destinations.