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ISSUE 44

HIGH SEASON IN LOMBOK!

POISONING THE SOUTHWEST?

GOVT AND EMAAR READY TO START WORK ON LOMBOK SITE

WHAT'S HOT

UPROAR OVER PLANS TO MOVE KOMODO DRAGONS

EU LIFTS BAN ON FOUR INDONESIAN AIRLINES

THE MAGICAL SOUTHWEST GILIS

SWINE FLU CONTINUES TO GROW

LOCAL SCENE

CLUB HOUSE RAISES THE BAR ON GILI T

GILI BYTES

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HIGH SEASON IN LOMBOK!

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.

As we head into August, Lombok's high season is in full swing. The shock bombings at two hotels in Jakarta almost a month ago have had little impact on Lombok's tourism industry, with most travellers recognising that the nation's capital city is far away from the peaceful beaches and mountains of Lombok.

Although it would be hard to find a peaceful beach on the Gili islands at the moment! A couple of visits over the past two weeks have shown us that these famous islands are more popular than ever, as you can see from our front cover photo this issue. The beautiful beaches are attracting crowds of sun-worshippers; swimming and snorkelling in the calm blue water.

Mainland Lombok is also buzzing, with the restaurants and bars of Senggigi doing brisk trade. All the major hotels are reporting high occupancy rates for August and it's great to see all those beautiful swimming pools at the resorts surrounded by people enjoying our fabulous sunny weather.

Likewise, surfers and sun-lovers are flocking to the south coast to holiday on the stunning beaches at Kuta, Gerupuk and Mawun and to take on the challenge of the waves at all the best surf spots.
A few are even discovering the secret islands of the Southwest Gilis, featured on page 22 of this issue.

With so many wonderful places to visit and things to do, the question isn't whether you should go to Lombok but rather, where on Lombok should you go?!

To find out more, pick up a copy of The Lombok Guide from the locations listed on page 40 or visit www.thelombokguide.com and discover the magic of Lombok for yourself… like thousands of others, you'll be enchanted!

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POISONING THE SOUTHWEST?

For almost two years, The Lombok Guide has monitored the development of gold-mining on Lombok's southwest coast. When local communities first discovered seams of gold in the hills around Sekotong, the scenic area in the southwest, gold mining became a small cottage industry for the small villages around Pelangan, several kilometers south of the Sundancer Resort in Sekotong.

At that time, mining was mostly carried out by the farmers and fisherman from the area, digging small amounts of gold-bearing rock from the hilltops. The women of the village then carted the rock to roadside stalls where it was crushed by hand and, slowly, a small amount of gold was extracted. As word spread, however, this cottage industry began to grow – some would say with disastrous consequences for this slowly developing area.

People from outside the area started flocking to Pelangan and Sekotong and a gold rush was born. Soon the hills were crawling with people and the scars caused by the digging are already noticeable. Earlier this year a landslide, caused by miners tunneling into the hillside, killed 9 local people and injured a dozen others. More accidents occur every week. Reports say that, although mining camps have grown rapidly on the southwest coast, there are even more camps on the south coast, where the mountains adjoin that part of Lombok. One estimate puts the number of tents around Selong Blanak, an undeveloped pristine bay popular for holidaying and diving, at around four thousand.

As the local gold rush has continued, more people with gold mining experience, particularly from mine sites on Sumbawa and Kalimantan, have come to the area and brought more sophisticated expertise to the mining operations. Small mills with motor driven crushers have been built in many of the towns to speed up the process and dangerous chemicals, including cyanide and mercury, are now being used to extract the gold.
When The Lombok Guide visited Sekotong last week, we were shocked to see that gold processing sites have been set up in dozens of locations in every small town in the area, starting from soon after Lembar Harbour and extending down the coast well past Pelangan. In less than six months, gold fever has well and truly taken over the area.

Of great concern is the use of arsenic, mercury, lead and other dangerous chemicals in the extraction process by inexperienced locals. Mercury and cyanide are traditionally used in mining to separate gold from the crushed rock, with the consequent release of these poisons into the air, tailings, soil and water. Concentrations of both chemicals also interact with arsenides, naturally present in the crushed rock, to form arsenic, which then contaminates the soil and water supplies.

