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Welcome to The Lombok Guide – Lombok's complete tourism paper and your guide to the best that the island has to offer. The Lombok Guide is published on Lombok every two weeks and contains valuable information for all visitors to our magical island.

The past two weeks have been especially busy in Lombok, particularly over the weekend of 14 and 15 February. Romance was in the air as lovers celebrated Valentine's Day at our fabulous resorts and restaurants but, at the same time, the town of Kuta on our south coast came alive in a way it never has before. Thousands of people flocked to the small coastal town to take part in the biggest Bau Nyale festival ever!

No one is quite sure how many people attended this year's Bau Nyale, (some reports even quoted the figure as high as 20 000!), as crowds were still arriving at 5am in the morning to catch the mysterious sea worms. We can only say that we rubbed shoulders with between 6- and 10 000 people on the night and the crowds were awesome! Bau Nyale looks set to become Lombok's most popular cultural festival, in a calendar that is packed with annual events!

More exciting news with the launch of TIME – Indonesia's travel mart and expo to be held in Lombok in both 2009 and 2010. Lombok has won the chance to host the national event and is gearing up to make TIME Lombok one of the biggest and best ever! Read our special report on page 30 to see what this could mean for international visitors to our beautiful and special island.

To find out more, pick up a copy of The Guide from the locations listed on page 30 or visit us at www.thelombokguide.com and discover the magic of Lombok for yourself… like thousands of others, you'll be enchanted!

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One of Lombok's most important and popular festivals is Bau Nyale, meaning “to catch the sea worms” in local Sasak language. It is a cultural tradition, deeply rooted in local legend and drama, and unique to the island of Lombok.

The sea worms are a rare variety of Palolo worm (Eunice viridis) found in tropical waters in certain parts of the world and in Lombok, Sumba and Savu in Indonesia. Once a year, when seasonal, marine and lunar conditions combine, the Nyale come to certain beaches around Lombok to spawn and, for a few days, the seas are filled with wriggling sea worms in a variety of colours, ranging from simple brown or pale cream to red and green.

Bau Nyale, or the Nyale Festival, takes place every year in the tenth month of the Sasak calendar at a time close to the full moon, and was celebrated this year on 14 and 15 February on the south coast beaches of Lombok. The most popular site for celebrating Bau Nyale is at beautiful Seger Beach near Kuta; an area called Putri Nyale (Princess Nyale) by the people of Lombok.

The lead-up to the festivities started several days before the “core event” on 14 February, with peresean performances held in Kuta every afternoon from 11 February. Peresean is a local form of traditional fighting, using long rattan sticks, in which competitors try to strike each other while protecting their own bodies with shields made from toughened cow hide. It’s a fast and furious fight, always cheered on by an enthusiastic crowd.

The main Bau Nyale celebrations occurred on Saturday, beginning in the late afternoon on the beautiful beachfront in Kuta on Lombok’s south coast. Large groups of both local people and tourists gathered on the beachfront to be entertained by traditional music and dance performances hosted by the local southern communities. Stalls selling ice creams, drinks, balloons and other favours helped create a carnival atmosphere and provided some relief from the hot afternoon sun.

All day, a steady stream of traffic flowed into the streets of this normally quiet resort town – cars, motorbikes and trucks full of excited people from all over the island, as well as many visitors from outside Lombok, arriving to witness this unique and mysterious event. As evening approached, a long train of traffic made its way to Seger Beach, around 5kms to the east of Kuta, and the site of the main Bau Nyale celebrations. Scheduled to begin at 9pm, the traffic was already banked up for several kilometres by 8pm. This is not an event for the impatient. As crowds of between 5 and 6 000 people amassed on the small road leading to the beach, typical waits for entrance stretched to two hours. This didn’t, however, deter the crowds and the overall festive atmosphere.

On the land surrounding the beach, stalls and warungs selling a huge range of drinks and foods to serve the crowds were assembled, and stages had been set up to feature the different performances being held on the beach, with traditional singing and the popular Dangdut music featured in one, while the main stage featured the core performances that are an essential part of the Bau Nyale festival. The crowds lined the grass in front and to the sides of the stage, and up the sides of the small hill overlooking the main arena. Even the intermittent rain showers that came and went through the night did nothing to deter the constant stream of people who continued to arrive, right into the early hours of the next morning.

The festival starts with “pantun”, a form of traditional poetry, where young people tease and flirt with each other, competing to form verses in a ritualised style. Each verse consists of two couplets: the first couplet suggests the second, by sound or other similarity. It is often sung in contests where a boy addresses a quatrain to a girl, who must answer with a quatrain of her own. The results are often tongue-in-cheek or highly suggestive; for local people, engaging in pantun is a form of permitted flirting, often leading to courtships in the more traditional villages of Lombok.

