Our time in Senaru was up. It was time to make our way to the eastern parts of Lombok. And in the early morning we were picked up by our awesome guide Lalu and we drove from the Rinjani Mountain Garden hotel to Tetebatu, but with frequent stops along the way.
East-Lombok is quite different from the other areas of the island. Compared to the rest of the island, the east is relatively undeveloped and the climate is much drier and get much less rainfall. That doesn’t mean that there is nothing to see or do there, in fact, I think East-Lombok might be one of Lombok’s hidden gems. There are some amazing idyllic islands with some beautiful coral reefs in the area, perfect for snorkelling, and perhaps diving as well. The gilis in the West (Trawangan, Meno, and Air) have received their fair share of praise and popularity, but maybe it’s time for the Eastern gilis to shine now.
Black Sand Beaches
The first places we stopped at were along the northern coast of Lombok. Over there, the beaches are made up of black volcanic sand and give this remote area a very unique and beautiful vibe. These beaches and coastlines were truly amazing and the best thing was that they were totally deserted (except for us). It was truly an unspoiled and natural area.
After the black sand beaches, we drove further eastwards, but stopped at a little supermarket along the way. We bought some drinks, snacks, and items, and while we were there a parade complete with music appeared on the street. I believe the procession was on the way to a nearby wedding. It was pretty neat to see this.
Once we arrived at the little harbour, and after we met the captain of our boat, we set off for some snorkeling and island hopping around several gilis in eastern Lombok. Before going to the islands, we stopped at a large mangrove forest for some snorkeling. The snorkeling was pretty good overall, the visibility was great, and there was hardly any current, and while some of the corals showed signs of damage (coral bleaching and fishing with dynamite), there was still a large amount of marine life. The area is now a protected national park, so hopefully the coral reefs and fish population will continue to recover more and more over time. Still, we saw plenty of fish (including the famous clownfishes) and some beautiful corals.
As our boat lay anchored near the mangrove forest we also spotted some illegal fishermen hiding in the mangroves. While fishing is illegal in this area as it is a national park, sometimes people don’t care and take the risks that come with it. We sailed our boat through the mangroves and marveled at the lush green forests and the extremely little amount of water the boat needed to move on.
After the mangrove forest, we stopped at a relatively new island named Gili Kapal. Interestingly, this cute little island has only existed for four years. The depositing of sediments carried by the tides and waves has formed it. It’s basically brand-new and currently it’s not much more than a large sandy beach in the middle of the sea. It’s still pretty small, but it will continue to grow over time. There is not much to do there, besides some beach combing, cleaning up some trash that washed up on the island, and marveling at the amazing scenery. Truly, this is a beautiful and gorgeous area. From one side you can see the crystal blue water with Lombok in the background including Mount Rinjani, while on the other side you could see Sumbawa island in the far distance. Very pretty indeed.
Once we were finished cleaning and exploring Gili Kapal, we went to Gili Kondo, a nearby island. There, more white-sand beaches and warm clear blue waters awaited us. Before diving in the sea, we had our lunch in one of the little cottages on the beach. As this was a weekday, the island was completely deserted except for us. Our guide said it could be quite crowded on weekends and national holidays. There are no restaurants, warungs, or hotels of the sort on the island, so bring whatever you need from the mainland (and in the case of trash, bring it back with you as well).
Another captain that works at the Labuan Pandan harbour cooked our lunch for us. And it was really tasty. He made some ayam goreng (fried chicken), some cap cay (mixed vegetables), a spicy soy sauce, sambal with terasi (shrimp paste), white rice, bakwan (a fried Indonesian snack), and some fried tofu and tempe. It was a simple, but pretty much perfect, picnic lunch on a deserted island. It really hit the spot after snorkeling and being active in the sun.
Gili Kondo was empty. We were the only ones there. And once our lunch was finished, we snorkeled in the coral reefs in front of the beach, but after a while we were called back as the current was quite strong and it turned out we drifted off quite far already. But the snorkeling was pretty good while we were in the water, although the coral was damaged in parts (I think due to anchoring of boats). We did manage to see a moray eel, lots of sea urchins, some clownfish, and even a nudibranch.
In the late afternoon, we headed back to the mainland and proceeded on our journey.
If you find yourself in the eastern regions of Lombok someday you should spend a day going around these tiny islands because they are beautiful. The gilis here are quite natural, quiet, and unspoiled. They are worth visiting for some relaxation and snorkeling.