The use of these poisons threatens entire local communities in the south and southwest of the island, not to mention the possible damage to the marine environment, which has vast potential for diving and ecotourism. The area is well known for its pristine clear waters, white sand beaches and myriad of small, undeveloped coral islands off the coast.

The villages, which have traditionally consisted of fishing and farming communities, are at great risk of contaminating their soil and ground water supplies. There is no public water supply and all villages in the area depend on ground water wells for water. While all the community is threatened by exposure to these deadly poisons, children and those working in the processing camps are most at risk.

Arsenic is a deadly poison that can cause serious skin problems, severe organ damage and even death. It can be absorbed from the air, water and, most commonly, from food grown in contaminated soil. Mercury cannot be destroyed once in the environment and poisoning occurs through water and soil contamination. It poses serious health risks and can cause damage to the brain, heart, kidneys and lungs. In water, it can contaminate fish stocks and poison those eating fish or seafood exposed to the mercury.

At the communities we visited last week, miners seemed unaware of the problems. The lure of previously unattainable amounts of money for these predominately poor and uneducated people seems to outweigh any environmental or health concerns. Most camps are situated in the centre of villages, near houses and water wells, with children playing and livestock and chicken grazing nearby. Mud and water run off from the processing plants sits in the village and nearby open drains are filled with muddy water topped with ominous scum. No doubt the chemicals are already leaching into the ground water systems and nearby fields.

The local government has been discussing the formal opening of the area for mining and is proposing the issuance of mining licenses for small and medium-scale mining in the region. Meanwhile, investors and those who see the natural potential of this special and unspoiled area are growing increasingly worried. It seems the only hope is that these people will get together and lobby the local government to take immediate action, before the problem escalates and irreversible damage is done.

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GOVT AND EMAAR READY TO START WORK ON LOMBOK SITE

Having finally overcome obstacles with land titles and ownership in joint ventures, Dubai-based real estate giant Emaar Properties and the state-owned Bali Tourism Development Corporation are finally ready to begin work on an integrated international tourism resort in Lombok.

“We are now in the preparation of building this tourist resort. The groundbreaking ceremony will be held by October,” Alwi Shihab, the government's Special Envoy to the Middle East said at the Ministry of State Enterprises.
Emaar signed a joint venture agreement with the Bali Tourism Development Corporation in March 2008, under which the company committed to investing US $600 million to build a tourist resort.

Besides tourist facilities, Emaar also plans to build Ritz Carlton and Giorgio Armani luxury hotels, a condominium complex and a golf course on the property near Kuta on Lombok's south coast.

The project recently hit a snag after Emaar claimed the Indonesian government had failed to follow through with some of its promises, particularly to clear a 1,200 hectare square area of land required for construction. Around 1,000 hectares has been set aside by the government for the project but still requires certification from the National Land Agency (BPN), while the remainder still belongs to local people.

A disagreement surrounding the company's investment contributions and ownership in the joint venture have also overshadowed the project. However, while refusing to elaborate on the alleged disputes, Alwi said the government and Emaar had resolved all the problems.

“We do not need to talk about the past, as the worse parts of this project have been resolved,” he said. “The President has said that Emaar will be involved in the Visit Lombok Sumbawa 2012 programme. That means the company will also play a key role toward the success of that project,” Alwi said.

An actual investment from the cash-rich United Arab Emirates bodes well for the government's efforts to lure more companies from countries outside Japan, South Korea, Singapore, the US, the EU and all other traditional investors.

West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) province, comprising the islands of Lombok and Sumbawa located just east of Bali, has become the central focus of the ministry's tourism programs, with a specific campaign aiming to draw one million tourists to the province by 2012.

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To keep up with the demand of tourists pouring into Lombok and the Gilis at the moment, Gili Cat is operating several trips a day between Bali and Lombok. The reliable fast boat operator is currently using both Gili Cat I and II boats for their morning transfers and Gili Cat II fast ferry for afternoon transfers. Gili Cat offers fast, safe and reliable transfers between Padangbai Harbour on Bali, Gili Trawangan and Lombok… a comfortable and scenic alternative to flying, especially when all flights are fully booked! See “Getting to Lombok” on page 2 or ph: (0361) 271680 or visit www.gilicat.com for details.