The highlight of the festival is the drama which commemorates the legend of Putri (Princess) Mandalika, who was the princess of a large kingdom called “Yellow Flower”. According to local myth, this kingdom was famous throughout the land and Princess Mandalika was very beautiful, as well as being kind and well-loved by the people of her kingdom. When she was of suitable age to marry, princes and suitors travelled to the kingdom to ask for her hand. So many men wanted to marry her that it began to cause trouble between the different kingdoms and the Princess became unable to choose between them without her decision causing further strife.

For days the princes competed for the princess, leading to tensions and threats of war between the rival kingdoms. Finally the princess’ father, King Kuripan, gathered all the rivals together and instructed Princess Mandalika to choose her husband before sunrise the next morning. Fearful of causing a war, instead of choosing one of them, Princess Mandalika declared that, even if she loved one of the suitors, she loved her parents, her kingdom and the people of her kingdom too much to cause a war. Saying that, rather than choose one, she would give herself to everyone, she threw herself into the sea from the promontory overlooking Seger Beach, declaring that she would return each year as a sign that she would never leave her people.

Everyone searched the surrounding sea for the princess, but instead they found masses of colourful sea-worms, called Nyale. According to a local priest, or Dukun, the princess's body had been transformed into these sea worms, and thus they became a traditional symbol for the Sasak people. Other legends say that the long strands of the Nyale worms are the princess’s hair, floating in the water where she drowned. Whether or not the stories are true, the legend continues to be celebrated and has become a parable of sacrifice for the sake of the greater good, and is re-enacted each year as a reminder to the community.

The Putri Mandalika drama, starting at around midnight, was a spell-binding and well-acted spectacle, and kept the thousands in the audience enthralled for almost two hours. The theatrical drama featured beautiful and colourful traditional Sasak costumes, traditional music, drumming and gamelan, and conjured up a fascinating image of life during the times when Lombok was ruled by kingdoms and Sasak royalty.

At the end of the drama, the gong and gamelan entertainers set up on the stage to entertain the remaining crowds, while thousands of people started making their way down to the beachfront to the east of the bay. Excited crowds splashed into the water carrying small nets, buckets and torches, hoping to be the first to catch a Nyale worm. No one really knows for sure when the Nyale will appear, so breaths are held and anticipation is high prior to the first sighting. Raising their torches high and wading perilously deep into the waves, eager people scanned the ocean, with the first catches starting around 2.30am. By 5am the tide had abated and the beachfront was an awesome sight, swarming with thousands of wet, happy people scooping up the worms with nets, buckets, shirts and anything else they could use to catch them!

The highlight of the ceremony occurs when the local priest or Dukun wades into the sea to observe the spawning Nyale and predict the future rice harvest, based on the number of sea worms. A good catch is a sign that this year's rice harvest will also be good. Nyale are traditionally associated with fertility, and as part of a ritualised ceremony, the sea worms are ground up and placed in irrigation channels around fields to help ensure a good harvest.

Considered a rare delicacy, the people collect the worms to eat them for a special annual feast. Nyale are eaten sometimes raw when they are caught, or steamed, fried, or made into Pepes Nyale. In this popular local specialty, the Nyale are mixed with coconut and spices, then wrapped in a banana leaf and roasted over the fire. The sea worms are rich in protein and are also believed to have aphrodisiac properties, so the feasting takes place with much merriment and gusto!

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Rumours are already buzzing about this year's La Rouge Party by Qunci Villas. Just as Bali has its “White Party” (Ku De Ta), La Rouge is planned as an annual event for Lombok and will feature top entertainment and a lavish party for all the beautiful people, carried off with all the usual stylish Qunci flair! The name itself conjures up myriad images: rouge to highlight your cheekbones, rouge-red lips, and the naughty but nice girls of La Moulin Rouge. Get ready to paint the town… rouge!

From previously having no pet shops in Senggigi and having to travel to the city for pet supplies, we suddenly have two new pet shops open in the past week! Rambo Pet Shop was the first to open, on the main street opposite Happy Café. This pet store has a fantastic range of imported pet foods and accessories, particularly for dogs, as well as essential pet care with brands like FrontLine, pet vitamins and a large range of pet shampoos and spa treatments. We're told the owner is currently in Singapore, buying up the rest of the stock. Senggigi Pet Shop has also hung up its mantle, just near the entrance to Green Valley in front of The Beach Club. Under the same ownership as Nobel Pet Shop in the city, the store has a complete range of dog and cat foods, collars, leads and accessories, as well as specialty cages and carrying cases. Senggigi pet owners are now spoilt for choice!

