Lombok 2012 Trip Report
Replies: 10 - Last Post: Nov 20, 2012 6:46 AM Last Post By: Momokalah
Nov 12, 2012 11:24 PM
Lombok 2012 Trip ReportGetting there
I traveled to Lombok for 2 weeks at the start of a 3 month trip around SE Asia with my two children. We flew from Bali into the new international airport (in Praya) and caught a taxi up to the port at Bangsal to catch a boat across to Gili Meno - this was a big mistake in planning. Having traveled to Lombok and the Gilis many times in the past (this was my 7th trip), I was not aware when I booked that the airport had moved to Praya (it is still called Mataram Airport on the tickets!), nor was I aware at how good and reputable the fast boat services from Bali to the Gili Islands has become. It is the way that most people travel to the Gilis.
We stayed 5 days on Gili Meno at some bungalows at the end of the main beach called Biru Meno. The bungalows were nice, although (in my opinion) everything in Gili Meno is very overpriced, especially in high season. They were nothing special for how much we paid. We loved Gili Meno though, and spent a sumptuous 5 days lazing on the beach, looking at the turtle sanctuary (my kids were entranced!), snorkelling and diving, walking and eating lots of lovely seafood. Great! It is a very very special place.
We then went from Gili Meno to Gili Trawangan which I was half expecting to hate - I only went at the insistence of my two children. However, we were very pleasantly surprised. I had visited the Gilis many times but had always been put off by the party island reputation of Gili Trawangan. Reputation of loud noise and drunk backpackers. That was not the experience we had of the place at all. It is certainly more developed than Gili Meno, and to that extent, I will go out on a limb and say that it is possibly not as picturesque..... but it is much better value - they each have their pros and cons. We stayed at a place called Marta's Guesthouse which we loved. The owner, Jo, is absolutely lovely and incredibly helpful. It is a really nice place, set back a little from the beach and therefore quiet. We really enjoyed our 3 days in Trawangan, and whilst ultimately I probably still prefer Meno, people should not write it off - it has alot to offer. Better value that Meno, better food and eating options and lots of buzz and activity - and you can easily and cheaply jump on a boat and go to Meno for the day (its 15 minutes away!).
Mangsit Lombok and the amazing Santai Beach Inn!!
I have to declare at the outset my bias and state that Santai Inn is one of my favorite places to go in the world. Situated in Mangsit, north of Sengigi, it is a gorgeous little place that still harks back to many decades ago when travel in South East Asia was undeveloped and you could really get a sense of escape. Simple bungalows in a gorgeous garden, right on the beach, communal eating every night where staff and the owner (Pearl) join the guests.... this place is just superb. I cannot put my finger on what is so special about it, its ambiance, its sense of bohemia, Pearl herself (she is an absolute gem!), the setting, and the fact that you can go there for a week and do absolutely nothing but watch the coconut trees sway in the breeze. There are hardly any places like this any more - highly recommended. For those travelling to Lombok and looking for a base, I would highly recommend the Mangsit area as alot nicer than Sengigi. It is just 5 minutes north and is alot nicer.
Kuta and the South of Lombok
Kuta beach itself is nothing so special in my opinion, but there are some stunning beaches just a short drive around the coast from Kuta and the area should not be missed. The most spectacular of all is Mawan Beach, about a 20 minute drive west of Kuta - be aware that you will need a motorbike or jeep (normal cars will not make it along this road). It is one of the nicest beaches I have ever seen anywhere and worth the trip, even if you drive down there for the day from Sengigi. And along the way, a stop at the incredible Ashtari Cafe, which overlooks the entire coastline from a high vantage point - this place is really something very special. Incredible food, lots of vegetarian options, salads, smoothies, chocolate brownies and cakes - delicious food, amazing view and ambiance - in itself Ashtari is almost worth the drive south. And make sure you allow a bit of time. This is not a cafe to rush in and out of.
Suggested time frames and itineraries
Allow at least 5 days (in my opinion) for the Gilis and another 5 for Lombok. It is a great place and so under-traveled compared to Bali. I would also recommend getting your own transport (motorbike or jeep) - Lombok is alot easier to drive in than other parts of Indonesia and you will see so much more if you have your own wheels.
Nov 13, 2012 2:28 PM
Nov 13, 2012 4:59 PM
2Great report. Santai is also a favorite of mine, I've been staying there regularly for about 18 years and it really hasn't changed much in all of that time, while around it the world has changed. There are many regular guests there, and it is quite common for guests to come for 2 days and stay 2 weeks. I know exactly what you mean about the days passing by doing nothing.. watching the swaying palms from my hammock...
