While Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country, its population is spread across 17,508 islands, both large and small, and strung like a 7000km pearl necklace around the neck of the equator. After two weeks in Bali, we were ready to see more and we headed off to Padang Bai Harbour, where we boarded a high speed boat, to explore one of the smallest of the Indonesian archipelago.
Three tiny islands lie off the east coast of Lombok, and Gili Air, like the story of the Three Bears was just right for us. As you can see from the picture above, no cars or motorbikes, and the fewest visitors of the three, it is the quintessential, deserted tropical island, set in an emerald sea and fringed by white sandy beaches. Easily accessible coral reefs, teaming with sea life, lay just offshore. We lazed our way through three relaxing days, reading, walking and snorkeling. Our accommodations at Sejuk Cottages were also just right – basic, but pleasant and the breakfasts each morning were more than adequate.
The larger island of Lombok was a shorter, more relaxing boat trip from Gili, and while we were initially attracted to the pottery of Lombok, we found one of the most beautiful, white, sandy beaches that we’ve ever experienced. Kuta Beach is sheltered from the strong forces of the open ocean by two large headlands, flanking each side of the beach and creating a crescent of powdery, white sand. To our continued good fortune, we found this jewel all but deserted, on each of the three days we were there.
This beautiful beach came with a price… our luxurious accommodations at the Novatel Resort were slightly over $100/nt, so this 4-star resort was a tad above our Indonesian travel budget. But it was a nice little splurge, and definitely well worth the extra rupiahs. The grounds were beautiful, including this hidden garden pool which I had completely to myself.
The resort has two restaurants offering good menu choices and generous portions, but… it’s a resort – you’re a captive audience, and resort prices are typically on the higher side. Fortunately, it’s easy to escape from their clutches. We hired a driver take us into town and do a return pick-up. Our Indonesian meal at the Ketapang Cafe in Kuta was certainly more reasonably priced, but even better, we got to explore another little town before our 9:30 pick-up arrived to whisk us back to the resort.
Lombok has just opened an International Airport and there are many other signs that it is being groomed as the next Bali. I asked many on Lombok, how did they felt about this; was this development going to be good or bad for their island? Their answers were always the same – it will provide jobs for our people and we will have a better life. We must be careful, therefore, from our own lofty lifestyles, not to judge too harshly.
Our Trip Advisor Best Picks for Gili Air & Lombok – Accommodation & Eating
- Sejuk Cottages, Gili Air – basic with air-con; great breakfasts
- Novatel Resort, Kuta, Lombok – worth the splurge; a great beach
- Ketapang Cafe, Kuta – a reasonably priced alternative to resort food
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