We chose to visit Lombok because it sounded different to the more popular destinations in Indonesia. The idea of going somewhere unusual always appeals to us, especially when its away from the crowds. We had arrived in Senggigi Lombok via a boat from Bali. Having spent a few days in Holiday Resort Lombok relaxing and recuperating from our long trip from Europe we were ready to explore the Island. Not much exists in terms of information on circumnavigating Lombok so we looked at a map and worked out rough route as best could. Some places to stay and towns to visit could be planned, others we would have to decide on the fly. We had no idea of road conditions or how long it would take to cover distances. We did read about somebody driving around the Island in a day, leaving early and returning at night. How or why you would do this is crazy so please don’t try it. You’ll miss all the cool stuff!
We rented our bikes through a local on the beach in Senggigi. At 65000 IDR each p/day we were stoked. We’d found watermelon that cost that amount. The typical Honda Vario will do the job. (We put these bikes through their paces and they were great). We packed light and left most of our luggage at the hotel. We set off early from Senggigi and headed north. Our plan was to go clockwise to towards Mount Rinjani. Within 5 min we were loving it! The road takes you through some small villages, rice fields and past the port town of Bansul with views of the Gili Islands (our next destination).
Our first day took us to Bayan and Mt Rinjani. Here we stopped to see the much talked about waterfalls. Driving up into the village you will see signs and indications. We stopped at a small ‘office’ and paid our 155000 IDR pp (a local price apparently) to see the falls. Although quite expensive and something you could easily manage to do by yourself, you must pay up. You do get a guide and a few snacks thrown in! There are two waterfalls, the bigger one was already overcrowded, even though we were early, so we hurried back to the first for a shower. The walk is really beautiful and it is worth it. Try go early, of course.
Leaving Bayan to Sambelia is where the journey started to get interesting… The sighting of tourists disappeared and so did the road. Lol and no jokes! We might have missed the normal road, if there was one, but locals directed us to a dirt turn off that was more suited to the Dakar Rally. We eventually did come out on a proper road, and what a road it was! Winding along the coast with almost no other cars, or bikes. It was awesome! We also experienced our first, and only flat tire that afternoon. Lucky we were just entering a town and in 10 min and 30000k later all was fixed. Coincidently we had driven into Sambelia. We found lodgings at Pondok Siola – 500000 IDR for a night, a bit costly but we welcomed the comfort. We were the only visitors. It had a great beach with possible snorkeling and trips to the Gili’s close by ( leaving the town we saw some other homestays down the road but not many). We had a local dinner in town of Soto Ayam (local chicken soup), the best of our whole Indonesian trip, and a welcomed beer. Amazing!
The next day we headed down the east coast of the island. Here we passed through a few busier towns with noticeable industry. Mostly coconut plantations by the looks of it. The result was a bit of traffic and busy town vibes but no big deal. Still no other tourists. As a testament to how genuinely friendly the people are ( you’ll see for yourself ), we got flagged down by a tented procession on the side of the road. We’d just been in-promptly invited to a wedding! Having dressed ourselves to avoid the sun on the bikes we were oddly dressed for the occasion, and marched up onto the stage to meeting the bride, groom, and family and to pose for some pics. Gotta see it to believe it! We had to turn down the lunch invite as we had a road to drive but the whole experience was beautiful and endearing.
We headed to the south east point of Lombok and the famous Pink Beach. Here again the tar road disappeared, the scenery changed and it took us about 1h 20 min to get there (remember that time). Entry is 50000 IDR pp. Now here is a big tip. This pink beach isn’t the only pink beach in the area. Once we’d arrived and climbed the hill, you look down the coast and a row of beautiful and completely deserted pink beaches. You can’t see this from the road but if you’re feeling adventurous trying turning down a side road and you might come out at one. Never the less Pink Beach is still beautiful and not very busy. Now heading back we were in a bit more of a hurry and managed the dirt road at 40km/h and in 25min. So it can be done quickly.
