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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 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.

Good news for tourism operators and visitors from Bali, with the announcement that Bounty Cruises will commence services between Bali and Lombok on 11 June 2008. The high speed catamaran that used to provide transfers between the two islands, but suspended operations in 2002, will resume services with three trips a week initially. See our full article on page 16.

The number of transport options now available to visitors to Lombok is at an all-time high, making Lombok more accessible than ever before. Direct flights link Lombok with Jakarta, Surabaya and Bali every day, and Silk Air links Lombok to Singapore three times a week, making domestic and international connections to Lombok fast and easy. For those who prefer not to fly, there are now a number of fast boat services from Bali, including Bounty Cruises and Gili Cat to the Lombok mainland; and Gili Cat, Mahi Mahi and Blue Water Express serving the Gilis.

With a local culture that is rich and fascinating, a world-famous volcano providing spectacular trekking opportunities, the Gili Islands offering exceptional diving, and an environment that is simply stunning in its natural beauty, there are so many reasons to visit Lombok; and with so many options making travel to Lombok so easy, there's never been a better time to visit our idyllic island.

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

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The number one adventure activity whenever you mention Lombok has to be climbing the island's famous volcano, Gunung Rinjani (Mt Rinjani). The volcano attracts thousands of visitors every year, many of whom come to climb the 3726m high mountain.

Located in the north of the island, Rinjani towers above most other volcanoes in Indonesia and is surrounded by the protected jungle and tropical rainforest of the Rinjani National Park. The huge caldera near the top of the volcano is around 4 kms wide and is almost filled by a beautiful crescent-shaped lake, Danau Segara Anak (Child of the Sea). There are a number of caves, small waterfalls and hot springs located around the volcano, most importantly Aik Kalak on the northeast of the crater, where the volcanically heated springs are said to cure illnesses, and where many trekkers come to rest in the hot healing waters after their arduous climb to the crater.

There are a variety of different options for climbing Rinjani. Two day, one night treks are the shortest available, taking visitors to the crater rim, to view the wide crater and the emerald green lake within. However the most popular is the three day, two night trek which allows trekkers to climb down into the lake district and enjoy a soak in the hot springs. It takes three to four days to reach the summit of the volcano, a demanding climb with magnificent views from the highest point on Lombok taking in the vista of the surrounding mountain range, the lush green landscape below, and the ocean to the west studded with the Gili islands and Bali floating in the distance.

If climbing volcanoes is not your style, a visit to the Rinjani National Park is still a “must”. On the lower slopes of the Rinjani mountain range are small villages where local farmers work the rich volcanic soil and lifestyles are reminiscent of a time gone by. The area is surrounded by green rice terraces, fields of corn, tobacco and peanuts, and groves of cashew nut trees. It is a peaceful and picturesque rural scene, with the volcano providing a stunning backdrop. Spend some time walking through the villages and talking to the friendly people in this area, or organise a walking tour with a local guide from the National Park office in Senaru.

Senaru is well known as the main take off point for climbing Rinjani, and also popular as a base for exploring the National Park and the nearby waterfalls. The first waterfall, Sendang Gile, is reached from the main car park at the end of the road into Senaru. There is a lovely restaurant just to the left of the car park, with inexpensive meals, snacks and drinks available and there are berugaks (lounging pavilions) in the garden for resting and enjoying the scenery.

From the car park there is a long flight of steps leading down to the base of Sendang Gile waterfall. This awesome waterfall cascades down the side of the mountain in a powerful sheet of sparkling water, before tumbling into a shallow river at the base. Try standing under the waterfall to feel the force of the water falling from far above. The water is icy cold, as it has travelled down the mountain from the Crater Lake high on the volcano. The small river underneath carries the water away; feeding streams and rivers further down the valley.

From the restaurant it's possible to hire local guides for a small fee to take you on a trek through the jungle to the second waterfall, Tiu Kelep. The trek itself is a delightful way to explore the National Park, with paths leading through the jungle and a profusion of tropical plants, monkeys, birds and other wildlife. Tiu Kelep waterfall is as beautiful as Sendang Gile, although less powerful. Cool off by swimming in the clear pool at the base of the waterfall. If you climb up the rocks behind the falls, local legend says that you will take one year off your age! The path back to the restaurant leads through more forest and an old irrigation tunnel filled with bats, before opening onto more idyllic scenery.

There are a number of other waterfalls and trekking opportunities around Lombok, depending on the area. The rice terraces and tobacco fields on the southern side of the Rinjani mountain range near Tetebatu provide a different aspect of the island, lush and cool, with stunningly beautiful vistas down the slopes. Nearby Jeruk Manis waterfall is a pretty location reached by an enjoyable trek through the rice fields and forest.

In the east of Lombok, the mountainous area of Sapit is breathtaking in its natural beauty. Set on the eastern slopes of Rinjani, the air is cool and fresh, and night time temperatures can get quite cold. Views from Sapit are amazing, with the towns and villages set out below and the eastern coastline of Lombok, and the neighbouring island of Sumbawa, in the distance. From Sapit it is possible to trek through the jungles in the region, visiting waterfalls, viewing a diverse range of flora and fauna, and soaking your tired body in the hot springs and thermal pools fed by the volcano.

If so much nature wears you out, but you still crave adventure, Flicker Air and Water Sports might have the thrill you seek. Located on the beach at the southern entrance to Senggigi, between The Beach Club and Café Alberto, Flicker offers a range of air and water activities for all the family.

