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Welcome to The Lombok Guide – Lombok's new tourism paper and your guide to the best that the island has to offer. The Lombok Guide is published on Lombok every fortnight and contains valuable information for all visitors to our magical island. Use the Guide to explore Lombok and check out the best hotels, restaurants and sight-seeing options, to make your Lombok holiday special.

It's been another exciting two weeks in Lombok since our last issue, with plenty of interest in our island coming from Bali. We've had a visit from Bali personality and restaurant reviewer, Kevin from Bali Eats, who gives the restaurants in Senggigi the thumbs up for both quality and price.

Then on the Nyepi long weekend, Bali-based Bounty Cruises visited Lombok for a special Nyepi Cruise and a meeting with Lombok's government and tourism industry leaders to discuss the return of the Bounty to Lombok's shores on a more permanent basis. The fast catamaran, which used to provide transfers between Bali and Lombok prior to the Bali bombings, would be a welcome addition to the growing number of options for travelling to Lombok. Read about Bounty's proposal in our article on this issue.

The comments made by Bounty owner, Pak Gede Wiratha, raise an interesting question: “Is Bali reaching saturation point for tourism?” If so, and as this tourism expert predicts, Lombok is perfectly positioned as the new tourism destination for the area. With a pristine environment, a fascinating culture, stunning beaches and islands, jungles and waterfalls, and world-class trekking on Mt Rinjani; those of us who live here know that Lombok is a very special island.

Come and discover the magic of Lombok for yourself … like thousands of others, you'll be enchanted!

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The Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Bali, Gede Wiratha, met with government and tourism industry leaders on Friday, 7 March 2008 to discuss the possible return of Bounty Cruises to Lombok.

Pak Gede is formerly a Chairman of the Tours and Travel Association, as well as the Hotel and Restaurant Association in Bali. He is also the President Director of PT Gede Kadek Brother Layar Antara Nusa  the company that owns Bounty Cruises. Bounty Cruises previously provided transfers between Benoa Harbour on Bali and Lombok several times per week, until the service was suspended after the Bali bombings in 2002.

Bounty Cruises, a fast catamaran service capable of transporting up to 626 passengers, visited Lombok for the Nyepi weekend, arriving in Senggigi on Friday, 7 March. The big yellow vessel moored in Senggigi Bay before transporting guests on a half day tour to Gili Rengit, a beautiful island off Sekotong on Lombok's southwest coast.

At the meeting, Pak Gede discussed the problems faced by Bali's burgeoning tourism industry. He said that the average number of tourists visiting Bali is two million people per year and the Benoa Harbour area alone, which has air and water sport facilities, attracts over 7 000 visitors. However, the volume of people visiting such a small area causes its own problems, including traffic jams and delays, which is frustrating to tourists and residents

He said that the range of tourism attractions in Bali is complete, including adventure, water sports, a zoo, a bird park and various nearby islands, such as Nusa Lembongan. However, there is a feeling of Bali becoming over-developed, or of reaching saturation point; with many investors looking to Lombok for new options.

Bounty previously provided packages between Bali and Nusa Lembongan three times per week, but the destination is now over-supplied and is losing its appeal. In Tanjung Benoa, Bali's main port, there are around 900 tourism boats and vessels that don't operate because of the saturation of the market and lack of demand from tourists. 200 of these vessels are now on the market for sale.

As Bali seems to be reaching saturation point, there must be other choices for tourists to visit. Hence the company is again looking to Lombok, which Bounty Cruises used to sell as a destination seven years ago, as a viable alternative to Bali. At the meeting, Pak Gede proposed that Bounty schedule transfers between Bali and Lombok four times per week, combining the trip with packages to a Lombok location that would be attractive to foreign tourists, namely Gili Rengit, which is also owned by the family company. Lombok and Gili Rengit would become the new destination for Bounty to offer travellers and foreign tourists.

According to Pak Gede, the company predicts they will transport a minimum of 200 people to Gili Rengit and Lombok on each trip. In order to establish the service, he asked the government to subsidise the cost of 50 passengers each trip, for the first six months of operation. Once the establishment period is over, the company would continue operations independently.

Muhammad Nur, the Head of the Department of Tourism and Culture West Nusa Tenggara, said that around Rp 4.2 billion would be required in subsidies during the first six months of the Bounty service but, during that period, Bounty could transport around 19 200 people to Lombok.

Gili Rengit could also become an important new destination for Lombok if the plans go ahead. Over 100 tourists visited the island on the Nyepi Cruise on 7 March, enjoying a wide range of activities such as jet skiing, diving and snorkelling. The island is uninhabited, with white sand beaches and clear waters, and has intact coral reefs close by.

