Follow NIKITA CHAWLA’s footsteps as she shares anecdotes from a recent adventurous journey to the Indonesian island
As I got off the airport in Denpasar, I expected Bali to be quite similar to Thailand and wasn’t particularly excited. I boarded my prepaid taxi and headed for the hotel in Ubud that evening. With its lush green rice terraces and panoramic valleys and cultural backdrop, Ubud reminded me a lot of Kerala. Temples, markets, museums, palaces…it has it all covered. If art and culture is your scene, then Ubud is a must visit.
If not, then skip Ubud and stick to Nusa Penida or Lombok for the pristine beaches and shimmering clear waters that spell out your idyllic vacay. After a long journey, (there is no direct flight) I was exhausted by the evening and checked myself into a much needed Balinese spa.
Day 1: Lombok
A short flight form Denpasar or a really long ferry ride (depending on what’s a priority, time or money) you will reach the less touristy version of Bali – Lombok. I took the flight. Lombok has a host of beaches like Kuta, Seger, Mawi and Tanjung Aan which have good waves that lap up against the powdery white sands. However, if I had to pick one, I would stick to the latter – this beautiful 3 km long coastline off South Lombok lays untarnished by plastic, noisy tourists and potholes. I took leisurely strolls along the beaches, sipped margaritas under the gazebos shying away from the fierce afternoon sun and attempted clumsy swims in the water.
Day 2: Rinjani Crater
Mount Rinjani is Indonesia’s second highest volcano with a partial Caldera Lake called Segara Anak (it means Child of the Sea). If you are pressed for time and wondering what to leave, then this isn’t on the list! A trek to this semi-active volcano through the highlands is one of the most epic and worthwhile excursions in the region. I took the steep and scenic Senaru Ascent route and although the difficulty rating of the trek was medium; I found it a tad strenuous especially towards the last leg of the journey.
In between snapping photos of the rainforest and admiring the undulating mountain region, I couldn’t help, but feel guilty for not working out harder in the gym. Once atop, it is a two hour downhill trek to reach the cauldron like depression of Lake Segara Anak.
With no railings to steady oneself and a rocky road, mind you it’s not for the fainthearted! But for those who dare, the view was totally worth it. The mobile reception is surprisingly good on the mountain (Except at the rim of the crater).
Pro tip: Avoid touts and only take experienced guides from established companies who come prepared with all eventualities and the necessary safety guidelines.
Day 3 & 4: Gili Islands
There are a total of three islands (Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air) which had recently started attracting tourists for their raw, unspoiled beauty making this tropical trio a stunning alternative to the touristy Bali. Those pristine blue green water, soft white sand beaches fringed with coconut palms you see in traveller’s bucket lists and social media posts? Turns out they are shot right here in Gili – not mainland Bali. If you aren’t a stickler for luxury and you can deal with a little inconveniences here and there, then the Gili islands are a must visit. Honeymooning couples, those looking out for a digital detox (Wi-Fi is difficult to procure and offered on a hefty premium) and water lovers will love Gili.
Gili Island doesn’t have the cleanest potable drinking water (I was constantly buying bottled water). And is more of a backpackers delight. But that doesn’t mean it’s boring. With a little bit of planning I managed to swim with the turtles, watch spectacular sunsets, party till dawn with people from various nationalities and go snorkeling – all in a day’s work! For island hopping, I took the shared local boat service and bought tickets on the spot.
Pro tip: If you are travelling with kids or want to avoid the hedonistic party style in general, then stick to Gili Air for a chilled out and peaceful affair.
Day 5: Nusa Islands
I took the day ferry to Nusa Penida from the main pier in Sanur and this was by far the most exotic island out of the three Nusa islands. Since, it’s off the radar for most people, it couldn’t get better! Do I have any regrets? Not spending more time here! Crystal Beach and Broken Beach are two noteworthy places to visit. In hindsight, I realised it’s not the safest places for a night over or camp fire, especially if you are travelling solo.
The food is expensive, the island remote with large distances to cover and one or two ATMS in the entire area. But what the island lacks in infrastructure, it makes up for in its riveting beauty seen everywhere right from waterfalls and picturesque cliff formations to temples and cultural highlights that will take your breath away!
I quickly brought down my expectations and happily I lost my way a dozen odd times during the day. and The GPS wasn’t exactly of much use, but I never wasted a moment complaining. After all, paradise isn’t always a 7 star luxury hotel.
WHERE TO STAY: Divide your time between two places – Lombok and Ubud or say Gili islands and Seminak. This way you will have a more intense experience to get to cover more.
Pro tip: Right from air tickets and ferry to excursions and even dinner reservations, try to book everything in advance! The prices soar and vary sporadically from region to region.