Bali may be the most popular island in Indonesia, but there are 18,305 more islands waiting to be discovered. Here are three little pieces of paradise found in Bali’s backyard.
Imagine Bali sans traffic, hawkers or crowds. Enter Lombok, a volcanic island due west of Bali that’s attracting a slow but steady trail of tourists looking to get off the beaten path. There is a range of ferries and speedboats that will get you there from Bali, and an international airport in Lombok’s south with direct connections from Bali, Jakarta and Singapore.
The most visited part of Lombok is Senggigi, a strip of palm-fringed beaches with pockets of small development on the island’s west coast. Lombok also has its own Kuta – a long empty surfing beach on the south coast with a mattering of wellpriced resorts. But to see the best of Lombok, hire a driver, motorbike or taxi and explore the island’s centre, a velvet-green cornucopia of valleys, soaring mountains, waterfalls, rice fields, tobacco plantations and hamlets that remains practically untouched by the modern age.
Why visit now?
Climb to the rim of Mount Rinjani, the second-highest volcano in Indonesia, to see Segara Anak or ‘Child of the Sea’ – an immense emerald-blue lake within its crater.
A 30-minute cruise but a million metaphorical miles away from Kuta, Nusa Lembongan is a small island southeast of Bali. It was discovered by surfers about a decade ago and was a backpacker destination at first. Nusa Lembongan is experiencing somewhat of a boom and attracting travellers from all walks of life.
Surfing, however, remains the major drawcard with three notable offshore breaks: Playground, Lacerations and Shipwrecks. Visitors rarely have to share the waves there or at Secret Point, a massive right-hand break on neighbouring island, Nusa Ceningan.
Now, Nusa Lembongan is also a growing hub for yoga, with studios popping up all over, and a mecca for diving following the recent creation of the Nusa Penida Marine Park, a biosphere reserve protecting the waters and reefs surrounding the island.
Why visit now?
Nusa Lembongan is one of the best places in the world to scuba dive with oceanic manta rays.
The Gili Islands
A short boat ride from Senggigi on Lombok’s west coast are the Gilis, three paradisiacal tropical islands surrounded by coral gardens and neon-blue seas, each with a unique character. Gili Trawangan is the largest and most developed of the three with an evergrowing range of boutique resorts. It’s also the centre of nightlife on the Gilis, with weekly beach raves and rows of bars that trade until dawn.
Closer to the mainland, Gili Air has a low-key atmosphere but all the amenities holidaymakers need – the island recently got its first ATM. Accommodation is similarly low-key and is mostly bungalow-style with verandahs overlooking the sea.
The third and least developed in the trinity is Gili Meno, a castaway-like sandbank prized among scuba divers for the Gili Meno Wall. The most colourful of all 17 dive sites in the Gilis, it reaches a depth of 22m and is a magnet for marine turtles and moray eels.
Why visit now?
There are now dedicated free-diving centres on all three Gili islands with courses catering specifically for beginners.
This article first appeared in Travel ideas – WOW List 2017.