This is my virgin blog---I've always wanted to start a blog covering travel, photography and/or food but especially travel and photography which are my two passions. After more than a year of thinking about a blog, I've finally gone a step better (just about) by starting my photography website. So here goes on my first blog entry...
I'd always wanted to visit Lombok, an island so close to much-visited and more popular Bali that you can see Mount Agung on a clear day from Lombok. This October when my children had their school's half term break we decided to check out Lombok and were not disappointed at all. In fact, Lombok has a more laid-back, far less rushed and touristy feel to Bali which I found very refreshing. We are generally not a beach-holiday family but in Lombok, I rediscovered the pleasures of snorkelling and enjoying the beautiful coral reefs and many colourful varieties of fish in the clear turquoise waters of the Gili Islands. It was amazing that at one of the Gili islands (there are several), this was all easily accessible just by going out less than 50m from the shore...a whole new world out there. We saw sea turtles while snorkelling at Gili Trawangan, a fairly 'built-up' and very popular holiday destination. Much better was Gili Meno, a very quiet island with a lunch spot playing pretty cool music but sadly, really bland nasi goreng (local Indonesian fried rice dish), where the snorkelling was pretty amazing. We've not gotten an underwater camera yet so afraid I can't post any photos of the wonderful marine life and coral reefs out in the Gilis...that's definitely on the Christmas list!
We stayed at the lovely Qunci villas in Senggigi and the Gilis are about 75 mins on the charming wooden double-hulled outrigger boats. We went with an enterprising Lombokian called Zul who was touting his services on the beachfront of the Qunci... when it's non-tourist season Zul, like most other Lombok natives, is a farmer who plants a combo of soy, maize, rice and/or peanuts. Somehow everyone is their 'brother' or friend in Lombok who can help arrange a car or boat to take you to wherever you want to explore in Lombok. Zul didn't disappoint---he showed us some lovely snorkelling spots off the Gilis and quite a few sea turtles; our first day out with him was so good that he managed to convince us to go snorkelling again 2 days later at another very quiet island called Gili Nanggu, aka the Robinson (as in Crusoe!) Island--he promised there would be hardly any other tourists there...and there weren't. That was a 90min drive from Senggigi and then a 15 min boat ride out to the island. While I felt the snorkelling wasn't quite as spectacular as at Gili Meno, the peaceful and quiet ambience of the island was pretty special. Zul then took us for lunch at his 'friend's restaurant' on a different, also very quiet island. Nasi goreng was tons better here... and there was a large bunch of school children having their lunch break, playing in the open field and just being kids. I love photographing kids especially, as they are so natural and un-inhibited. I got to watch them engage in a game of marbles...such simple pleasures. No DSs, iPhones, x-boxes or other electronic devices which seem to distract our kids these days and kill the art of conversation; these kids were engaging with each other and having fun during their break, which was lovely to see. Elsewhere a group of older teenaged girls were performing some pretty impressive gymnastic moves of backflips, leg stretches and contortions. An outrigger boat seemed to have lost its anchor and started drifting pretty quickly with the currents, to the bemusement of the kids and mine...until the boatman swam out to rescue his boat.
Would I return to Lombok? Definitely! and oh, I got to photograph some other charming school kids at the local village school just opposite the Qunci (photos posted on my website under the "portraits" section of "Faces of Lombok"). I would like to return and perhaps hike up the volcano Mount Rinjani which is about 3700m and requires about 2 nights stay up the mountain in tents...I wouldn't be rushing to the waterfall tour which I'd guessed would be pretty touristy. I'd chosen only to get to the 1st waterfall which was an easy 15-20 min walk from the Pondok Senaru station and not bother going to the second which is another 45 mins or so from the first waterfalls as I wanted to get to the Sasak village of Senaru. Here people lived very simply in alang-alang roofed huts. The villagers are only slowly getting used to seeing foreigners visit their village and are not the most receptive to being photographed, but that was fine too...it was nice just to be able to see a pace of life that is so far-removed from our hustle and bustle.