advertisement

The drive itself to this stretch of coast is a worthwhile trip, as the road meanders through villages where life is untouched by tourism. Along the roadside you will see people building and repairing boats, laying out handmade bricks to dry in the sun, working in the fields, and sometimes guiding primitive wooden plows harnessed to huge water buffalo as they prepare the fields for planting. Take your time exploring and don't be afraid to wander down some of the small dirt roads toward the beaches -- often deserted paradise. The local people are delightfully friendly and your hand will get tired waving to the children, who call "hello" whenever they see you.

Heading south past Lembar Harbour, toward Sekotong on the left side of the road, is a sealed road leading up the hill. The steep climb results in a magnificent panorama across the fields, and stretches out across the clear waters, the white coastline, and the many small dot islands. A bit further along the main road is Taun, a peaceful village on a wide, placid bay. Three lovely islands -- Gili Nanggu, Gili Tangkong, and Gili Sudat -- are easily accessible by local outrigger boats from here. A small sign in the nearby village will direct you to the local boat hire area, where you can arrange boat trips at reasonable rates.

A little further on, before the local marine culture complex (Balai Budaya Laut), is a small dirt road leading off toward Gili Genting, a small hill in the ocean just off the point. At high tide it is separated from the mainland by a shallow stretch of water and at low tide it is possible to walk out to explore the island. The rock formations are ancient lava flows carved into tunnels and caves by the sea and providing sheltered nooks and crannies of shade -- a perfect setting for a picnic lunch.

Further south and across the road on the beachfront is Dive Zone (tel. 0370/660-3205; www.divezone-lombok.com; excursion to Sekotong US$35-US$80, to Kuta US$35-US$80, to Belongas US$45-US$115), the only dive facility in this part of Lombok. Dive Zone's local experts have pioneered development of previously unknown dive sites in this area. They also offer island-hopping tours to explore the many islands around Sekotong and further south. A long jetty stretches over the sea at the Dive Zone site (one of the Sundancer facilities, a high-end resort under construction), with coral and fish clearly visible in the clear water below.

At the next intersection is a signpost for Labuhan Poh and Pelangan, the site of Bola Bola Paradis .

The largest of the islands here is Gili Gede, appropriately meaning "Big Island." The island is easily accessed by boat from the village of Tembowong. Local boat owners will charge between Rp100,000 and Rp150,000, depending on the number of passengers. Gili Gede is one of the few islands in the area that has accommodation, Secret Island Resort , and a newly opened resort on the other side of the island.

The surfing mecca of Bangko Bangko is on the far southwest tip of Lombok. Although the road deteriorates after Labuhan Poh, it is still passable for most vehicles in the dry season. The drive to the point is dotted with tiny villages, making it a worthwhile trip even for nonsurfers.

Lombok's (& the World's?) Greatest Wave -- Desert Point (best season: dry Apr -- Oct; best swell: west/southwest; best size: 4 -- 8 ft.; best winds: southeast), voted by Australian surf magazine Tracks as the world's greatest wave, is located near a tiny fishing village called Bangko Bangko on the mountainous southwest tip of Lombok. As getting there is a real mission overland due to poor road conditions, many surfers prefer to surf this from the regular charter boats departing Bali's Benoa Harbour on week-long "surfaris" instead. The more intrepid and hardy adventurer can stay at the small, basic homestays that have recently sprung up in the area and wait for the notoriously fickle wave to come alive. When it does turn on, it's not unknown for helicopters to drop a load of pro surfers on the spot for the day's action. Crowds can get big, especially if the place is firing. Tricky currents separate those who should be out there from those who shouldn't, but on its prime days there are enough perfect waves to please the masses. Look out for the crowds of local kids riding pieces of wood on the tiny days.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.