Café Alberto, on the beachfront at the northern entrance to Senggigi, is looking great after its recent facelift. The popular Senggigi eatery now boasts a comfortable under cover dining area, complete with couches for lazing and reading, alongside the new sparkling swimming pool, which is free for all Café Alberto guests. Fast WiFi internet connection is also available free of charge and there's even a laptop for guests' use if you don't have your own. Now you can spend your day in comfort right on the beach, with delicious pizzas, seafood and Italian meals, and plenty of cold drinks for sustenance in between swimming, surfing the net and generally chilling out in the lovely new surroundings.

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A group of sixteen agents from some of the biggest travel agencies and tour companies in China visited Lombok recently.

This was the first visit to the island by the Chinese agents, who arrived in Lombok on 11 February and stayed at Santosa Villas and Resort. They spent two days exploring Lombok, familiarising themselves with the facilities available on our island and making sightseeing trips to major places of interest.

The agents were guests of honour at a special dinner on Wednesday night at the Santosa Villas and Resort, where they were welcomed with speeches by Drs Lalu Gita Ariyadi MSi, Head of the Department of Culture and Tourism, and Pak Marutu, Representative of Director General of Marketing, National Department of Culture and Tourism, Jakarta. The dinner was hosted by Santosa Resort and attended by Pak Mahdi and Pak Haris, from Dinas Pariwisata (the Department of Culture and Tourism), together with other travel industry heads.

Despite the rainy weather, the agents (many of whom are directors and managers of their agencies) said they were very impressed with Lombok and looked forward to returning for a longer period during the dry season to explore the island further.

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The Holiday Resort in Mangsit celebrated its 13th Anniversary on Valentine's Day, 14 February 2009. To mark the occasion of 13 years of operating their resort in Lombok, the resort team spent the day at the Suranadi Hotel, where members from all departments joined forces in games and activities such as a swimming competition and more.
Later in the afternoon, the group celebrated at an anniversary party, with many door prizes donated by sponsors (hotels, agents and suppliers) as well as a dedication gift from the Holiday Resort.
The aim of celebration was to thank all of the resort's associates for their support, dedication, commitment and loyalty during their past 13 years with Holiday Resort Lombok.
Congratulations on 13 years of successfully operating in Lombok’s hospitality industry, Holiday Resort!

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A good crowd of people joined the Cellar Party at Square Restaurant on 6 February, enjoying the free flow wines in these times of limited supplies...

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Seen in Batu Bolong

Was that a bike?!

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A gathering of lucky friends were treated to a special (tongue-in-cheek) “Film Festival” at Vila Qusia on Thursday, 4 February 2009.

The film night started with extracts from the Indonesian sinetron (soap opera) “SMS Untuk Bidadari” which features promising local television star, Signore Allesandro, son of Giuseppe and Rahmi Giuppe of Café Alberto fame. The scenes for the popular television series, which chronicles the life of a surfer, were also shot in and around Senggigi, including on the beach in front of Café Alberto, The Beach Club and at the Senggigi Beach Hotel.

Following this brief showing, Qunci Villas guest, Tricia Regan from New York, introduced her movie “Autism: The Musical”, which tells the story of a group of eleven kids with autism that write, produce and perform an original musical for the stage.

A small story of immense courage, the film has been an unlikely smash success – winning dozens of awards, including the Emmy Award for best documentary of 2008. Premiering on HBO in the spring of 2008, it received rave reviews from every major newspaper in the US, including Variety, The New York Times, The LA Times and the Chicago Tribune.

Tricia Regan directed, shot and produced “Autism: The Musical” which received an unprecedented five Emmy nominations, including individual achievement Emmys for directing and cinematography. Her first documentary film, “A Leap of Faith”, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and has been broadcast on five continents and translated into seven different languages. She is a freelance producer and director of non-fiction television for ABC, NBC, FOX, A&E, MTV, VH1 and HBO. She is currently directing and producing for ABC News in New York City.

“Autism: The Musical”, far from being an ordinary documentary about autism, is an inspiring story, with parts that will make you laugh, cry and – most of all – think. Produced with humour and unsentimental style, its message has a haunting quality that returns to mind at unexpected moments for days afterward. Try to find a copy of this extraordinary movie if possible… it's highly recommended viewing.

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The NTB (Lombok and Sumbawa) Government will provide Rp 5 billion (approx. US $416 000) in funds for the planned TIME (Tourism Indonesia Mart & Expo) travel market to be hosted in Lombok this year.

At the TIME launch held at Santosa Villas and Resort on Tuesday, 17 February, details of the planned travel mart were released to travel industry stakeholders and the press. Those attending heard speeches from Mr Misbach Mulyadi, Executive Director of Lombok Sumbawa Tourism Promotion Board, Mr Lalu Gita, Regional Head of the Department of Tourism and Culture, and Mr Awan Aswinabawa, Chairman of local tourism body, ASITA.

The government representatives and associated organisations pledged their commitment to developing tourism in Lombok and full support for TIME, which will be held in Lombok in both 2009 and 2010. The travel expos are part of a drive by the new NTB government to introduce visitors to Lombok and promote the island as a top tourism destination, with a large variety of natural resources and huge tourism potential.

