LOMBOK ISLAND INDONESIA.

Lombok (1990 pop. 2,403,025) is an island in West Nusa Tenggara province, Indonesia. It is part of the chain of the Lesser Sunda Islands, with the Lombok Strait separating it from Bali to the west and the Alas Strait between it and Sumbawa to the east. It is roughly circular, with a “tail” to the southwest, about 70 km across and a total area of about 4,725 km² (1,825 sq mi). The administrative capital and largest city on the island is Mataram.

History
The Dutch first visited Lombok in 1674 and settled the eastern part of the island, leaving the western half to be ruled by a Hindu dynasty from Bali. The Sasaks chafed under Balinese rule, and a revolt in 1891 ended in 1894 with the annexation of the entire island to the Netherlands East Indies.

Geography and demographics
The Lombok Strait marks the passage of the biogeographical division between the fauna of the Indomalayan ecozone and the distinctly different fauna of Australasia that is known as the Wallace Line, for Alfred Russel Wallace, who first remarked upon the distinction between these two major biomes.

The island’s topography is dominated by the centrally-located stratovolcano Mount Rinjani, which rises to 3,726 m (12,224 ft), making it the third-highest in Indonesia. The most recent eruption of Rinjani was in June-July, 1994. The volcano, and its sacred crater lake, Lake Segara Anak, are protected by a National Park established in 1997. The southern part of the island is a fertile plain where corn, rice, coffee, tobacco, and cotton are grown.

The island’s inhabitants are 85% Sasak (a people, closely related to the Balinese, but mostly practising Islam), 10-15% Balinese, with the small remainder being Chinese, Arab, Javanese, and Sumbawanese.

Economy and politics
Lombok has much in common with nearby Bali, but less well-known and less-visited by foreigners. It has been working to increase its visibility to tourists in recent years, promoting itself as an “unspoiled Bali”. The most-developed center of tourism is Senggigi, spread in a 10-kilometer strip along the coastal road north of Mataram, while backpackers congregate in the Gili Islands off the west coast. Other popular tourist destinations include Kuta (distinctly different from Kuta, Bali) where surfing is considered some of the best in the world by leading surfing magazines. The Kuta area is also famous for its beautiful, untouched beaches.

While the area may be considered economically depressed by First World standards, the island is fertile, has sufficient rainfall in most areas for agriculture, and possesses a variety of climate zones. Consequently, food in abundant quantity and variety is available inexpensively at local farmer’s markets. A family of 4 can eat rice, vegetables, and fruit for as little as US$0.50. Even though a family income may be as small as US$1.00 per day from fishing or farming, many families are able to live a happy and productive live on astonishingly small incomes.

In early 2000 thousands fled from religious and ethnic violence that swept over the island, and tensions remain. Some travel websites warn that tourists sometimes provoke anger in this economically depressed region. This warning lacks credibility, since all of Lombok has had a long history of welcoming visitors to the island. Both the government and many of the residents recognize that tourism and the services required by tourists is Lombok’s highest source of income. Further proof of the island’s hospitality is show by the fact that tourists are virtually never seriously injured by any interaction with the local population. There is also a refugee camp on the island, costs paid for by Australia, which holds mostly Hazara Afghans who have tried to enter Australia by boat.

Cities
* Bangsal – little harbor servicing the Gili Islands
* Kuta – a surfing mecca like its Bali namesake, but that’s where the similarities end
* Lembar – for boats to Bali
* Mataram – the largest city by far
* Senggigi – the main tourist strip, including the neighboring beach of Mangsit

Understand
Located just east of Bali, Lombok has been promoted as “an unspoiled Bali” for quite some time, with beautiful beaches and the large, looming volcano of Mount Rinjani.

The more Islamic culture in Lombok compared than Bali may explain the reason why Lombok is quieter than Bali in terms of parties and nightlife, which can be either a positive or a negative depending on your point of view. Lombok is also becoming increasingly popular for honeymooners.

Culture
Lombok’s people are 85% Sasak, culturally and linguistically closely related to the Balinese, but unlike Bali’s Hindu they are Muslims. A notable non-orthodox Islamic group found only on Lombok are the Wektu Telu (“Three Prayers”), who as the name suggests pray only three times daily, instead of the five times required in the Quran.

Climate
While tropical, hot and humid, Lombok is drier than neighboring Bali, which makes it a particularly attractive option during the October-December rainy season (it rains on Lombok too, but rarely for more than an hour). The peak of the tourist season, though, is May through August.

Get in
By plane
Lombok’s only airport is Mataram’s Selaparang Airport (AMI), which occasionally also shows up in flight schedules as “Ampenan” (hence the seemingly odd airport code). There are frequent connections to Denpasar on Bali (30 min) and Surabaya (1 hour) on Garuda, Merpati and Germania Trisakti (“GT Air”), but only a single flight per day to Jakarta (on Garuda). A flight offered from and to Yogyakarta (on Garuda) is currently not being scheduled anymore. International flights are limited to Kuala Lumpur daily on Merpati and Singapore thrice weekly on Silk Air, with visas available on arrival. Lombok Network maintains a useful, mostly-updated flight schedule listing all flights to the island.

By boat
Slow boats from Padang Bai on Bali leave about every hour for the four- to five-hour trip to Lembar (Rp 35,000). The slow ferries are a bit rusty and dusty, with minimal restroom facilities, and are used mostly by locals, with few tourists on board. Access to the passenger deck is usually from the vehicle deck via steep and narrow stairs, so maneuvering heavy luggage is a challenge. Would-be porters wait by the docks, and will happily carry your stuff for Rp 10,000 per item. Sometimes they insist on doing so even when you don’t ask. They can be a bit intimidating, and sometimes try