Marina Café, Senggigi's hottest nightspot, has been dazzling crowds with a great line-up of guest artists and entertainment from around the archipelago. Last week, the late-night venue ran out of tickets for the sold-out performance by visiting singer, Julia Perez. Expect another big night out on Sunday, 16 August when hot Indonesian singing artist, Aura Kasih from Jakarta takes to the stage. The full night's entertainment features Aura as the main act, together with dance music from D'etective Band and DJ Arrisa Sheen and the sexy Blue Dolphin Dancers live on stage. The action starts 9pm until late… party 'til you drop! www.marinasenggigi.com

Karaoke bars are all the rage now, especially for the locals who love to sing in the company of a pretty girl or two. While some people hate it, karaoke can be a lot of fun with a few drinks and a group of friends. Green Café opened its doors recently, just out of town opposite the Bintang Hotel in Batu Layar. Unlike other karaoke places, which can get expensive by the time you pay for drinks, private room rental and singing partners, Green Café offers the venue and singing partners free of charge in their spacious and comfortable lounge area. Full bar is available and there's a great happy hour from 5pm until 9pm every day. Plus, with every four drinks purchased, receive coupons and the chance to win great prizes such as motorbikes and mobile phones instantly. Get a group together and unleash your inner rock star!

If you haven't had a chance to visit Rumah Oleh Oleh in Batu Bolong yet, now is the time to do so, with lots of new stock just in. The large outdoor premises house an amazing collection of artwork, fabulous statues for the house and garden, and all sorts of arts and crafts, at fantastic low prices. Inside there's a great selection of pearl jewellery with lots of lovely designs, including ring, earring and necklace sets, again at very attractive prices. If you don't have time to travel all over the island to the small craft villages and are looking for a gift or special handicraft to take home, Rumah Oleh Oleh has all sorts of wonderful things gathered from around Indonesia in one convenient location.

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UPROAR OVER PLANS TO MOVE KOMODO DRAGONS

Plans by the Indonesian Department of Forestry to capture and move ten rare Komodo “dragons” (Varanus Komodoensis) from their natural habitat in the Komodo National Park to the Bali Safari Park is coming under harsh attack from legislators and the people of West Flores.

The controversy comes hot on the heels of the announcement that Komodo National Park is amongst the five finalists in the worldwide New 7 Wonders of Nature competition currently being conducted by the New7Wonders Foundation and United Nations Office for Partnerships. On 24 July 2009, Komodo National Park, home to the Komodo dragons, ranked fourth place in the finals after successfully brushing aside Malaysia’s Sipadan Island and Germany’s Black Forest.

The Komodo National Park, which covers Komodo, Rinca and Pandar Islands as well as other small islands, is home to the Komodo dragon, believed to be a remnant of animals living during the Jurassic period. The 1817 sq km Park was set up in 1980 to protect the dragons and other native species. The Komodos are a major tourist attraction for Flores and its nearby islands, drawing thousands of visitors every year to the region.

Calling plans to move the rare reptiles to Bali an “authoritarian act by the central government”, various groups have called for the revocation of the Ministerial decree authorising the capture and removal of the ten Komodo.

Cyprianus Aoer, a West Flores legislator who sits on Commission X at the National House of Representatives (DPR) told Kompas.com: “The Ministerial decree must be revoked. The decision from the central government shows the authoritarian character and its failure to adequately consider local and regional interests.”

The government is defending its decision to move ten Komodo from the Wae Wuul area of the Komodo reserve to “Bali Safari Park” as part of its efforts to preserve the endangered reptiles by means of genetic diversification.
Cyprianus sees things differently, however, branding the Forestry Minister's decision as an effort to further impoverish the people of Flores by sending the iconic dragons to new areas, detracting from the singularity of West Flores as a natural tourism destination. The legislator added, “The people of Flores must push so the Ministerial decree is quickly revoked. This is even more urgent given the nomination of Komodo to the list of the New 7 Wonders of the Natural World.”

