Featured photo by Olivia Brady
The purr of the engine bounces up through the scooter and vibrates through my veins as we make our way along winding sandy roads, not another person in sight. The breeze tickles my cheeks and soothes the heat on my neck before fluttering through the branches of the trees that we leave behind us. We are in Lombok, and I love it.
Lombok is the unassuming neighbour of the vastly popular Indonesian island, Bali. Holiday-makers and backpackers come far and wide to see the dynamic beauty and colourful culture of Bali, and many choose to head over to one of the three little Gilli islands, but Lombok is often missed off of travellers’ destinations list. And I have no idea why. Although, having said that, it being a road decidedly less trodden does somewhat add to its charm.
And charming it is; with vast expanses of openness and the untouched beauty of its countryside, and its locals who are truly beautiful, inside and out. Boasting a plethora of waterfalls, mountains and beaches to explore; with villages and temples heaving with the Sasak culture; and the endless opportunities for surfing, snorkelling, horse riding, trekking and much more; it is difficult to understand why anyone wouldn’t want to come here. But once you do, you will be convinced that you have not stayed long enough.
Here are some of my personal highlights:
Pura Batu Bolong, located in the Northern town of Senggigi and known as Lombok’s Tanah Lot, at sunset is not something to be missed. If not for the little temple itself, then for the bbqs held on the beach which epitomise the character of the locals. Blankets are laid down for anyone and everyone to sit on and share in the beautiful moment of the sun sinking down past the horizon and dropping into the sea.Offerings are presented at the water temple every evening at this time as the waves splash up against the supporting rock formation, reflecting the orange hues of the setting sun. There is something irresistible about this time of day; as the day fades away and offerings are made, there is an overwhelming air of positivity and a sense of the opportunity for new beginnings. No matter what has happened today, tomorrow is always a new day. And in Lombok, tomorrow is likely to be a good one.
There are countless waterfalls to be found on this island, but if you go to just one, make sure it is Tiu Kelep. Head towards Senaru in the North-Eest, a small village nestled in the shadow of the infamous Rinjani (one of the main things that attracts people to Lombok is the 3-day hike up this volcano, however due to its recent explosive behaviour, we decided to give that one a miss). As your guide shows you the way around the mountainous countryside, next to rivers and through forests, take a moment to stop and listen to the collective melodies of the birds and crickets and take in the breathtaking views to your left.
You will hear the waterfall before you see it: the noise of water erupting over cliff edges and splashing down the rock face will grow louder and louder as you make your way over rocks and through the river (make sure you wear shoes you don’t mind getting wet and tread carefully here, as it can be pretty slippery).
Tiu Kelep is without a doubt the coolest waterfall I have ever seen, and somewhat outshines its neighbours (soz guys). You can take a dip in the crystal clear pool at the base of the fall, or simply enjoy gazing up at the pristine beauty in front of you. Watch out for a rainbow painting the air in front of you as the sun’s loving rays stroke the falling water.
An absolute must for a visit to Lombok is to hop on a scooter and explore the array of alluring beaches which hug the Southern coast. Kuta beach is a good place to set up base for exploring this part of the island. With an authentic surfer town feel, Kuta has a number of cool, locally-run bars and restaurants and absolutely none of the pretension or tackiness of the Kuta in Bali. It is also home to a number of fantastic yoga classes and is surrounded by untouched mountainous landscapes boasting gorgeous views.
Kuta beach itself is bursting with natural beauty, it is one of the nicest beaches I have ever seen – until we head further afield that is. We rarely have the privilege of seeing beaches that are yet to be built upon these days; just vast expanses of flat grassland, gradually transforming itself into pearly white sand before slipping under a sparkling clear turquoise ocean. Tanjung An is precisely this. Idyllic to say the least and irresistibly picturesque.For a view across the Tanjung An area, take a short hike up a neighbouring hill to a ridge which stretches out into the sea and overlooks the beach. For surfing spots head West to Selong Belanak or go East to Gerepuk, and for larger waves to Seger beach. If you have the time, continue further East along the coastline to Pantai Tangsi to see ‘the pink beach’, imaginatively named due to its pastel hues caused by the abundance of coral mingling with the sand.
I have never seen so much exquisite beauty in one place, and I am painfully aware that it is unlikely to stay this way for much longer. It opens up a whole debate which has two vastly contrasting faces. Without the steady income from factories exporting goods internationally, tourism becomes a fundamental monetary source for poor and developing countries. So therefore, investing in the tourism industry and boosting the island’s appeal as a holiday destination can surely only be a good thing. This would inject more money into the economy, provide more jobs and improve the quality of life for the local population. All good things, right?
However, the greater the influx of tourists into a country, the greater the need for infrastructure and the greater the demand for developing on what is currently untouched, pristine landscape. There is also the danger that the soul of a place may be sucked right out of its chest with every new shop or hotel that is built.
Still, riding around the lovely Lombok, with the sun on my back, sand in my toes and sea in my hair, I can safely say this is my favourite place on our trip so far. I felt at home as soon as my feet touched the ground and I really could not recommend it more. But I do hope that, as more people begin to realise its magic and fall for its charm, it manages to maintain its allure, because I have every intention of returning here one day.