Lombok Island: Know Before You Go
Lombok forms part of the Lesser Sundra Islands and is separated from Bali on the west by the Lombok Strait, and Alas Strait between it and Sumbawa to the east. Indonesia has 16,000-17,000 islands, depending who you listen to, and a population of over 300 million people!
It’s not surprising that tourism is the most important industry here with gorgeous beaches ranging from white sand to black volcanic sand. The most developed area is on the west coast of the island, centered around Senggigi, and caters to backpackers along with luxury seekers.
Getting to Lombok from Bali by Boat. Large and slow ferries (4-5 hours) travel between Padangbai, Bali to Lembar, Lombok, every 90 minutes around the clock. Or take one of the speedy BlueWater Express catamarans from Serangan that first stops at the Gili Trawangan before proceeding to Teluk Kode on the Lombok mainland.
Getting to Lombok from Bali by Air. There are daily flights from Denpasar to Mataram on Merpati (seven daily), Wings Air (four daily) and GT Air (two daily). Mataram is Lombok’s largest city.
Kuta in South Lombok has some of the best surfing in the world according to a leading surfing magazine and magnificent stretches of tranquil, white sand beaches. This is not Kuta, Bali. Lombok is rapidly turning into a second Bali so get here now. If you prefer a livelier atmosphere, wait for more development.
Tourists usually visit Lombok for R&R, do nothing but sit on a beach and/or head to one of the three, highly popular Gili Islands. These islands lie 1-5 kilometers/.6-3.1 miles off the mainland. Hop a public boat from Bangsal near Pemenang, from Senggigi or boat over from Bali. The closest Gili Island is Gili Air. Laid back Gili Meno is between Gili Air and Gili Trawangan. Gili Trawangan is “Party Central”; the largest and most visited with something always happening.
Mount Rinjani is Lombok’s other big draw for adventure seekers who hike to the crater lake. If you are serious about this, umpteen tour operators will be glad to make arrangements. Visit the Mount Rinjani website for detailed information. This hike is not a cakewalk! Prepare for either: 2 Days/1 Night with camping in a forest or meadow depending on where you stop; 3 Days/2 Nights hike; or go for broke and head to the summit on a 4 Day/3 Night climb. How many nights do you want to spend sleeping on top of a volcano? For us, zero. Lombok’s topography is dominated by this stratovolcano, the second highest volcano in Indonesia. It last erupted in May, 2010 when lava flowed into the caldera lake.
Lombok has a tropical climate with warm and humid weather all year round. The wet season runs from November to May. We visited in April and had constant rain! Climatologists are serious about statistics. Steve and I will never, and I do mean never, travel again without paying attention to climatic conditions. May is supposed to have the most perfect weather
Lombok population is over 3 million, Islam is the main religion, and 90% of the people are of Sasak origin. The Sasak people mix basic Islamic beliefs along with Hindu-Buddhist beliefs. This created the Wektu Telu religion. (More about how they co-mingle when we visit the Pura Lingsar Temple outside Mataram.)
I’ll jump ahead to “Hindsight is 20/20 in Lombok” right now. Focus on Lombok for R&R, beaches, partying on Gili Islands, and to climb Mount Rinjani. Spend only one day on cultural sights around Mataram and that’s Lombok in a nutshell.