Introducing Southwestern Peninsula
The sweeping coastline that stretches west of Lembar is blessed with boutique sleeps on deserted beaches and tranquil offshore islands set in azure waters. Pearl Beach, Dive Zone's new resort on Gili Asahan, and Cocotino's both offer diving, which is certainly fun if not spectacular. And whether you are a diver or not, you can waste weeks here among the pearl farms, salty old mosques, friendly locals and relatively pristine islands – three of which have accommodation. Our favorites are Gili Gede, and the wonderful Gili Asahan, where soothing winds gust, birds flutter and gather in the grass just before sunset, muted calls to prayer rumble, stars and moon beams bathe the night in sweet tenderness, and silence is deep and nourishing.
The only blot on the landscape is the gold-rush town of Sekotong. The hills above Sekotong are rich in the precious metal, and up to 6000 locals mined illegally here in huge open-cast pits (using mercury) until a crackdown in December 2009. The unofficial and not so clandestine mining still continues despite government opposition and severe environmental damage.
You'll see some of those crude goldmines riddle the rugged hills as you follow the narrow (but paved) coastal road, along the contours of the peninsula, skirting white-sand beach after white-sand beach on your way to Bangko Bangko and Tanjung Desert (Desert Point) one of Asia's legendary surf breaks.