April 19 - 26, 2017Our dive guide on Gili Air organized a speed...
Scooting to Mawun Beach
Selong Belanak Beach
April 19 - 26, 2017
Our dive guide on Gili Air organized a speed boat and private car to Kuta, Lombok. Ady said it would be RP800K for two people, but they charged us RP850K. We didn’t argue. It was fast and easy, but obviously not the cheapest option. The speed boat got us to Bhangsal, Lombok very quickly, but the drive to Kuta took at least 2 hours and we were grateful the driver was there for us when we arrived. He dropped us off at the hotel - easy peasy!
Sometimes it felt like time was dragging during the week in Kuta, Lombok - but now, looking back, it was one of the best parts of my trip around Asia this spring. Seven nights at Dream Hotel Kute Lombok was $224.49 total, but it’s worth the price as it’s the best area to stay in Lombok. It’s right next to Kuta Beach, and while the beach is mediocre and full of hawkers, there’s lots to eat nearby and it’s easy to book tours to go places or rent a scooter to go to some really nice beaches.
Unlike Bali, Lombok is Muslim, so no pork, you’ll see women wearing headscarfs, and hear the Muezzin call from a Minaret several times a day. You don’t have to worry about dressing too conservatively; shorts and a t-shirt or even a dress are fine.
At first, I had a distaste for Kuta, Lombok as it was dirty (garbage everywhere), the stray dogs are not friendly late at night, people on the street are always hassling you, and prices are highly negotiable. The locals are definitely much more crass and rough around the edges than those in Bali or on the Gili Islands. I’ve heard and read that not all areas of Lombok take to tourists kindly and maybe it’s because Lombok isn’t as major a tourist destination as others. It was difficult for me to keep a smile on my face after I realized that someone only saw me as a quick way to make money. Then, I realized that the locals were just trying to make a living and I was in a very beautiful place with more than enough money to live well, so I chilled out and was less defensive.
Kuta is was the most developed area I saw in Lombok and still it was just a few convenience stores, many open-air bamboo construction businesses, a couple of ATMs, and a handful of restaurants. Kuta is what Bali must have looked like 20 years ago.
Local food at warungs will be the most affordable but the foreign food was too tempting for me (albeit pricey in comarison). A surprisingly high number of wood oven pizza, but I didn’t really enjoy it. My favorite places to be were KRNK (burgers), The Mexican in Town (Mexican, duh), El Bazar (Moroccan), Nuggets (Indonesian), MILK (coffee), and Bus Beach Bar (drinks). No matter where you are, you will be pestered by kids selling bracelets, some as young as 5-years-old. They’re children, but they know all the sales’ tricks and several languages. They really know how to test your patience, but please be kind to them. It broke my heart when I saw adults be mean to them.
Booty the tour guide
We befriended a local named Booty. He owned a tourist hut and his wife owned a clothing shop. He was quick to smile but never laughed at our jokes. We gave him a lot of money for tours and to rent scooters, but he always seemed unhappy about negotiating and asked us to pay more so “we could both be happy.” He was an interesting character, as it was obvious that his business was in tourism but he didn’t seem to like tourists much.
Waterfall + villages trip
We paid Booty RP550K to drive us to waterfalls and two villages. This was a private tour and we could ask to stop anywhere + stay in any place for as long as we’d like.
First, he drove us to a park that had a group of five waterfalls (including Benang Stokel and Benang Kelambu Waterfalls). Admission is RP10K for locals but Booty told us we were required to have a guide since we were foreigners – we later did some research and found this was not true. The guide wanted to charge us per waterfall seen, so we chose to see three, which was RP90K a person. The guide was immensely kind + helpful, though, and probably the nicest person we met in Lombok.
Rob jumped off the first waterfall, which was 11 meters/~35 feet. You couldn’t jump off any others but there were spots to swim in cool water from Lake Segara Anak of Mount Rinjani.
Benang Stokel features two waterfalls falling more than 30 meters down a steep cliff face covered with ferns and jungle vegetation. Benang means “thread”, and describes the thin streams of water that gush down the cliff, like silver threads. The waterfall to the left is the higher of the two and is more powerful. The fall on the right side splashes into a small rocky pool at the bottom.
Although parts of the trek can be a bit slippery and arduous, the track is safe and is not really challenging if you go slow. The view of Benang Kelambu at the end looks straight out of a hair-product commercial. Kelambu means “netting” and refers to the waterfalls, which spread out across the greenery like finely draped nets.
