As the next door neighbor of Bali, Indonesia’s most famously un-rivaled island, Lombok lies just 25 kilometers eastward in the shadow of Bali’s economic success due to tourism. Bali upholds it’s reputation as a beautiful island with a magical atmosphere and plenty of ancient history to be explored, but Bali is often criticized by hard core backpackers for being spoiled by tourism; specifically drunken Aussie tourists. Despite the significant influx of tourists in recent years, Bali is still worth a visit, but Lombok presents an alternative to the sadly Americanized Bali and is reputed to be what Bali used to be like.
Senggigi: If you take a boat to Lombok from the Gili Islands or straight from Bali, you’re likely to land in Senggigi, a port town that will serve as a jumping point for other areas of Lombok and other islands. This is a good place to book transport and tours such as a trek up Lombok’s volcano Gunung Rinjani, or the Lombok-Komodo boat trip. For more info on this spectacular four day boat journey, check out this link: (Link to ‘wildlife in Indonesia’).The town itself is unassuming and rather dull, and the surrounding beaches are both beautiful and heart wrenching. Because the ash from Gunung Rinjani has been swept by the wind to the west of the island over thousands of years, Senggigi’s beaches are lined with black sand. From a distance they will look more dark grey than black and the water will have a deep blue ominous color beneath the crashing waves. Up close, the black sand sparkles in the sun and makes streaks where the waves recede. These beaches are heart wrenching because although they’re unique and beautiful, they’re also lined with garbage. So much garbage that you probably won’t want to swim. For a little taste of the “unspoiled Bali” walk south along the beach until you reach a Hindu temple that towers above the ocean and is surrounded by craggy rocks. Unlike most of the temples in Bali, Hindu worshipers will far outnumber tourists, in fact you’re likely to be the only travelers there. With stunning ocean views, rising smoke from burning incense, and locals ceremoniously bathing in the ocean below, this temple will give you every bit of that magical Balinese feeling.
Kuta, Lombok: This is confusing because both Bali and Lombok have a Kuta beach, both are on the south side of their respective islands, and both are surfing hot spots. Kuta, Lombok however is not nearly as crowded by drunken tourists, and the scenery is far nicer than that of Kuta Beach, Bali. This is a great place to surf if you’re a pro looking for some huge rip curls, but also a great place to try surfing for the first time. You’re likely to be able to book a surfing lesson through your guesthouse that will include a surf board, an instructor, and a motorbike ride to and from a beautiful beach with four foot waves perfect for beginners. If you decide to go this route for your surfing experience, make sure you ask your instructors, or your guesthouse to make sure you’ll have helmets for the motor bike ride. The roads are windy and steep, and your driver is not likely to be cautious. Yet another of Bali’s landmark attractions; surfing, can also be done on Lombok and with much less of a crowd.
Lombok is economically depressed especially in the low season, and will appreciate your dollars. You may have more intimate and personal connections with locals in Lombok than in Bali and you may find that you get a more down to earth, raw experience of Indonesian culture.