Separately, the Chairman of the Regional House of Representatives for West Manggarai (West Flores), Matheus Hamsi, expressed his shock with the Forestry Minister's decision, saying: “Why move Komodos to Bali? This decision makes no sense and I feel the people of Manggarai Barat and the whole of Flores Island do not agree (with this move). The natural habitat of the Komodo is in the Flores region, so why are we moving the dragons to a different habitat?”

The Chairman of the People’s Group Against Mining (Geram), Bernadus Baratdaya, also rejected the decision to move the Komodos to Bali, whatever the reason, saying, “We will stand in the way of anyone, including the Nature Conservation Agency of Nusa Tenggara Timur (BKSDA NTT), trying to move Komodos from Flores to other places. The only Komodo populations are on Komodo island, Rinca island and Flores near Wae Wuul and Samburampas. Because only a little more than 10 Komodo’s still exist in Wae Wuul, why are we moving 10 of them? Isn't this a systematic effort to eradicate the Komodos from the island of Flores?”

Bernadus questioned that if the facilities in Flores are inadequate for the genetic diversity of the Komodo, shouldn't the BKSDA NTT fight to improve Flores and not be moving these rare reptiles to another place?

Joining the debate, Agung Wardhana, the Director of the Bali branch of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI), told the Jakarta Post that the relocation of a sub-population of the world’s largest lizards to Bali would be bad for both the reptiles and Bali’s environment.

“Before this, eight elephants were transported from Bogor, now the Dragons. What will come next?” Agung asked. “Should all of them be put on this relatively small island?”

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EU LIFTS BAN ON FOUR INDONESIAN AIRLINES

The EU has finally announced the long-awaited end of a 2 year blacklisting of Indonesian aviation, opening the way for European flights by Indonesian airlines. The lifting of the ban also means that Europeans travellers are no longer discouraged from flying with domestic carriers within Indonesia.

The prestigious Indonesia Digest reports that on 15 July 2009, the EU officially lifted its ban on 4 of 51 Indonesian airlines from flying to and from Europe, which the Union imposed in July 2007.

Although Garuda Indonesia had suspended its flights to Europe before that, the ban has practically affected not only the trust and image of Indonesian airlines safety but has stopped European tour operators from selling tours to Indonesian domestic destinations served by Indonesian carriers because of the lack of insurance coverage. With the lifting of the ban, European tour operators may now resume selling destinations served by Garuda and Mandala airlines on connecting flight from Singapore, Malaysia, Jakarta or Bali to Semarang, Lombok, Medan, Padang, Makassar, Moluccas and other preferred destinations.

In a press conference held by the Minister of Transportation, Jusman Syafii Jamil and EU Ambassador Julian Wilson, the Minister said that EU has assured that the ban on other airlines will be lifted after re-certification to obtain the AOC (Air Operator Certificate) as stipulated by Law No 1/2009 on Air Transportation.

In July 2007, the EU banned all Indonesian airlines from flying to Europe in the wake of a slew of air accidents. In the past two years, Indonesia has made large strides in correcting the 121 findings by ICAO in 2007, said the Minister. The new Air Transportation Law strengthens the role of the government in regulating air transportation.
“It has been confirmed that Indonesia has made a great achievement by improving its air safety. I think at least two more airlines will be removed from the EU ban in the near future. Very possibly, [they will be] Lion Air and Air Asia Indonesia,” Wilson told The Jakarta Post in a prior interview.

He said the EU would consider taking other Indonesian airlines off the list when the Indonesian directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) recertified them.

The four airlines immediately released from the ban are: Garuda Indonesia, Mandala Airlines, Airfast and Premi Air. Garuda Indonesia and Mandala are scheduled airlines, while Airfast and Premi Air are charter operators. This does not mean that other Indonesian airlines are not safe, assured Minister Syafii.

Following the lifting of the ban, Garuda Indonesia plans to fly to Amsterdam via Dubai before the end of the year using A330-200 aircrafts, said Garuda President Director, Emirsyah Satar. Further on, the airline plans to expand its European routes to London and Frankfurt.