I have to say though, the fast boat option to the Gilis is still a dangerous one. Travel time from Bali between flying and fast boats is similar even with the airport at Praya, you just change the island on which you do the land journey (assuming your initial departure point in Bali is near Denpasar). It is only a matter of time before lives are lost on one of the fast boat operations, and I would never risk the life of my child on one of those boats. They are not designed for the conditions under which they operate.
Nov 13, 2012 11:05 PM
3Louise 294 Not only loved your post but found the suggestions for accom,how to get there,even a possible program.the Gilli Is comparson ,etc,all extremely useful and descriptive. We will have time on Gilli and Lombok prior to Komodo and Flores next year.
Thanks Louise--glad you enjoyed the trip. Sabresail.
Nov 14, 2012 1:25 AM
4Excellent and realistic appraisal, Louise.
A few more tips to put on my list for my visitors on Lombok.
Nov 14, 2012 2:40 AM
Nov 16, 2012 12:19 AM
6Hi Freogirl, that's interesting you should say that re the fast boats - I have also been travelling over there for many years and that was certainly the widely held view right up until our last visit (that they were unsafe - thats why we never looked into doing it that way). However...... I found that this time it had really shifted - there were a range of operators and the word was that there had been a big improvement in the standard of the boats and on-board equipment - a few people reassured me (quite convincingly) that it was now OK so long as you did your homework regarding the company & avoided travel in rough weather / conditions. But to be honest, I have no way of knowing if that is correct. I did notice that almost everyone on the Gilis this time had used the fast boats, so they have certainly caught on..... there was hardly anyone flying through Lombok. That is a shame though in itself as Lombok is such a great place and its sad that many people may skip it altogether now that it is not seen as necessary as a jump-off to the Gilis. I think Lombok is one of the absolute highlights of Indonesia. Louise
Nov 17, 2012 8:26 PM
7Hi Louise, actually various fast boat operations continue to break down with regular monotony. There are quite a few different operators now and hardly any of them have suitable craft for the conditions that exist in the Lombok Strait. I think many folks have no idea what they are getting themselves in for when they take the fast boat option.
Currently, flights to Lombok from Bali are often booked out days in advance. I think that is partly due to all but a couple of the airlines now having accessible internet bookings, and also Lombok itself is receiving an increased number of tourists. Occupancy rates in the hotels - from high end to budget - are very good. The better places continue to book out well ahead of the high season, and most places continue to have very strong bookings into the "low season" or at least into the time of year when numbers traditionally dropped off and they no longer do. So for many, even if they wished to take the flight option, they would not be able to unless they booked well in advance.
I fear that inevitably one of the many and regular break downs that occur on a variety of the fast boat operations will lead to a tragedy. It really has been dumb luck so far.
I am not aware of any concerted effort by the various fast boat operations in general to lift their game. Crew are still poorly trained, boats are still poorly equipped and maintained, and overcrowding continues to occur. That is not the case of ALL operations, but I would only count a couple as being anywhere near the kind of standard that most western tourists just expect because it is seamlessly in place in their own countries.
I don't know how you can accurately judge if the weather conditions will be suitable for a fast boat crossing. You can't observe what the seas are like from either Padang Bai or Benoa. The Benoa crossing absolutely gives my the horrors, and actually a local boat went down with large loss of life earlier this year going to Nusa Penida from Benoa. Even if you did say use the internet to get a weather forecast, likely it would be too late to get on a plane due to them being booked out in advance as I mentioned above.
This has led many times to people being stranded on the Gilis or Lombok as the weather is unsuitable for a fast boat crossing and the airlines are all booked out - as soon as the weather turns bad any available seats are snapped up.
It is undeniable that there has been significant investment in boat transport from Bali to Lombok and the Gilis. What is lacking is regulation and any real assurance of safety. My point is that it may take a major tragedy for that to be put in place.
Nov 18, 2012 1:45 PM
Nov 20, 2012 5:16 AM
9Thanks for the links ppamela. Look at the picture of the boats in use (even the ones with a few positive reviews mixed with negative) and think about 60km of open ocean in the Lombok Strait - a body of water notoriously dangerous. I guarantee those with a positive experience were lucky enough to strike good weather.
Nov 20, 2012 6:46 AM
10I've bounced across Lombok Straits more than a few times and - yes - drivers don't adjust their speed to the conditions.
I prefer the deeper-hulled boats such as Wahana and Bluewater Express to the wide, shallow ones used by Marina Srikandi and Blue Beach, which seem to bounce across the water a lot more, proving a somewhat jarring experience.
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