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Foreign arrivals into Lombok leapt over the Nyepi weekend, which started on 7 March; with tourists and expatriates living in Bali flocking to Lombok to avoid the “day of silence” in.

Merpati Nusantara Airlines, which usually only transports an average of 80% of their seating capacity, found their flights fully booked and had to add an extra flight to their usual three flights per day schedule to meet demand.

According to Merpati Airport Manager, Williem Mondolang, passenger demand from Ngurah Rai Airport in Bali to Selaparang Airport in Lombok exceeded their load capacity over the Nyepi weekend. Merpati usually use MA 60 aircraft (a kind of Fokker 27) with a 56-seat capacity, but had to add an extra flight using a Fokker 100 aircraft with a seating capacity of 109.

The Duty Manager at Selaparang Airport said there were 2 500 passengers using air transport between Ngurah Rai and Selaparang each day, travelling on the Merpati flights, plus two flights each by Trigana Air and Air Indonesia.

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The Indonesian Government is hoping to fast track the removal of the EU blacklisting of Indonesian aviation by pushing ahead with plans to resume an Amsterdam service.

Indonesia's Director General of Air Communications, Budhi Suyitno, has asked Garuda Indonesia to begin preparing the infrastructure for resumed air service between Bali and Amsterdam. The Government believe that putting in place aircraft, manpower, ticket offices and other elements to support a Holland service will accelerate a lifting of the European Union "blacklisting" currently preventing Indonesian registered aircraft from flying over European airspace.

Indonesian aircraft have been declared unsafe and banned from flying into European airspace since July 6, 2007, when the 27-member-country European Union first announced the "blacklisting."

However, the greatest obstacle to Garuda's return to Europe may be the lack of suitable aircraft within Garuda's armada to operate the long-haul route. Airline officials have indicated that the best aircraft to fly the Amsterdam – Indonesia route would be a Boeing 777-300ER - an aircraft type not currently operated by Garuda.

Apparently, Indonesian aviation officials believe the removal of the "blacklisting" can be fast-tracked by announcing their intentions to resume commercial flight operations to Europe. Such a strategy may, however, prove problematic as only 2 of the 27 European member nations need object for the "blacklisting" for the entire EU to remain in place.

Despite urgings from the Indonesian Government that the European Union reviews its current ban in April, it now appears almost certain that the Indonesian blacklisting will only be tabled for review at the July meeting of the EU Commission.

The EU Commission meeting scheduled for 17 April requires that a written report from Jean Pierre Ambrosini, the EU Aviation specialist assigned to Jakarta, be submitted before a pre-meeting deadline of 15 March. Because Ambrosini has only just started his Indonesian assignment it will not be possible for him to compile a detailed assessment of recent improvements in Indonesia's aviation security and safety procedures in time for the April meeting.

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Around two hundred local fishing boats (prahu) were relocated from the beachfront in Senggigi Bay on Thursday, 13 March. The numbers of fishing boats parked on the beach had accumulated over the past year and were almost blocking the beach in front of the Santosa Resort and the Pasar Seni.

Under local rules, only fishermen who live in Senggigi and the immediate area are allowed to use the Senggigi beachfront for their boats. However, strong currents and large waves in the past had forced some fisherman from other areas to seek refuge in Senggigi. While this wasn't a problem in an emergency situation, most of those boats hadn't left Senggigi when the fine weather returned. Rather, more boats from Ampenan, Montong and Batu Layar districts had also decided to use the Senggigi beach, as a matter of convenience; creating problems for local traders and businesses.

The boat owners were asked to remove their boats and return to their allocated moorings within their own districts by the Kepala Desa (Village Head) and the Senggigi community, as part of the local government's commitment to improve the image of Senggigi as a tourism destination.

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Kevin, the man behind “Bali Eats”, is a professional restaurant reviewer and the mastermind of the highly successful “Bali Eats” website. Kevin has been living in Bali full time for the past 10 years and has been writing restaurant reviews for the local newspaper, The Bali Advertiser, for nine of those years.

In addition, he has reviewed restaurants for gourmet magazines and publications around the world, and is also the author of the Bali Eats Newsletter, which is a collection of Kevin's reviews. The Bali Eats website was started in December 2000 and has grown to be one of the largest resources in the world for dining out in Bali. The website currently lists over 600 restaurants and is visited by more than 100 000 readers every year, averaging 12.5 pages per visit.

Kevin recently visited Lombok and The Lombok Guide took the opportunity to find out what he thought of our island and its eateries.

The Lombok Guide: “Kevin, this is the first time you've been to Lombok. What do you think so far?”

Kevin: “I'm quite amazed actually! I didn't know what to expect before I came here. It's a wonderful switch-off place and perfect for families. Senggigi Beach is like Sanur, without the tidal effect. Kids could go anywhere here, it's so safe.”

