For a change from our usual family holidays, I went with a few friends on a boy’s extended weekend away to Lombok, an island in Indonesia, just to the north of Australia. Our final destination was Gili Air, one of the three islands just off the north coast of Lombok, though we were interested in exploring some of the mainland before spending the rest of our holiday chilling out on the small island.
Although Lombok is only a short distance from Bali, it has not become a major tourist destination like its neighbour. A new airport is part of the plan to increase tourist numbers, though most people still head to Bali for their holiday.
However, with the introduction of direct flights to Lombok from Perth, and cheap $99 introductory flights, for us it was an opportunity too good to pass up.
The flight out of Perth left late in the afternoon, the 4-hour flight arriving near midnight. Therefore we decided for the first night to stay nearby at the dpraya Lombok Hotel. The hotel was quite new and surprisingly cheap at about $50 a night, which included a buffet breakfast.
We had organised before we left home to have a car and driver for the day. After we had eaten, the polite man was ready waiting to take us wherever we wanted. The day on the island had been planned out, finishing at the boat harbour later in the afternoon. To start our day exploring Lombok we were off to visit a local market, which would also enable us to get some supplies for the rest of the day.
The market, Pasar Tradisional Mantang, was not in everyone’s comfort zone. It was crowded and smelly, and the food products available were somewhat unusual. I was getting flashbacks to the time our family lived in Bali. A few words of Indonesian were coming back to me, enough words to greet the vendors and buy a few items. We left with some fruit, including yellow watermelon and mini pineapples.
Next, we drove to the base of Mount Rinjani to check out a couple of waterfalls. When we arrived we were taken to the “office” where you can choose which package you want to buy – how many waterfalls and if you want to go with a guide or not, and if you want to hitch a ride on a motorbike or hike there. A friendly guide led us through the forest, passing on a lot of useful information about the plants and animals we saw and the history of the area.
First, we walked to Benang Stokel, the twin waterfall was nice, though the second water wall we walked to, Benang Kelambu, was spectacular with the water coming out through the forest. There was also a small pool for swimming with a mini waterfall. A couple of us jumped on the back of a motorbike and enjoyed a drink and snack at a cafe near the entrance.
Heading north, we stopped at a small local warung, Olivia Kedai. I had found this small cafe on google maps, thankfully it was clean with a good choice of traditional food on our first day. The waiter was friendly but did not speak much English, so we had to use Google to translate most of the menu. Everyone was happy to try some new things, but we drew the line on horse meat.
It was another hour drive to the north coast, passing through the Pusuk Monkey Forest where you can hand-feed the local monkeys, though we didn’t stop. Being mobbed by monkeys was not appealing, we were keen to continue on.
Our driver dropped us at Bangsal Harbour in the afternoon, with just enough time to catch one of the last boats over to Gilli Air.
We were offered a private speed boat to transfer from Bangsal to Gili Air, but we wanted to go local! We got a little frustrated waiting for the boat to slowly fill up, so we offered to buy all the remaining tickets. It was a good move, as it not only meant we left sooner, but the boat was not as packed as it may have been.
We had arrived on Gilli Air, having had a busy, adventurous and very enjoyable day. Our holiday had just begun.
We had skipped through Lombok, just getting a taste. There are a few other good places to visit on the mainland and it would be worthwhile to spend longer if you have the time, like exploring the north coast, having an early morning climb of Mount Rinjani, and checking out the west coast beaches.