The southwestern peninsula of Lombok is blessed with uninterrupted white sandy beach. With an overwhelming number of tourists visiting the (in)famous Senggigi and the three nearby Gilis, this driest part of Lombok is an alternative for quiet hideaway.
Come quick as rumor has it that once the new airport nearby Praya completed in 2009/10, this area will be the island’s next tourism destination.
The beaches in the northern peninsula and surrounding gilis are superb; some lies just stone-thrown away from the main roads. On the southern and western peninsula, the Indian Ocean world class waves break on the shallow reef or sandy bottom.
At least seven gilis and few smaller gilis dotted the northern off shore; visible from the deck of Padang Bai (Bali) – Lembar (Lombok) ferry in a clear day.
The inhabited gilis are Gili Asahan and Gili Gede; the latest and Gili Nanggu come with public accommodation. Gili Layar and Gili Rengit located on the western part of the peninsula with Asahan and Gede while Gili Tangkong, Gili Sudak and the tiny Gili Kedis are rising to the surface next to Nanggu on the east.
Gili Asahan is home to some offshore pearl farmers. There are some private accommodations but as the name implies, it is privately owned, mostly by the Japanese. My guide, Hendy, said that homestay with the locals is possible. Chartering a boat from Labuhan Poh is so far the quickest way to explore the island and the other western gilis.
The white sandy beach in Gili Layar is excellent but the island is too small for a settlement and mostly used by fishermen looking for protection from the open seas on the north.
Although uninhabited, Gili Rengit is probably the most visited by divers as the surrounding waters promise an excellent diving. Some spots are already named and each has their own spoilers. Sunken Island might be the not-to-be-missed spot as in a very lucky dive, I encountered white-tip reef sharks, turtles, manta rays and lots of macro critters. It is a one-stop-diving in the area. Accommodation in Rengit is currently constructed but it is privately owned by Bounty Cruise.
Gili Gede is the largest gili in the peninsula. On the southern part of the island, a Bugis village and the Secret Island Resort make up the island while the rest are mostly empty palm-fringed beach.
Separated by the hump-shaped Pandanan area are the eastern gilis (Nanggu, Tangkong, Sudak and Kedis) that are easier to access by a day trip from Tawun. With a ketinting (a roof-less motorized boat for two passengers), I had to start early to explore these four gilis.
Gili Nanggu is the most popular because it is managed professionally (with a ticket to enter, yes). It has some excellent aquarium-like snorkeling spots. On the eastern side, fishes – in quantities and types – abound and are very friendly to snorkelers; too friendly sometimes that they will follow you, begging to be fed. Buy a bottled bread-crumb in Tawun to feed these hungry creatures.
Do not underestimate the sandy bottom of the eastern and western beaches. If you are patient and lucky, expect to see critters that encountered mostly by diving. Leaf pipefish, pipefish, mantis shrimp, nudibranches, lionfish, porcupine fish and puffer fish are to name but a few.
The contoured rocky terrain of Gili Tangkong makes it difficult to get close to but if you can stand the swell, try the snorkeling at the east and northeastern part. The shallow clear waters in these areas are very inviting.
There is a nomadic village at the eastern Gili Sudak by the local pearl farm workers. Go to the rest of the island where they are fringed by a stretch of white sandy beach.
The tiny Gili Kedis is sometimes missed as it is visually blocked by Gili Sudak from Tawun. It is possible that you are the only visitor to this island, creating a castaway and private island feeling. It has a wide white sandy beach covering the whole gili and clear turquoise water begging to be swum.
Back to the mainland, if you think you’re adventurous enough, try the track to Bangko-Bangko especially Desert Point. A heaven for surfers, this western part of Lombok is worth to explore even if the track is – literally – pain in the ass (especially if you are driving on the back seat of a motorcycle).
Expect a smooth road until Selegong and continue with sharp-gravel road to Labuhan Poh and some deep-sandy uphill (one is locally known as Semaye) that are very dangerous to anything with wheels. Passing these uphill (and downhill), the road relaxes until Desert Point. There is a basic bamboo-style homestay run by the locals, mostly for surfers.
The beach at Desert Point is perfect for surfing: white sandy with shallow reef and some challenging tunnels even for experienced surfers. As it is on the western-most, expect to witness the best sunset in Lombok on clear days.
Anyone saying that sunset in Senggigi is the best must have not yet visit this place.
More pictures to follow.