We flew into Lombok on Nov 28th, leaving Perth the night before and flying via Singapore. This is definitely NOT a preferred option, the whole trip taking around 25 hours, only 4 of which could really be counted as sleep. However, circumstances meant that we already had tickets to Singapore so we elected to use them, then fly Air Asia to Denpasar and Lion Air to Lombok. There is only one airline flying direct from Singapore to Lombok (Silk Air) but the cost is prohibitive.
All in all, the trip could have been worse but we vowed never to do such a silly thing again (may have vowed that before). The worst part of all was the drive on landing in Lombok. A new airport has been built in the South of Lombok, replacing the old one that was closer to the West Coast area of Sengiggi. Apparently, this was done after the Saudis promised to pour huge investments into the Southern beaches around Kuta Lombok on the condition of a relocated airport. So far, the Saudis have failed to materialise and the promised transport infrastructure remains incomplete. This leaves a 90 minute trip along narrow bumpy roads with the ever present threat of killing cyclists, motor bike riders and pedestrians. We had 10 minutes added to our journey when the driver stopped to pray at a mosque.
By any standards, the villages and countryside we travelled through were primitive. Lombok is a long way behind Bali. As we approached the Sengiggi area, the road improved and, as we found later, the strip to the North of Sengiggi is in good condition. Our destination, The Beach Club, was a most welcome sight.
Our friends, Mick and Lesley, were a day in front of us and well entrenched at the bar. We wasted no time in joining them and met the owners and hosts, Glenn and Dee. The whole place screams “hospitality”. We had one of only four beautifully appointed Balinese style bungalows, with private verandah and semi-outdoor ensuite facilities. The pool is a mere 10 metres away and the beach around 50 metres. Shaded rest areas with lounges are dotted around and there are tables right down onto the beach itself.
The staff is amazing. Nothing seems to be too much trouble and service is always with a smile or a shared joke. We felt like friends rather than guests. Every time we asked for something a little different, it was remembered and became the norm. The service makes anything back in Perth look embarrassing (but then that’s not hard).
Overall, we found The Beach Club to be the most comfortable and pleasant place we have ever stayed in. Add amazing value for money it’s a winner. The bungalows seem to work out at around $A60 a night. For two people eating all meals, except two over four days, and a steady supply of drinks, the extras came to around $A220, which included an airport transfer.
Lombok itself, though pretty with some spectacular coastal scenery, does not stand out above other SE Asian beach resorts. Sengiggi itself is badly in need of some maintenance money. Most footpaths are broken up or non-existent. Drainage is so bad that walking around after a heavy downpour is difficult. Mataram holds few attractions for the tourist, apart from the one visit to have a look. We found car travel around the island to be a mostly unpleasant experience so there is little incentive to journey off to the waterfalls in the far North or down South to Kuta Lombok. However, the sheer majesty of the views along the Sengiggi coast, or the incredible scenery as rain storms obscure parts of the coastal mountains makes up for many shortcomings. The place “feels” beautiful. At times, the sight of a towering volcano poking through the clouds on Bali, across the Lombok Strait, is breathtaking.
The “Gillis” is a small group of 3 tiny islands in the North-West. The “pristine corals” and “unspoilt beaches” are often written about but that is like calling Burswood a Wilderness Park. Sure, the Gillis make an interesting day trip and are probably a great place to stay for 3 or 4 nights to chill out but if you are expecting unspoilt nature be prepared for a disappointment. Blasting of coral reefs has destroyed much of the marine environment. Fish life is scarce (by Australian standards) and the variety of coral life does not compare with any spot in the Andaman Sea.
We paid 600,000Rp (about $A60) for 4 of us to get transport to the North West then hire a boat for the day to take us snorkelling, see the islands and drop off on a beach for lunch. This is a similar price to what is available in Phi Phi or Langkawi. However, we found that they added in a scuba diver and the whole day revolved around him, with us being an afterthought. If there are good snorkelling spots, we didn’t see them. The lunch was very ordinary at best and when the bill came, we found the boat skipper had ordered a meal on us. We refused to pay. It seems that our experience is not unusual. The scuba diver said he booked a boat the previous day for his exclusive use and it ended up full of people. To make matters worse, the English speaking guide left at Gilli Trawangan so we really couldn’t complain very effectively. On the plus side, the water was wonderfully warm and the visibility was 30metres plus.
We have had a fantastic time on Lombok, made so much better by the terrific company of Mick and Lesley. As I write, we are staying on for an extra day while Mick and Les fly home and back to work. The Beach Club is already missing Lesley’s laughter.
Would we come back? Absolutely! And we’ll stay at The Beach Club. Thanks Glenn, Dee and all the great staff.