2016/10/14

4-day luxury trip to Lombok

Lombok, paradisiacal  & unspoiled

Lombok, Bali’s neighboring island, lives in Bali’s shadow. Some say it is like Bali 30 years ago or an “unspoiled Bali”. Whereas I cannot judge the accuracy of this statement (my first visit to Bali was in 2014), I can report from my recent four-day luxury stay in the northwest of Lombok following another trip to Bali.

Lombok has a lot of offer. The scenery is splendid and varied – from rugged terrain to beautiful beaches for surfers as well as for beach bums. The locals are extremely hospitable – even more than in Bali – and Lombok is far less touristed than its neighboring island. And which is of interest to luxury travelers, it caters also for this travel segment.


Medana boating marina


Background information

Lombok is – like Bali – a tropical island, but its flora and fauna are not quite the same. Whereas the western part is similar to Bali, the eastern one is more Australian influenced, meaning it is drier and less fertile. The large majority of the inhabitants are Sasak people. They are related to the Balinese in terms of race and language, although they are Muslim (Balinese are Hindu). This can be clearly seen, the landscape is scattered with mosques & minarets. People wear their Islam lightly, it often is mixed-up with Hinduism and animism. Large parts of the population still live in relative poverty.


Tanjung near market place


Tourism

Lombok has plenty of tourism potential due to its natural beauty and the customary hospitality of its residents. There is a coastline of about 200 km where the most picturesque beaches can be found in the south. It is also suitable for nature lovers. There are trekking trails around the Mount Rinjani volcano in the northern part. The most developed tourism area is on the west coast around Senggigi and extends to Tanjung in the northwest at the foot of the before mentioned volcano including the highly popular Gili Islands Trawangan, Meno and Air.

After some setbacks for tourism the chances of success are better now. The big boom has not happened yet, but you can feel the tension. While in the mid-1980s low budget accommodation was predominant in Lombok, the trend has been reversed. Recently, some boutique hotels providing quality accommodation, food and drinks have been opened.


Gili Air


Luxury Travel

As far as facilities for luxury travel is concerned, they are all concentrated in the northwest near Tanjung on Sire and Medana Peninsula. There are a small number of luxury hotels – most notably The Lombok Lodge, the only reason why my husband and I ventured to come to Lombok –, a boating marina and a golf course.


The Lombok Lodge: view of pool & beach from room

The Lombok Lodge on Medana Peninsula is in all probability the most fancy hotel in Lombok. There are only 9 minimalistic rooms, a very friendly, helpful staff and the chef of its restaurant called Flavors prepares a really fantastic 5-course-dinner (included in the rate) every day. We enjoyed our stay at this fabulous boutique hotel very much, although there is no beach that merits this label. 


The Lombok Lodge: pool, dining area & bar

Another good choice for demanding travelers is probably also the hotel right next to the Lombok Lodge, the Oberoi, Lombok. I have seen the hotel only from the outside, but the reviews on TripAdvisor are good.


The Lombok Lodge: room


Excursion Tips

When staying in the northwest of Lombok and especially at The Lombok Lodge, there are following recommended excursions:

1. Gili Islands

As mentioned before the 3 Gili Islands are very popular with travelers. Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air are the best-known part of Lombok. These 3 islands can be reached directly by fast boat from Bali in about 2 hours or from Lombok (Sire Peninsula) in about 10 minutes. They are predominately a laid-back backpackers’ retreat, although they are lately – especially Gili Trawangen – aiming at being more tame and up market. There are no motorized vehicles on the Gili Islands and you find good snorkeling possibilities there, but unfortunately they face a huge problem with waste disposal (as other parts in Lombok, too).


Gili Air


Lombok is famous for pearl cultivation and there are several pearl farms that can be visited. Autore in Pemenang (northwest Lombok) offers a very interesting and informative pearl tour covering all aspects of pearl farming including the hatchery and the lab lasting about 1 hour. Pearls can be bought on site, thankfully without being pushed by the staff.


Autore Pearl Farm: extracting a pearl


3. Bicycle tour in Tanjung area

Travel by bicycle is quite possible in Lombok’s northwest as traffic is relatively light and the area has rather level grades. It provides a completely different cultural experience to other means of transport. Locals seek conversations with you all the time, which is a really good experience. When staying at The Lombok Lodge you can borrow bicycles for free and drive to the market in Tanjung, which is worthwhile visiting.


Tanjung: bicycling along rice fields


About 2 ½ hours from Tanjung area there are 2 waterfalls that seem to be worth a visit – we did not go there ourselves. To reach the waterfalls there is some walking and river crossing required, but apparently there is no need for a guide to do this.

Conclusion

Despite all the advantages Lombok can offer, its mainland sees but a fraction of the tourists Bali does. And when it comes to Lombok, the Gili Islands get all the love.

As far as infrastructure for luxury travel is concerned, the region of Sire and Medana Peninsula is about as close to a “luxury lane” as mainland Lombok gets. While every luxury is provided in hotels such as The Lombok Lodge, even for demanding travelers, there is no such infrastructure outside of these resorts. I would not recommend dining where the locals do unless you are an intrepid traveler.


The Lombok Lodge: starter "Selection of House-in Smoked Fish"



Lombok is the paradisiacal tropical island that many people still image Bali to be – although mistakenly. Hopefully, it will manage to take of as tourist hotspot and I sincerely wish that the development would go further in the direction of a high-quality tourism.


View of The Lombok Lodge from sea

Date of stay: September 2016

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