|Lombok Travel Information|
Lombok is an island in West Nusa Tenggara province, Indonesia with a population of 2,950,105 in 2005. It is part of the chain of the Lesser Sunda Islands, with the Lombok Strait separating it from Bali to the west and the Alas Strait between it and Sumbawa to the east. It is roughly circular, with a "tail" to the southwest, about 70 km across and a total area of about 4,725 km² (1,825 sq mi). The administrative capital and largest city on the island is Mataram.
Lombok’s history began with a group of animist farmers called the Sasak, who created a small kingdom sometime before the 17th century. The Sasak made their way to Lombok long before most of Indonesia’s other ethnic groups settled among the 13,000 odd islands of the archipelago. It is believed that the Sasak migrated from either Burma or northwest India, but few archaeological remains exist to verify this theory.
In the early years, Lombok was made up of dozens of tiny clans, each ruled by a Sasak prince. There was constant fighting among the clans, which the neighbouring Balinese princes used to their advantage when they conquered the island. The Balinese ruled Lombok from the middle of the 1700s until the 1890s, when the Dutch arrived on the scene and backed the indigenous Sasaks. The Balinese were driven out after a series of bloody fights and Lombok became part of the group of islands known as the Lesser Sunda Islands.
Hefty taxes imposed by the Dutch pushed most of Lombok’s peasants into poverty and opened the door for Chinese businessmen to exploit the economic vacuum. Things continued in this rather repressive manner until Indonesia declared its independence in 1945. Sukarno, the first president of Indonesia, tried to regroup Lombok into a larger cluster of islands known as Nusa Tenggara, but the island group proved hard to govern.
When Sukarno was ousted in 1965, Lombok was thrust into a dark period of murder and oppression, along with many other parts of Indonesia. Anyone considered subversive by the new government, such as communists and ethnic Chinese, was killed or displaced. Initially the new president Suharto’s rather harsh New Order plan brought growth and stability to the island, until prolonged famine reached a crippling peak in 1973. Most of the locals moved away from Lombok as part of the transmigration programme implemented by the government.
With little agricultural work and few resources, Lombok fell into a quiet lull until 1980 when tourism development began to catch on. Touting itself as a quieter, more natural alternative to Bali, the tourism industry has slowly but steadily grown. Unfortunately, during the wave of development along Lombok’s coastline, many traditional landowners were displaced as outside businesses took over the land.
Indonesia was thrust into political turmoil during the late 1990s, in response to widespread corruption. Lombok was caught up in the civil unrest, and students in Mataram and Praya held protests resulting in a major drop in the tourism industry.Since the riots in 2000, tourists have continued to arrive in Lombok. Now considered a safe and stable travel destination, Lombok is a popular alternative to its more developed neighbour, Bali.
|Geography and Demographics||
The Lombok Strait marks the passage of the biogeographical division between the fauna of the Indomalayan ecozone and the distinctly different fauna of Australasia that is known as the Wallace Line, for Alfred Russel Wallace, who first remarked upon the distinction between these two major biomes.
The island's topography is dominated by the centrally-located stratovolcano Mount Rinjani, which rises to 3,726 m (12,224 ft), making it the third-highest in Indonesia. The most recent eruption of Rinjani was in June-July, 1994. The volcano, and its crater lake, 'Segara Anak' (child of the sea), are protected by a National Park established in 1997. The southern part of the island is a fertile plain where corn, rice, coffee, tobacco, and cotton are grown.
The island's inhabitants are 85% Sasak whose origins are thought to have migrated from Java in the first millennium BC. Other residents include 10-15% Balinese, with the small remainder being Chinese, Arab, Javanese, and Sumbawanese. Since the Sasak population typically practice Islam, the landscape is punctuated with mosques and minarets. Islamic traditions and holidays influence the Island's daily activities.
While tropical, hot and humid, Lombok is drier than neighboring Bali, which makes it a particularly attractive option during the October-December rainy season (it rains on Lombok too, but rarely for more than an hour). The peak of the tourist season, though, is May through August.Lying just south of the equator, Lombok consistently enjoys 12 hours of sunlight a day and warm temperatures throughout the year. There are two distinct seasons on the island: the rainy season from October to March and the dry season from May to September. Throughout the year, daytime temperatures normally remain in the 27°C to 32°C range.
Lombok’s rainy season is also when the island experiences its highest levels of humidity. Rain showers come in the form of brief but powerful afternoon thunderstorms. If you can bear the hot and humid conditions, you’ll have the island to yourself as this is Lombok’s low season. As the wet season tapers off in April, temperatures begin to drop and the countryside becomes lush with green vegetation. May through June is considered the most pleasant period for a visit, as the days are reliably sunny and not too hot.
The west coast of Lombok generally experiences the coolest weather on the island, and the inland regions the hottest. The island’s high season for tourism spans July and August, with equally busy conditions around Christmas and New Year. Culture
|Things to do|
Catch a boat to the Gili Islands. One of the last places on earth devoid of motorised vehicles, these three little gems off the western shores of Lombok are surrounded by coral reefs and immersed in a relaxed version of Islam. Horse-drawn carts serve as taxis, which plod along the sandy track which circles most of each island. This is where Lombok’s best snorkelling and diving is found, making up a large part of the scene on Gili Trawangan. Gili Meno is the quietest island of the group, while Gili Air is where most of the local lifestyle takes place. Lodging is rustic and inexpensive.
