Long overshadowed by its superstar neighbour across the Lombok Strait there’s a steady hum about Lombok that catches the ear of travellers looking for something different from Bali. Blessed with exquisite white-sand beaches, epic surf, a lush forested interior, and hiking trails through tobacco and rice fields, Lombok is fully loaded with equitorial allure. Oh, and you’ll probably notice mighty Gunung Rinjani, Indonesia’s second-highest volcano, its summit complete with hot springs and a dazzling crater lake.
And there’s much more. Lombok’s southern coastline is nature on a very grand scale: breathtaking turquoise bays, world-class surf breaks and massive headlands. Development on these splendid beaches is just around the corner, but until that moment comes, they are still natural wonders to explore over much-improved roads.
If you’re going to the Gilis, a Lombok stopover is a must. It’s easy to get around the Lombok–Gilis–Bali triangle.
Lombok and the Gilis
Almost as big as Bali, Lombok is the completely different island right next door. From its volcanic centre to idyllic beaches such as Mawun, it rewards travellers who want to explore. Many are drawn to mighty Gunung Rinjani, Indonesia’s second-highest volcano. Rivers and waterfalls gush down its fissured slopes, while its summit – complete with hot springs and a dazzling crater lake – is the ultimate trekker’s prize. In the south, you may need to hold your jaw in place as you encounter one superb beach after another.
Meanwhile, off the west coast, the fabled Gili Islands are three exquisite droplets of white sand sprinkled with coconut palms and surrounded by coral reefs teeming with marine life. Each has become a full-blown destination in its own right with oodles of great places to stay, eat and celebrate.
Indonesia’s numbers astound: more than 17,000 islands, of which 8000 are inhabited, and over 300 languages are spoken across them. It’s a beguiling country offering myriad adventures.
Beaches & Volcanoes
Venturing across Indonesia you’ll see a dramatic landscape, as diverse as those living upon it. Sulawesi’s wildly multilimbed coastline embraces white-sand beaches and diving haunts, while Sumatra is contoured by a legion of nearly 100 volcanoes marching off into the distance, several capable of erupting at any time.
The world’s fourth most populous country – 255 million and counting – is a sultry kaleidoscope that runs along the equator for 5000km. From the western tip of Sumatra to the eastern edge of Papua, this nation defies homogenisation. It is a land of so many cultures, peoples, animals, customs, plants, sights, artworks and foods that it is like 100 countries melded into one.
The people are as radically different from each other as if they came from different continents, with every island a unique blend of the men, women and children who live upon it. Over time deep and rich cultures have evolved, from the mysteries of the spiritual Balinese to the utterly non-Western belief system of the Asmat people of Papua.
This ever-intriguing, ever-intoxicating land offers some of the last great adventures on earth. Sitting in the open door of a train whizzing across Java, idling away time on a ferry bound for Kalimantan, hanging on to the back of a scooter on Flores, rounding the mystifying corner of an ancient West Timor village or simply trekking through wilderness you’re sure no one has seen before – you’ll enjoy endless exploration of the infinite diversity of Indonesia’s 17,000-odd islands.
Dramatic sights are the norm. There’s the sublime: an orangutan lounging in a tree. The artful: a Balinese dancer executing precise moves that would make a robot seem loose-limbed. The idyllic: a deserted stretch of blinding white sand on Sumbawa set off by azure surf breaks. The astonishing: the mobs in a cool, glitzy Jakarta mall on a Sunday. The intriguing: the too-amazing-for-fiction tales of the twisted history of the beautiful Banda Islands. The heart-stopping: the ominous menace of a Komodo dragon. The humbling: a woman bent double with a load of firewood on Sumatra. The delicious: a south Bali restaurant. The shocking: the funeral ceremonies of Tana Toraja. The solemn: the serene magnificence of Borobudur.