If Bali is the excitable and loveable aunty, then Lombok is the laid-back and affable uncle who rocks up with a pack of Cheezels and always has time to share stories. Lombok is what Bali was like 10 years ago and the southern end of Lombok is even more untouched, as Tracy Sinclair discovers.
We arrive late at night at Wyndham Sundancer Resort and there is a supper planned for us at Rayunan Restaurant overlooking the huge pool, which is the stunning centre piece of the hotel. With its impressive waterfall edge and swim up bar, the pool is beautifully lit up at night, providing a romantic atmosphere and a sensational backdrop to say ‘I do… want another margarita please’. The food is expertly prepared by Chef de Cuisine Rahman and his team, including a selection of local and Australian dishes such as Chicken Popiah Asian fresh spring roll with spicy peanut dressing, Tom Yum Goong Thai style prawn soup with mushroom, Australian Outback Beef Black Pepper steak and finishing with chocolate mousse. Tired and with a deliciously full tummy, we head to our rooms.
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My deluxe suite is huge, with a full kitchen and lounge room leading to a balcony overlooking the pool. The spacious bedroom too has a view of the resort and the bathroom features a spa bath. We have a big day planned the next day, so I drink in the fragrance of frangipani and dive into the king bed – is there any better feeling than a king bed to yourself?
SOUTHERN GILI ISLANDS
Across the road (and part of the resort) is the Beach Club where a boat has pulled in to take us out for a day of snorkelling and exploring the crystal-clear waters of Gili Layar and Gili Rengit. The underwater life is stunning and there are plenty of fish. I freaked out a bit at the drop off where it was dark blue, so I didn’t explore that – however if I did, I would have seen turtles as others did. This would be a great day trip if you had kids with you, the boat ride is short, the water is gentle and it’s uncrowded, unlike the northern Gili Islands.
The hotel can pack you a picnic and drinks as there’s nowhere to buy food on the islands.
The resort’s spa is gorgeous with Lombok styling and several treatment rooms including couples’ rooms and two large spa pools. It’s a beautiful space and a calming oasis to unwind in. I had an amazing 45-minute Green Tea body scrub that was Out. Of. This. World however the selection also included Lulur – an ancient beauty treatment made from turmeric, coconut for dry skin, coffee and chocolate. I think every day in Lombok should include a visit to the spa.
The Sundancer Beach Club is naturally right on the beach and accessible for all resort guests. Your feet are in the sand and it’s the perfect spot to enjoy a casual dinner. Fire dancers entertain us as we enjoy fresh seafood and we’re also treated to the Lombok Peresean stick fighting where two fighters try to whack each other (hard) with rattan sticks and only a cowhide shield to protect themselves. It sounds brutal but it’s an ancient martial art and the fight also serves to ask God for rain with the belief that the more blood shed, the more rain would follow.
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This Hacienda-like building is stunning with a bougainvillea arbour leading upstairs to the restaurant. Inside it is simply wow – a spacious dining deck offers wide views across the hilltops to the sea beyond. Here, you can order cocktails and great food (a mix of local and international dishes) the owner is French and he knows his food. Again, in true Lombok style the vibe is laid-back, the sounds are chilled (check out what nights the DJ sunset sessions are on) and I could sit gazing at that view for hours [insert Sade track here].
SELONG BELANAK BEACH
On our way home we drop into this popular beach for a swim. Here you’ll find a bustling dining precinct with restaurants and bars running for about 100 metres along the beach, with daybeds lined up facing out to sea ($5 day hire). Once you have your daybed sorted, you can pop in and out of the water, enjoy a drink and even see a herd of water buffalo as they amble along the water’s edge. Another unexpected surprise to see water buffalo so close.
Ask your driver to take you to see the sunset on the way back to the resort – it’s quite beautiful and again, romantic.
Wyndham Sundancer Resort is the perfect base to explore Southern Lombok (including scuba diving, pearl farm visit and local weaving). I’ve not been to Northern Lombok, so I can’t compare, however I like that this part of Lombok isn't over developed. The people are super friendly and will do anything to please. They’re attentive with broad smiles and you get the feeling that they like having you here as much as you do. They’re proud of their island and culture and, just like your cool uncle, the gentle, laid-back vibe is something that makes you really want to linger longer.