Here we drove to Kuta on probably the best piece of road. Winding up and down fun hills through tobacco farms the drive is just great. The late afternoon sun just making everything glow. We had our first sighting of tourists, the first in two days. Now our first impressions of Kuta town weren’t that great. It’s small yet quite busy with the most tourists we’d seen in Lombok. This is still very far from what you can expect of a surf town in Bali, but relatively speaking it was a surprise for us. There are a host of places to eat in the surf mecca and accommodation is plentiful. Our first night was in a homestay just out of town. Comfortable. The next day we started exploring the area and found that there is much to see and do in this beautiful part of the island. The coastline is stunning! We went to Tanjung Aan beach, entry 10000 IDR pp, walked up the cliffs and could survey much of the surrounds. We spent that night being hosted by Novotel Resort & Villas, the only four star accommodation in the area. If you want some real comfort, make a booking, the place is great!
It is worth noting that there are big plans for the Kuta region. The Indonesian government has big plans for the region and large roads and resorts are in the process of being built. If you want to experience this place in its relative unspoiled setting – get there soon. Or stay away and maybe it will stay the same 😉
From Kuta we carried on our circular route to the south western most point of the island and the region of Batu Leong. The road leading out of Kuta reveals more of the area with other options to stay and places to visit. Here the planned expansion of the area is also evident with much construction under way. There are many beautiful beaches that you will pass along the way. One of these beaches that we stopped at was Mawun Tampa. You pay a small informal fee but it was completely deserted apart from some really inquisitive kids who educated us on their ways of life and cut coconuts for us. It was refreshing to hear that they knew the concept of pollution and the importance of at least keeping their beach clean to attract more tourists. We drove to the well know Selong Belenak beach but turned away at the sight of having to pay access again. We didn’t want to stay long. Not far down the road we saw a dirt road, decided to investigate and came out on the beach. No entry fee. No people!
From here the road starts to wind through the mountains. Again we lost of sight of tourists. The roads turned a bit bumpy but that was just fine with us. The only let down here was the immense about of litter lying around. It’s everywhere (Bali, Gili and Lombok) but perhaps contrasted against the setting of the hill villages it just stood out more. The super friendly kids made up for it, giving out high fives as we drove past.
We got to Batu Leong that afternoon, checked in at Krisna Bungalow and decided to check out the western most point (apparently there is a great view sight). We didn’t find the view sight! The more towards the point you get the more it seems you’re in the twilight zone. There are remains of old resorts and scattered signs of life, almost weird. We did later hear that if you go over to the bottom (southern) section of the peninsula it is really beautiful and worthwhile. Have a look at a map and you’ll figure it out. From our bungalow we arranged snorkelling around the Gili’s at 175000 IDR pp. It’s a full day of visiting the islands by boat and exploring. Fun and almost too long. The coral reefs are in fairly good condition with decent marine life, but just cover up from the intense sun! The area has a charm about it, with ‘floating fishing houses’ scattered around the bay and beautiful sunsets.
Tip – find the boat rental shop/restaurant at the very beginning of the town. There is a swing in the water saying ”Love is all you need”. We ate possibly the best dinner here. No English was spoken but we were served an amazing fish feast with more sides than we could eat. We were the only customers.
The last leg of our circumnavigation took us north and back towards Senggigi. We left early, passed through the highway of Mataram (three lane scooter highway- bizarre ) and within 2 hours we were back at our starting point. What an epic trip it was. With almost sadness we handed back our bikes and took a taxi towards Bansul – 45min and 100000IDR. It was almost strange to be driven on a road we’d come to know so well.
We covered 450km in 5 days, saw and experienced a whole lot. Petrol was cheap and super easy to come by (Marija used 8.5L and Thane 11L at 10 000 IDR/litre). You could take more time and cut inland at places to explore, or spend more time in each stop.
Driving these roads with locals is a unique experience. There is zero road rage. If somebody cuts in front of you you simply slow down and let them go, you will do it too and they will slow for you. Overtaking is preceded with a hoot to let someone know you going to pass. Easy as that.