Indonesia: The Stunning Lombok and Gili Islands

We were about to dock on one of the Gili Islands off the northwest tip of Lombok in Indonesia when I noticed how clear the water was. I asked our boatman if I could jump into it and he nodded in approval. It was high noon and the clear azure water plus cerulean sky was just too perfect. I dove and floated away in so much joy; I was waiting for this lovely moment since day one.

Emerging from Lombok International Airport, we were swallowed up by the vastness of Lombok. Wide open spaces, lush vegetation and few people on the streets. It had a laidback vibe that’s perfect for slackerhood.

Gili Trawangan Lombok Indonesia
Gili Trawangan, Lombok, Indonesia
Coming from Yogyakarta, we had a connecting flight from Bali before we finally reached our destination. Lombok was our fourth stop on Trip of Wonders 2016, a twelve-day exploration on different key destinations in Indonesia by the Ministry of Tourism with 40+ souls from different Southeast Asian countries. We enjoyed the first leg of our trip when we visited Jakarta (for a quick overnight stop), Bandung and Yogyakarta.

Mainland Lombok is located at Indonesia’s West Nusa Tenggara province which is separated to the famed island of Bali by a 4-hour ferry ride or 25-minute plane ride. We had three days to explore the mainland and some of the famous Gili Islands (gili in Bahasa Indonesia means island) around Lombok (check here for discounted tours, transportation and activities in Lombok).

Gili Trawangan Lombok Indonesia
50 shades of blue
We were herded on our party bus after our Mediterranean lunch at El Bazar Café and Restaurant located in Pujut (I will dedicate a separate post on our great Indonesian food trip) and drove off to our first destination for that day.

Sade Village

Entertained with a traditional musical ensemble, we were welcomed in Sade Village like royalties while offering some woven scarves around our necks. Everyone’s in festive mood as we converged on an open space that prompted the start of a cultural show.

Sasak Sade Village Lombok Indonesia

Sasak Sade Village Lombok Indonesia
Peresehan or battle between two men
The Sade Village, the oldest tribe community in the province, is home to Lombok’s Sasak people. Traditional houses (Rumah Bale Tani) with thatched roofs, low ceilings and doors surrounded the village. Like in other parts of Indonesia, farming is the main source of livelihood for the Sasak people as well as weaving and handicraft-making.

While the rest of the group got busy on shopping, I trudged my way to the narrow uphill alleys around the village and got lost, the happy kind of getting lost.

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Handwoven sarongs, ikat weaving, bracelets and other knickknacks were showcased on the porch of the houses. I sat on a long bench in front of a house and watched some kids playing under a tree.  Amidst the tourism developments around the village, I find the community a legit one as shown on their way of life. It is also worth mentioning that the young ladies here are being taught by the older women on the art of ikat (a technique used to pattern textiles with resist dyeing method) weaving.

Sasak Sade Village Lombok Indonesia
Ikat weaving
I just hope that the art and culture of Sasak people wouldn’t be affected by commercialization brought about by the influx of tourists.I left the village empty-handed (like what happened to me on the shopping capital of Bandung) as I really don't have any inclination with shopping. But seeing my friends cheerfully rummage through their shopping bags made me feel like I had great buys as well.

Sasak Sade Village Lombok Indonesia

Sasak Sade Village Lombok Indonesia
Next in line
We retired at Golden Tulip Hotel Mataram that night after our regular beer sesh. It was a different story the next day as we explored the Gili Islands; beach and underwater, finally!

Gili Islands

There are three islands off Lombok’s northwest coast that is frequented by travelers who wanted a quiet time, far from the party scene on the neighboring island of Bali. The trio of tiny islands is truly a paradise. Gili Trawangan, the largest of the three, is where you should go when you want to have great beach parties. Gili Air is a good base if you want to experience immersion to locals’ way of life. Gili Meno is where you just loosen up and perfect the art of slackerhood.

Gili Islands Lombok Indonesia
Totally captivating
We boarded a ferry that brought us to our base camp, Gili Trawangan. From there, we boarded a smaller boat for our sea excursion. The moment I saw the azure waters and the white sand, I knew that everything will be great.

GiliTrawangan Lombok Indonesia

We ventured out several hundred meters into the sea and passed by Gili Meno. Traditional cabana huts and sun beds dotted the island. Lounging and relaxing would be perfect here. I felt the urge to go back on this particular island to just chill and drink Bintang beer all day as we sailed passed the island.

We halted somewhere, anchored the boat and started snorkeling: Happiness!

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I had so much fun diving and swimming that I was the last one to emerge from the water. The corals weren't that vibrant as well as the marine life but nonetheless, it was fun as we got tips from some of the good freedivers in the group.

Full Face Snorkeling Mask
First dip of my spanking new full face mask :)
Gili Islands Lombok Indonesia
Febrian, an influencer based in Jakarta, showing off his freediving skills
We sped off and went to another snorkeling site. Nobody seemed to be prepping up to dive so our boatman decided to go somewhere else.

Gili Air is sandwiched between the clear azure water and cerulean sky. The boatman was about to anchor the boat when I asked if I could jump into the water. After his approval I dove directly from our boat only to realize that it was merely waist-high. I stretched out and started to float away. The beach was great that it could rival the best ones in Thailand.

Gili Air Lombok Indonesia
Gili Air
We went back to Gili Trawangan and had lunch on the beachfront restaurant of Villa Ombak Hotel. After which, we had a two-hour free time to explore the island. 

Gili Trawangan Lombok Indonesia
We had options to rent a bike and go around Gili T. (as how they call it), or ride a cidomo (horse-drawn cart) and go to the famous sunset swing on the beach, or lounge on a nearby beach bar and load up with Bintang beer: you’d probably know what we did. Haha.

Gili Trawangan Lombok Indonesia

With some of my Filipino and Thai friends, we slumped on bean bags and enjoyed the late afternoon beer sesh with the nice beach as our view. It was lovely that I wished we had more time, even an hour or more. But then we had to carry on and leave the beautiful island, for something great.

Gili Islands Cruise Lombok Indonesia

Me and my buddy were planning to explore this part of Indonesia on our summer backpacking trip next year and fortuitously, we were able to visit it earlier. The mainland of Lombok and the Gili Islands are not as popular as their neighboring island of Bali. But you know what? It’s the charm of an unexpected gem that made me love these islands.  We will surely come back here. For now, we are heading to our next destination, Flores Island (Komodo!).

Check here for discounted hotels in Lombok

Special thanks to Indonesia's Ministry of Tourism for making this trip possible. 
As always, opinions and opinions are all mine.

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