Lombok's Vice Governor and President of Lombok Sumbawa Promo, Mr Ir H Badrul Munir MM, said of TIME: “This is our chance and our challenge – the chance for Lombok and Sumbawa to get international exposure, and the challenge of going global and really becoming a world class tourism destination.”

The travel industry event is scheduled to take place over three days, during 16 19 October, 2009. It is anticipated that around 300 overseas travel agents will attend the TIME exhibition, which will showcase the tourism potential and facilities of the region. It is also hoped that TIME will encourage return visitors for the planned “Visit Lombok and Sumbawa 2012” tourism promotion campaign.

TIME is an important tourism marketing tool which attracts buyers and sellers to a particular destination for the purpose of selling travel packages. In the past, TIME has been held in Yogyakarta and Makassar, South Sulawesi (2006 and 2008). “We hope that TIME can introduce the island of Lombok to overseas markets and that they will see the tourism potential here,” Misbah Mulyadi said.

TIME 2008 in Makassar attracted a total attendance of 104 buyers from 21 countries. The top five buyers consisted of Malaysia, Korea, India and Indonesia, Singapore, and the Netherlands. TIME Makassar also recorded 108 sellers from 16 provinces of Indonesia, including Jakarta, South Sulawesi, Bali, North Sulawesi, West Nusa Tenggara, Yogyakarta, East Kalimantan, and Papua. TIME 2008 booked an estimated transaction of US $15.2 million, according to Meity Robot, chairperson of TIME 2008.

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I remember my first time snorkelling on Gili Trawangan in 1991. Wading just a few metres out from the white sand, the reef was so close to shore that I had to lie down in waist-deep water to avoid stepping on the corals. In the clear turquoise water before me shimmered corals of every hue imaginable, teaming with schools of bright coloured tropical fish.

Every year when I returned to Lombok, a snorkel on Gili T was a must. And so it went, visiting this magical underwater world until, in mid-1998, I returned to find huge beds of coral missing… others laying broken and grey/white, dying in the warm water. Unable to believe so much destruction could have occurred in such a short time, I finned up and down the coast, searching for the scene I remembered so well. Then I trailed out of the ocean, sat on the beach and cried my eyes out.

What had happened? A combination of factors, both natural and man-made, had wreaked destruction on Gili Trawangan's reefs. Firstly, the Indonesian practices of dynamite and cyanide fishing, driven by the desperate circumstances of the locals during the 1997 Indonesian economic crisis, had decimated parts of the reefs all around Lombok. Secondly, the effects of El Nino in Indonesia between 1997 and 1998 had warmed the shallow waters around the Gili's that crucial few degrees, baking the coral and wiping out the natural habitat of the marine life.

Fast forward to 2008 and things are looking much better in all three Gilis, especially Gili Trawangan, thanks to the efforts of the Gili Eco Trust and their Biorock® programme. The Eco Trust, established in 2002 by local dive companies, working with SATGAS and government agencies, is managed by Delphine, Anna, Rais, Usman, Sarro and Subaere and is funded by dive operators on the Gilis. Donations are collected from visiting divers and snorkellers (Rp 40 000 for divers and Rp 20 000 for snorkellers) and special projects are funded by western business operators on the island.

The Biorock® method was invented, developed and patented by the late Prof Wolf Hilbertz and Dr Thomas Goreau and uses low voltage electrical currents to grow solid limestone minerals on conductive surfaces. The method being used in the Gilis involves welded steel frames submerged at varying depths in the ocean, through which a small electrical charge is run, generating mineral growth on the frames. These solid surfaces then become the framework, or artificial reef, on which corals can anchor and grow.

Hard and soft corals have been observed to grow on Biorock materials at extraordinary rates, with hard corals growing at between 2 – 6 times faster than controls (depending on species and conditions), and are exceptionally brightly coloured and densely branched. The corals heal from damage at least 20 times faster, have 16 – 50 times higher survival rate, and show rates of new coral recruitment hundreds to thousands of times higher than previous studies.

Not only do the Biorock structures regenerate reef systems quickly, they provide safe habitats for marine life and foster juvenile fish populations at an extraordinarily fast rate. They also provide effective breakwaters to reduce beach erosion from waves and unusual tides, buffering the shore from the ocean's actions.

To date around 33 Biorock reefs have been submerged in the waters surrounding Gili Trawangan, with 15 new structures placed in December 2008. Earlier reefs created in 2004 and 2006 are now well established and show amazing rates of growth. Divers can visit the Biorock reefs and see the corals and fish populations thriving there, in addition to the natural reef systems that make the Gili islands so popular with divers.

The Gili Eco Trust is just one example of how, working together, communities can reverse the mistakes of the past and set sustainable systems in place for future generations.

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