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Lombok: Waterfalls, Turtles And A Volcano

Leaving Komodo heading for Lombok looks straight forward on a map, until you realise the scale of the map. The journey consisted of a six hour ferry to the next island (Sumbawa) and then that’s where the fun starts. To cross this island the bus should have taken around nine hours, instead it took closer to 15 hours. Several times in the night we became stationary as the bus broke down, and again in the morning. Nobody enjoyed this leg of the journey. However, we finally made it to the other side were we then had to jump on a 1 hour ferry to get to our final destination, Lombok.

After such a terrible journey I wanted to relax for a few days and so headed straight towards Gili Meno, the quietest of the famous Gili islands just off the coast of Lombok. Wanting to avoid the neighbouring party island next door, I was rewarded with my decision as soon as I entered the water. For the three days I was there I think I spent about 6 hours each day snorkelling. The reef surrounding the island was in excellent condition. Amongst the complex coral structures hid many eels, mantis shrimp and blue spotted rays. The biggest surprise was the abundance of turtles. Each dive I saw around 3 or 4 Hawksbill turtle and sometimes up to 10 Green’s.

There is not too many things I would rather be doing than swimming round with turtles all day, and so that is what I did for my three days there. Unfortunately I later learnt the reason why there are so many turtles surrounding the island. The turtle sanctuary on the neighbouring island use head start programs, where they keep turtle hatchlings in tanks until they are a little bigger and then release them, thinking this gives them a better chance of survival. However, it is now well known that actually this is very detrimental to the turtle. The first few days of a turtle’s life are extremely important, they use the energy they gained from the yolk sack to disperse far away from the shore, and will not return until they are older. In this time they imprint their internal GPS system and learn how to survive the big blue. So the turtles around Gili have lost the urge to disperse and so simply stay around the islands, possibly having disadvantageous effects on inbreeding within the population.

With my turtle addiction fulfilled I took a morning boat back to Lombok and went to find myself a motorbike. I had five days left and wanted to drive a motorbike around the whole of the island, stopping in different places each night. It did not take me long to find a bike and I was on my way to the first stop, Seranu. This small village is normally used as a half way point for people wanting to make their way up the islands volcano, Rinjani. This active volcano peaks at 12,224 ft making it the second highest in Indonesia.

Seranu did not have much to offer apart from a nice short trek that can be taken through the jungle to access two waterfalls Sendang Gile and Tiu Kelep. The second of which was very impressive, with a back drop of lush green hanging plants. The walk through the jungle forces you to meander back and forth across the river and local children spend their time helping you across whilst laughing and joking at the uncoordinated foreigners. After one night in Seranu I headed straight to Sembalum, the base camp for the volcano.

Sembalum is surrounded by spectacular views. Not just the mammoth volcano but an array of rugged mountain tops and slopping hills that become coated in clouds every afternoon. After dropping my bags off I headed about 40 minutes out of town in search of Mangku Sakti waterfall. This was potentially the craziest driving I have ever had to do, the mud road often turning into a small crevasse meaning you had to ride the bike along pieces of bamboo. Many points I thought of turning back, but I am very glad I continued. The waterfall was magnificent, the water crystal blue from the volcanic substrates but the highlight was the incredible rock formations. The power of the water had created a fascinating natural log flume of death. With sudden drops and wholes with whirlpools it reminded me of Bourkes luck potholes.

Next morning I woke up at 3am so that I could climb Bukit Pergasingan. This small mountain was the one opposite Rinjani. I figured instead of paying the high price to climb the volcano, I will climb the mountain opposite it for free. This turned out to be a perfect decision. After climbing the trail in the dark using only my phone torch, I got to the peak just as darkness was lifting. As I took out my packed breakfast and speakers, I was gifted with the most amazing view of the sun rising behind the volcano. The whole landscaped was flooded with ever changing shades of pink and red, as Bob Marley was singing me into one of the most beautiful mornings I have ever had.

By the time I descended the mountain the local town was just waking up. I grabbed my bags and started the journey to the next destination which was Tetebatu. This stretch of the journey was perhaps the most beautiful. The road takes you right up into the mountains to a point where you can see nothing in the clouds. Once over the highest peak, the road slowly meanders down the mountains towards the south of the island. The town of Tetebatu itself is extremely uneventful. Luckily I met a man who was willing to take me for a walk through the rice fields, teaching me how the system works. He soon realized I was not interested and instead took me to the nearby forest to spot some monkeys.

With little to do in Tetebatu, the next morning I headed straight down to the southern tip of Lombok, to the surf town called Kuta. The coast here is unlike what you would expect for a tropical island, with rugged cliffs, strong winds and huge waves. It was nice to drive around and explore this unusual coastline, it reminded me a little bit of Cornwall. I ventured to a small peninsular called Gunung Takit which had nice treks around the coast and also has a very old looking radio tower that people can climb up for a better view. Perhaps my favourite thing about Kuta was the food, there were many local style restaurant selling a selection of vegetarian meals for under £1.

The next day was to be my last in Indonesia. The plan was to just drive around and relax, however I stopped for a snack at a local fishing village and was persuaded to jump on one of their fishing boats and go to check out a local island. The island was called Gilli Nanguu and to get there I was put on a 2 man little fishing boat. Half way across the water the engine cut out and we started drifting away from where we started, with a shade of panic the local guy grabbed his paddle and started rowing like a mad man. Eventually we got back, he found a spare engine and he was able to get me over to the island. The coral surrounding the island was in good shape and there were hundreds of fish, unfortunately the visibility was terrible so I couldn’t fully appreciate the place, although it was an adventure.

My time in Indonesia was amazing, I met so many lovely people who helped me out with food, accommodation and generally teaching me about the local areas. I recommend to anybody to come check out both Lombok and especially komodo with its enchanted underwater labyrinth. I was not sad to leave Indonesia however as I knew I was heading back to my turtle island with Lang Tengah Turtle Watch to re-join with my turtle family, although I do look forward to future visa runs.

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