Meanwhile, Mandala Airlines President Director, Diono Nurjadin said that his company has as yet no plans to fly to Europe but will focus on serving European travellers to Indonesia through interline connections.

Since the ban, a number of favoured Indonesian tourist destinations not directly served by other international airlines, such as Lombok, the Moluccas, Kalimantan, Java and Sulawesi, have suffered a dearth of tourists since European tourists on package tours have stopped coming there. Europeans used to stay more than one month travelling across the archipelago prior to the ban, compared to tourists from Asia who stay in Indonesia for an average of one week.

Four airlines likely to be lifted from the ban soon are: Lion Air, Batavia Air, Sriwijaya Air and Indonesia AirAsia.

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LOCAL SCENE

GRAND OPENING TRAWANGAN CLUB

Gili T movers and shakers gathered to celebrate the opening of Trawangan Club @ Kelapa Luxury Villas on 25 July

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CLUB HOUSE RAISES THE BAR ON GILI T

The opening of the Trawangan Club on Saturday, 25 July raises the standard of facilities available on this “happening” island yet again.

The new Clubhouse, within the grounds of the prestigious Kelapa Villas complex, comprises a complete gymnasium, a full-size tennis court (the only one on the island), in-house massage service and a restaurant and bar. Guests can work out in the fully air conditioned gymnasium, which is outfitted with a complete range of weight- and cross- training equipment. There are also plans to offer the services of a personal trainer in the near future.
The restaurant, which also provides room service and dining options for Kelapa Villas guests, is headed by popular chef, Rodrigo (who also moonlights as a pretty decent DJ!)

Comfortable table and chair settings rest in the garden area, overlooking the tennis courts, and full bar service is available for a drink after a game or workout. Free fast WiFi internet is also available to all guests.

The Trawangan Club opening kicked off with the first of the “Trawangan Tournament” tennis championships and many of the business owners and operators living on the island will be competing in singles and doubles events over the coming weeks for prizes and trophies. If you would like to join in, or just want to hire the court for a casual game, contact the Clubhouse for details.

Gym memberships and full Club memberships are available, with a number of packages offering discounts for annual memberships, as well as competitively-priced short term fees.
Contact the Clubhouse at Kelapa Luxury Villas on 0812 375 6003.

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GILI BYTES

Horizontal, the uber cool restaurant and lounge on Gili T, has now opened another venue directly opposite the original on neighbouring Gili Meno. Named More Horizontal, the sunset bar and restaurant is the perfect place to catch the stunning sunsets over Bali, while chilling out in style on the pristine white sands of Gili Meno.
More Horizontal serves delicious Tapas selections for nibbling, while enjoying the cool drinks and cocktails that have made Horizontal famous. Meet up on the beach in front of Horizontal Gili T for sunset transfers over to Gili Meno every day at 5pm… and get even More Horizontal!

Hotel Vila Ombak, the largest resort on Gili Trawangan, continues to evolve each time we visit the island! Over the past year, the hotel has been extended to provide new two- storey Deluxe Lumbung Huts, with great accommodations for families and doubles. The Blue Bar, right on the beachfront, has taken on a life of its own and is now a popular spot for lunch and a drink while lazing the day away on the beach, as well as a cool place to hang out in the evening.

The hotel opened Waroeng Bule a few months ago, offering guests a casual spot to enjoy a light meal or snack overlooking the beach without the fuss of going to a restaurant. Comfy tables and lounges are placed in a shady corner at the left side of the hotel and nearby on the beach, for guests to enjoy a delicious no-wait meal from the bain-marie, or a home-made pie, pizza or cake, as well as the complete ala carte menu. Take-away meals, ice creams and cold drinks are also available for those on the move. The hotel has now added speedy internet connection to the Waroeng's list of services, with two laptops available for guest use. Wander across from the beach and enjoy a snack and a cold drink while checking your email!

The list of parties and top entertainment rocking Gili T for the high season just keeps growing. The recent Reggae Festival was a huge success and popular Indonesian band, Steven and the Coconut Trees, were just over on the island last week to help crowds celebrate Sama Sama Bar's first birthday. The band is best known for the song that could well be Gili T's unofficial anthem… “Welcome to my Paradise”!

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