Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by viravira on 17 March 2016 • Destination
“Have you been to the gilis?” is the most common question I heard when people knew I was going to Lombok, or when I met locals in Lombok. And usually what they mean is the three gilis on the north west of Lombok; Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno. It’s so famous as a tourist destination, that everyone who travels to Lombok not for some kind of research or visiting family must be thought to be going to these islands. “I have, to Gili Trawangan,” is usually my answer. On my recent trip to Lombok, I added more gilis on my ‘have been’ list. Not that I’m counting, but.. okay, turns out I am. The visit was all done in a few hours of island hopping that started at Sekotong beach, southwest of Lombok.
From what I’ve read, there are about 13 gilis near Sekotong beach and you could choose which ones you want to visit. But I just went with the ones that Villa Yukie, where I was staying, had always taken their guests to. The trip started at 10 a.m. It could start much earlier, but Diyan and I were moving slowly that morning.
We started with Gili Nanggu, which only took about 10-15 minutes boat ride from Villa Yukie. The smooth white sand beach is such a beautiful contrast to the blue water and sky. Tourists were sunbathing, goofing around at the beach, and snorkeling. We didn’t snorkel far to the middle. Too lazy to paddle. The underwater view was alright, we saw a lot of fish and schooling fish in various sizes and colors, but almost no coral reef. Visibility wasn’t great, about 5-7 meters.
Weirdly, the fish were swimming around us and sometimes toward us, they weren’t afraid of humans. Sometimes they were too close to me, making it difficult to take pictures or videos of them. Turns out, the tourists here, most likely recommended and facilitated by the tour guides or boatmen, often feed the fish. The objective is to make tourists happy because they can take pictures – selfies and whatnot – with many fish in frame. We don’t support this behavior because animals in their habitat are supposed to live naturally, which also means ‘hunt’ for their food naturally. But I guess schooling fish aren’t always clever – I know, lame pun – they were easily fooled by Diyan’s hand gesture, pretending he was handing out food, like how you’d invite a cat to come close.
So if you want to take pictures with a lot of fish in frame, just do the feeding hand gesture, don’t feed them for real.
The second stop was Gili Sudak, about 10 minutes from Gili Nanggu. We got there exactly at 12 p.m., so it was lunch time! Yeay! My tummy was grumbling already! And what’s a better way to have lunch than having it on the beach?! A diner, Warung Gili Sudak, is located on the beach, and boatmen often take their guests there.
The menu was a variety of seafood, chicken, vegetables, fried rice and I think some western food. We spent IDR120,000 for food and coconut water, for the both of us. We were so full, we needed about half an hour before we snorkeled again.
The snorkeling spot was just a few meters away from the warung where we ate. Similar to Gili Nanggu, we saw mostly fish and a little corals, plus the scary bonus: soooo many sea urchins! We were heading to the deeper sea to minimize the chance of bumping into these thorny and poisonous creatures, but then the current suddenly got stronger. Err.. did I mention we were too lazy too paddle? So yeah, that was our sign. Back to the beach, and ciao! To the next island!
Gili Kedis is an islet that we walked around it only for 10 minutes tops. Seeing how pretty the beach and the big stones were, we held off our plan to snorkel. We just sat quietly and took photos and videos instead. There were only about 5 other visitors and I didn’t see anyone snorkeling. Maybe it was also because of the current.
Sunrise and Sunset of Sekotong Beach
Sekotong Beach is blessed with its gorgeous sunrise and sunset. Actually the sun rises from the other side of the bay, but as it rises up and peeks from behind the hill it emanates soft orange hues that gradually mixes with pale pink. Before you know it, it turns bright orange sunny sky, creating dramatic silhouette of boats and trees.
In one of the mornings, we were enjoying the sunrise view accompanied by a stray dog. I’m actually scared of dogs but this one was quiet and managed to keep her distance. She just sort of hung out around us and gave me that pitiful stare, so I just had to share my chocolate bread. It was a sweet sunrise moment for me especially because of the extra company.
About 12 hours after sunrise on our first full day in Sekotong, we and other two German girls were awed by the sunset hues. It ranged from orange to purple!
The sunrise moment happened betweet 5.30 until about 6.30 a.m. and sunset was about 6 – 7 p.m. Both sunrise and sunset in Indonesia occur at around the same time all year, only varying a little, depending on your location. When the sky is clear enough, the peak of the famous Rinjani Mountain can be viewed from Sekotong Beach. No doubt, it makes the view more priceless.
Around Sekotong Beach
There’s not much going on at Sekotong Beach. It’s basically a long stretch of narrow beach with a couple of lodges, some were still being built, and villages on the other side of the asphalt road. You’re looking for night life? Fuhgeddaboudit! But it can be a romantic getaway, though it’s not as secluded as Ora Beach in Maluku or Sire Beach in northwest Lombok. Or, you could rent a motorbike or car and drive around, with or without a hired driver. Senggigi is quite far north, about 2 hours away. Lembar port is an hour by motorbike.
We went south to Mekaki Beach, about half an hour from Villa Yukie. The road was mostly good, we rode with the beach in sight most of the way. Just before getting there, the road got hilly and at one point you could see Mekaki beach down below from afar, with green landscape and the road all in one frame. You need to be a good motorbike rider because there’s a really steep part of the road.
Mekaki beach is known for the beauty and as a surfing spot. You’d need to prepare your own logistic because there’s no warung, no nothing at the vicinity. There’s not even a single coconut tree at the beach, so the best time to be there if you just want to enjoy the beach would be in the morning or the afternoon.
Other than Mekaki, locals would recommend you to check out Bangko Bangko beach, especially if you surf. We didn’t get there because the road was even more hilly and in worse condition, and it was starting to rain.
We’re told by the locals that in general the South and West Lombok, including Sekotong, don’t score high in the safety department. When visiting Mekaki, we were warned to stay close to where we park the motorbike. Gotta watch out for them bike thieves. And they also don’t encourage us to ride along the west coast at night because there might be robbers. That’s why we didn’t take our time to stop and enjoy sunset on the road after getting some money from the ATM at Lembar.
All said, three nights at Sekotong was not enough. We wanted to stay longer to see more beaches and villages, but we had booked another stay in North Lombok for the next nights. I’ll tell you about it too, just you wait!
– Traveled in March 2015 –
Have you been to Lombok? Please share this and tell us what is your favorite place and activities in Lombok in the Comments below.