Climb to the top of Pantai Segar. Hikers can climb this enormous sculpted rock two kilometres east of Kuta Beach. Upon completing the relatively easy climb, hikers are rewarded with 360 degree views of the countryside and sea. The morning is a particularly stunning time to make this excursion.
Get a traditional Lombok massage and ease yourself even deeper into relaxation mode. One of the real treats of visiting Lombok is indulging in the local massage, which is surprisingly cheap and very therapeutic. Massage therapists are easily found at most resorts and in the larger urban areas.
Make the trek to the top of Rinjani, Lombok’s sole volcano. It takes about three days to walk from the base to the summit of Rinjani, but the effort is well worth it. The scenery within the crater is magical and moonlike, while the views will leave you breathless. If you want a touch of adventure in your holiday, a trek up Rinjani is an ideal activity.
Test your taste buds with a real Sasak meal. Sasak food is best experienced in the urban enclave that encompasses Mataram, Ampenan, Sweta and Cakranegara. Resorts and tourist restaurants usually tone down the spice level, but at a local café you’ll be guaranteed a super spicy bowl of curried chicken, or any of the other traditional Sasak specialties.
Visit Tanjung Luar, the largest fishing village on Lombok. Fishing has always been a major source of food and income for many locals on the island, but has steadily declined as tourism has replaced fishing jobs. Tanjung Luar hasn’t let go of its roots however, and visitors can watch the inhabitants of this small fishing village go out on their traditional boats or bringing back their catches.
|How to get there|
The single terminal is modest, but has all the basic facilities a traveller will need upon arriving in Lombok. Currency exchange kiosks, shops and a couple of restaurants will prepare you for the journey to your destination on the island. Unless your resort is planning to pick you up at the airport, you’ll need to hire a taxi to take you to your hotel.
A couple of private boat companies such as Perama provide service on smaller boats from Bali to Lombok’s Senggigi Beach, stopping at the Gili Islands along the way. It’s also possible to take a bus/ferry combination from many towns in Bali to Lombok using Perama. This popular ticketing system is convenient, if you don’t want to make your way to Padangbai on your own.
Once you get to Lombok, there are very few transport options for getting around the island. There are plenty of roads covering Lombok, but the public buses stick to the main routes and the most popular destinations. Bemos are private minibuses that serve as shared taxis, picking up where the public buses don’t go. You can even hire your own bemo for the day, if you want to tour the island. Buses and bemos are good for getting from one place to another, but you may need to use a cidomo, or pony cart, to get around locally.
Renting your own motorbike is another fun way to explore Lombok, if you feel comfortable driving on two wheels. Your resort or hotel can usually set you up with a motorbike or car rental. On the seas, outrigger boats called prahu make short jaunts from the shore to surf breaks or snorkelling spots.
Metered taxis are a relatively new phenomenon on Lombok, but they are very popular in Senggigi and Mataram. Blue Bird is the island’s largest taxi company, followed by a handful of smaller outfits. The cost is cheap and they are much more convenient that sharing a bemo with a dozen other people. Traffic is light throughout most of Lombok, so travelling around the island is more of a pleasure than hassle.
Banks: 08:30 to 15:30, Monday to Friday; 09:30 to 12:30, Saturdays
Lombok is a relatively safe and stable island to visit, and there is little for tourists to worry about during their stay. Conditions are impoverished in some places on Lombok however, and given an easy opportunity, theft is always a potential. Don’t take things too casually during your visit, despite the laid-back atmosphere. Keep your valuables with you at all times, unless your hotel has a safe. Don’t leave bags or cameras lying around on beaches or at cafés, and be extra cautious after dark if you are staying in a remote part of Lombok.
Although Bahasa Indonesia is the official language of Indonesia, Lombok also has a number of local dialects and indigenous Sasak languages. Most people who work in the tourism industry can speak English as well as some of the more popular foreign languages.
Indonesia’s official currency is the rupiah (Rp). Notes come in denominations of Rp100,000, 50,000, 20,000, 10,000, 5,000, 1,000 and 500. Coins come in denominations of Rp1,000, 500, 100, 50 and 25.
Lombok is a small island when it comes to global services like banking and visitors shouldn’t come here expecting to see ATMs and bank branches in every town. Mataram has the widest range of services, with plenty of regional banks, ATMs and currency exchange offices. Resort hubs like Senggigi also have facilities for withdrawing or exchanging money, and most hotels will gladly exchange cash for lower rates than the bank offers.
If you plan to do any remote travelling, be sure to bring enough rupiah cash to pay for whatever you need. While credit cards are accepted at the larger resorts, hotels, restaurants and travel offices, smaller shops, cafés and taxi drivers only deal in local currency. Be sure to carry small banknotes for minor purchases.
Visa and Passports
Visas are required by citizens of all countries to visit Indonesia. A tourist visa is valid for 30 days and is available upon arrival. There is a small fee for tourist visas, although citizens of other ASEAN countries are exempt from this charge. Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date when you first enter Indonesia or you may run into trouble with immigration.