After the waterfalls, Booty took us to two traditional Sasak Villages. The Sasak are the indigenous people of this island, which today make about 85% of the total population of Lombok. First, Pusat Kerajinan Tenun PATUH, where I learned to weave (women in that village have to learn to weave before they can get married) and then purchased a large weaving for RP750K (negotiated down from RP1500K). Negotiating was hard and price was based on nationality; it hurt to hear the people there refer to us openly as “US dollars.”
The second village we went to was called Sade. This village is set up for 10-15 minute tours and you can only walk around led by a tour guide. It’s set up for tourists but still has a very much a lived-in village feel. He gave us some interesting insights into life there and we walked around, looked inside some houses, saw their temple, how they store food, etc. We learned about some of their traditional customs, like what they do when they want to marry someone, which is that the man kidnaps the woman! He takes a risk though because if she says no, he has to pay a fine. The guide will ask for a donation at the end; our guide book suggested a minimum tip of RP40K.
Snorkel trip to the small gilis
The three Gili islands are quite well-known, but gili actually means “small island” and there are many of them. Booty organized a private car to the Lembar harbor and boat to let us snorkel three gilis (Naggu, Sudak, and Kedis) for RP800K (total price for two people), which included snorkel gear. Again, we could stop anywhere we’d like and stay in any location for as long as we’d like.
It took around thirty minutes to reach Gilli Nanggu by boat from the harbor. The island had a RM5K per person “cleaning fee” but there was quite a bit of garbage on the beach and in the ocean. It made me sad to see other tourists standing on coral and feeding the fish. Bad ocean behavior, so I tried to swim away from them. Lots of wonderful fish to see.
After we were done, we hopped back on the boat and traveled ten minutes to Gili Sudak (sometimes known as Suda). Sudak is even smaller than Nanggu and although the beach wasn’t as wide or long as the one on Nanggu, it was the perfect shady spot for a coconut drink. You can also have a meal here if you’d like. Some more nice fish to see in the ocean here.
The last island, Kedis, is very tiny. No bigger than the size of a tennis court, except round, with a few trees in the middle.
Renting scooters is a must to explore Lombok as public transit is nonexistent. We paid Booty RP50K a day for a scooter, and these scooters were in really terrible condition (e.g. weak brakes and missing side mirrors).
The first thing we did was drive a mile up the mountain to eat at the Ashtari Restaurant. The restaurant has sweeping views of Kuta and its surrounding hills and bays. Go early and get a good spot, like a comfy bean bag chair at the edge. The atmosphere is great for a drink and snacks.
Then, you can drive out to Mawun Beach (Pantai Mawun). The locals will charge you RP10K per motorbike as an entrance fee. Same fee if you drive a bit further to Selong Belanak Beach. Surrounded by mountains, the beaches are all unbelievably beautiful and shockingly undeveloped. You’ll pay RP5K to use a toilet/changing room –only one per beach. And, there are only 1-2 beach shacks to get a bite to eat or something to drink. A sun lounger is RP50K each. It’s not fancy at all but prices are reasonable. They’re likely the best beaches I’ve ever been to in my life.
The airport shuttle in the morning costs RP100K a person, but we negotiated a private car with Booty for the afternoon at RP220K for two people.
Other things to do
If I had more time in Lombok, I’d probably be interested in some of the following:
- The second largest volcano in Indonesia is nearby. You can hike Mount Rinjani but it’ll take at least 2 days. Even the 3-day hike is bound to be killer. The crater lake looks incredible.
- I ran out of energy to visit Tangsi Beach (aka Pink Beach). I was told not to go by scooter because it’s a 2-hour drive from Kuta and the last 30 minutes are very rough road. The sand on this beach is actually white but the bright red Organ Pipe corals gives it a pink hue. Might be a painful beach to walk barefoot on but sure sounds beautiful.
- The Tanjung Aan Beach is also known to be beautiful for its turquoise sea and white sand. Apparently, you can climb a rock to see the view over the two bays and beaches of Aan.
- You can spend a day at the 4-star hotel, Novotel, for a small fee, lounging under a beachfront cabana, ordering food and using their swimming pool. Love enjoying luxury at the fraction of a hotel stay!
- Also consider a multiple day boat trip to Komodo where you can see Komodo dragons in real life. Amazing diving and snorkeling there too.