TLG: “What brought you to Lombok now, after all these years in Bali?”

Kevin: “I've been meaning to visit for years, but this is the first time I've had the time. And it's wonderful! You have no traffic! Unbelievable! I've covered over 600 restaurants in Bali so far, and I kept hearing about Lombok, so I decided to come over here and see for myself. Now I've seen the island and eaten at the restaurants, I'll be including a Lombok section on my Bali Eats website. I think more people are getting interested in Lombok and maybe looking for another destination in addition to Bali.”

TLG: “How do businesses get listed on your website? Do people ask you to come and review them?”

Kevin: “No, the restaurant just has to be there and usually I'll hear about it. I like to visit a restaurant anonymously, so I get a true feel for the place and the food. I don't usually accept freebies, although it's nice if people know who I am and offer. But if the restaurant or the food is no good, it won't be included on the website. I don't accept any payment for the restaurants listed on the Bali Eats website, so that I can keep the reviews honest and critical.”

TLG: “So which restaurants have you visited while in Lombok?”

Kevin: “Square Restaurant, of course! Restaurant Taman, Ye Jeon Korean Restaurant, Asmara, Bumbu, the restaurant at Qunci Villas, the Grill Bar at the Sheraton, Lotus and De Quake in the Art Markets. There's still so many more, but I don't know if I'll have enough time on this visit!”

TLG: “Which restaurants in Senggigi have impressed you so far?”

Kevin: “The Chinese and Indonesian dishes at Square Restaurant are particularly good, and the Foie Gras was delicious – as good as Seminyak standards. The atmosphere and the service at Restaurant Taman… in a word, “romantic”. Ye Jeon has surprisingly authentic Korean food, and it's nice to have a change from usual restaurant fare!”

TLG: “So, how do you think our Senggigi restaurants measure up against restaurants in Bali?”

Kevin: “Much better than I expected! The value here is incredible! The prices are so reasonable – cheap in comparison to world standards, but even cheap compared to the prices in Bali.”

TLG: “That's great to know! Thanks for talking to me today, Kevin, and we'll catch up next time you're back in Lombok to review the rest of our restaurants.”

Kevin will be writing a special feature on selected Lombok restaurants, to be published in the April 9 issue of The Bali Advertiser. Meanwhile, visit his website at: www.balieats.com

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The Gili islands are often assumed to be the domain of back packers and partying young Europeans, but businesses on the Gilis report they are seeing more families visiting and enjoying this safe environment in the past year. It makes sense, as the Gilis are surprisingly child-friendly, with no big waves on the beaches and no need to worry about traffic and motorbikes whizzing by.

Kids can enjoy a bike ride or ride around the island by horse cart. They can trek up the hill on Gili Trawangan to see the Japanese bunker, a relic from World War II, complete with an old restored cannon. On Gili Meno, families can visit the amazing Bird Park to see fascinating local birds and wildlife, or snorkel with the turtles just off shore. Dive schools and local vendors provide child sized life jackets, masks and snorkelling equipment for safe snorkelling off the beaches on all the islands.

Snorkelling off the beautiful beaches of Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili T offers colourful coral and plenty of fish in safe, crystal clear waters. It's a great opportunity for children to get an appreciation for aquatic life and the environment. They can even learn to dive safely, with the professional PADI dive schools operating on all the islands.

Alternatively, take the family on a leisurely cruise in one of the local glass bottom boats, where experienced and knowledgeable captains can steer you to sites abundant with fish and sea creatures, such as turtles and cuttlefish in the deeper waters between the three islands.

The shallow waters surrounding the islands makes swimming safe for children and shady trees are usually only metres away. It's normal to see mum and dad lying on the beach, while the children snorkel and play in the water nearby. Best of all, the caring attitude of Lombok's local people towards children, means your child is always being watched by friendly eyes.

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It was a fantastic night at Tir Na Nog on Monday 17 March, to celebrate St Patrick's Day. Green beer and a live band were enjoyed by most of the people on the island, who entered into the spirit of this festive yearly Irish celebration of the Great Emerald Isle. Sadly, Becky Conrad, Joey and Keira will be leaving Gili T and returning to their native Ireland at the beginning of April. They will be greatly missed but are leaving this highly popular and successful in the very capable hands of their partners Chris and Miriam. Good luck Conrad and Becky – sampai jumpa lagi!


The Beach House now boasts uninterrupted internet services for guests staying at the popular Gili T resort. Internet problems often plague the Gilis, but an improved service and fast connection is now possible since their provider, Cakrawala Multimedia, relocated their main server from Lombok to its new home at the Beach House.

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