Well away from Senggigi and the popular Gili Islands, the southern side of Lombok is a surf hotspot with a wave for everyone.
“It’s like Bali 30 years ago,” I’ve heard declared several times about Lombok, Bali’s eastern neighbour, and I’m here to say: “No, it’s not.” Although the two are only separated by around 20 kilometres of water, Lombok is not like Bali, past or present. While Bali is green and lush, Lombok tends to be dry and rugged. The culture, religion and even the animals of Lombok are different to those of Bali, and – most obviously – tourism is far less developed.
One thing Bali and Lombok do have in common, though, is pumping surf, with Lombok offering clean and relatively uncrowded waves.
With these differences in mind, southern Lombok seemed a great destination for a 40th birthday surf trip. We were eight surfers, with abilities ranging from first-timer and OK-but-rusty to legendary. With the hope of accommodating all of our surf requirements, we proceeded to Kuta Beach.
Only 25 minutes’ drive from the airport, Kuta presents a dusty collection of roadside warungs (open-air restaurants) and a few makeshift shops all selling the same souvenirs. Cries of “Mister, you make me bankrupt!” can be heard as local kids haggle with tourists over homemade bracelets, followed by their mothers touting sarongs. Despite a few hassles, Kuta is a handy base in close proximity to many surf spots.
The closest surf break, Segar Beach, is at the front of our resort. After check-in, I stroll towards the beach, only to be puzzled by the sound of distant thunder. Only, it’s not thunder; transfixed, I watch in goosebumped terror as mountains of water pound the rocks just beyond the lagoon.
Starting with Don Don break is a great idea. Although the waves sometimes seem big, they are “fat” and they peel slowly – the only down side is that glorious long rides mean a long paddle back. Outside Gerupuk, things are less friendly. Fast, big, waves with erratic peaks greet our advanced surfers as the rest of us stare in slack-jawed wonder. Further into the bay, the less advanced surfers take on a right-hander close to menacing white cliffs. The waves initially appear suitable, until one rogue wall of water looms and crashes down on our heads, snapping a leg rope and creating carnage; four rusty surfers are taught a lesson about the unpredictability of the ocean.
For the non-surfers, there are enough activities around Kuta to occupy a few days. Tanjung A’an is widely regarded as the prettiest beach near Kuta. At Turtle Warung on the western end of the strip, travellers join locals to devour nasi campur (mixed rice) and recline on the beach chairs drinking ice-cold Bintang beer.
If snorkelling is more your scene, the lagoon at the front of the Novotel resort has sparkling clear water on a high tide. Day trips are easily arranged to Gili Nanggu, and the southern coast hosts pristine dive sites (scubafroggy. com). For total relaxation, visit the mountain-top Ashtari Restaurant and Lounge, where you can find inner peace in one of the daily yoga classes and drink in the views of the dramatic Kuta coastline (ashtarilombok.com).
SilkAir flies direct from Singapore to Lombok in just under three hours. Several airlines provide connections from other parts of Indonesia.
Many surfers rent a motorcycle with a surfboard rack. Hotels can organise a car and driver. Boat transport is easy to find at Ekas and Gerupuk. The boat will wait for you while you surf, and your boatman will join you in the waves, asking, “Stay for just one more?”
Dulang Restaurant: One theory about Lombok is that the name translates as “chilli”, and this is the place to try it. Local specialties including ayam taliwang (spicy grilled chicken) and fresh charcoal-grilled seafood are served with sambal in an outdoor courtyard.
Gulas Garden: This restaurant in a candle-lit tropical garden includes private cabanas with floor cushions. The grilled mahi mahi fish and cocktails are a treat.
KFC cart: Throw caution to the wind and try the tastiest deep-fried chicken in Kuta from the “KFC” cart. It’s parked most nights on the corner of Jalan Raya Kuta and Jalan Pariwisata Pantai.
Novotel Lombok Resort and Villas: Highly recommended and the only upmarket option near Kuta. It has a clean beach, friendly staff and excellent food.
Heaven On The Planet: Occupying a breathtaking location on the cliff-top above the surf break of Inside Ekas, this resort represents total isolation.
Ekas Breaks: Set about one kilometre back from the ocean at Ekas Bay, this newly built hotel offers traditional-style rooms and a pool.
Check out more great destinations on our Travel page.