Banana boat rides are great fun, bouncing across the water on the big yellow banana towed behind the speedboat. Flicker also has speedboats and canoes for hire, or for more sophisticated fun, hire a jet ski and go racing across the sea to the nearby bays. Lastly, if you crave an adrenaline rush, try parasailing. The huge colourful parachute will lift you high in the air as the speedboat pulls you out into the bay and up the coast. Thrill to the speed and height as you marvel at the fantastic views below.

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After months of speculation and negotiations, Bounty Cruises have officially announced their return to Lombok.
Bounty Cruises, based in Bali, will re-commence services to Lombok on 11 June 2008, cruising between Bali and Lombok three times per week on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

The high speed catamaran will depart Benoa Harbour (Bali) at 8.00am and stop at Gili Rengit on route to Teluk Nara (West Lombok), arriving at the local harbour at 10.30am. This will also allow travellers to make easy connections to the Gili islands. The return trip departs Teluk Nara at 12.30pm, returning to Gili Rengit before arriving back in Bali at 4.00pm.

Gede Wiratha, the Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Bali and President Director of PT Gede Kadek Brother Layar Antara Nusa (the company that owns Bounty Cruises), met with government and tourism industry leaders on Friday, 7 March 2008 to discuss the possible return of Bounty Cruises to Lombok.

At the meeting, he asked the local government to support the return of Bounty Cruises by subsidising fares for the first six months of the company's operation. However, delays in government decision-making and a reassessment of market demand, with outstanding support from Lombok's tourism operators, have caused the Bounty Group to go ahead with their plans; hence the decision to commence operations in time for Lombok's high season.

The cruise offers travellers a number of options, including one way and return transfers between Bali and Lombok, or a day trip from Bali to Gili Rengit. Prices are US $85 one way, or US $150 return. Transfer time is around two and a half hours between the two islands.

Gili Rengit is an idyllic island located off the coast in southwest Lombok. The Bounty Cruises group own 22 hectares of land on the island and at one time the island was called “Bounty Island”. Six years ago, Gili Rengit was slated to become a major tourism resort, with a planned hotel and cruise services to be operated by the Bounty Group. Plans were halted with the collapse of tourism in the region as a result of the bombings in Bali in 2002, and Bounty Cruise services between Bali and Lombok were suspended indefinitely.

Gili Rengit thus far is undeveloped but has huge tourism potential, with white sand beaches, clean blue waters and unspoiled reefs close to shore. Guests who choose to visit Gili Rengit can enjoy a range of activities including a barbeque lunch and water sports, such as snorkelling, banana boat rides and canoeing during their four hours on the island. Day trips to Gili Rengit from Bali are priced at US $140 per person or US $357 for a family (2 adults and 2 children).

Bounty Cruises is a stable, high speed Australian-built 44 metre catamaran, capable of transporting around 500 passengers. The vessel has a Promenade Deck with 94 seats, and a Main Deck with 224 Seats, a removable dance floor, outside guest toilets, bar service, TV and video movies. The Upper Deck is sold as “Executive Class” and has seating for 70 passengers, 50 seats on the outside upper deck, 3 VIP seating areas with lounge and private rest room, an outdoor stage area for entertainment, outside guest toilets, bar service, TV and video movies.

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The Director General of Marketing at the Department of Culture and Tourism, Sapta Niwandar, recently said that he is confident that Indonesia will play host to 100 cruise ships during the current 2008-2009 season.

With around 17 thousand islands making up the Indonesian archipelago, and the nations proximity to important countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and Australia; Indonesia has huge potential for cruising and yachting. The MV Rhapsody came to Indonesia last year with 2,000 passengers visiting Bali, Lombok and Komodo on the route.

Pak Niwandar credited the increase in cruise ship visits to Indonesia's improving security and the travelling public's improved view of Indonesia as a whole. “Although Indonesia is not yet a main destination, the desire to undertake cruise visits to Indonesia is large,” he said, “Cruise operators from Puerto Rico, for example, will soon deploy their ships towards Bali. Puerto Rico earns 1.4 million tourist visitors each year from the cruise sector.”

He also said that, based on discussions with Puerto Rican cruise operators, even wider opportunities for cooperation between the two countries remained to be explored. Puerto Rican tourism operators are interested not only in cruise shipping, but also in cooperating on spa projects and creating employment opportunities.

Pak Niwandar said that the recent increase in cruise ships is also attributable to allowing companies other than PT Pelni (the government-owned shipping line) to act as local agents for visiting ships.

Efforts are also currently underway to establish Bali as a yachting centre for the region. Sail Indonesia is a major annual yachting event, with boats sailing in The Darwin to Kupang Rally, and then spending three months sailing through the Indonesian archipelago before heading onto Singapore and Malaysia. The Sail Indonesia Rally programme includes events at six different destinations, including Flores and Bali, meaning that participants pass Lombok and the Gili's en route. 2007 saw an unprecedented number of yachts visiting Lombok and the Gilis during the cruise period.

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Indonesia's Lion Air has announced their intention to begin flying between Bali and Singapore in June or July 2008, utilizing Boeing 737-900ER aircraft.

As reported in Bisnis Indonesia, the public relations manager of Lion Air, Hasyim Alhabsi, said service would initially be once each day with additional flights to follow.

Alhabsi told the press that the new Bali flights would also strengthen the Airline's new service between Jakarta and Vietnam, explaining “passengers to Vietnam can fly from Jakarta or via Denpasar, Bali.” In order to stimulate the Vietnamese market Lion Air recently brought 30 Vietnamese travel agents to Bali on a familiarization tour.

Lion Air is awaiting a share of the additional flight frequencies recently promised by the Indonesian government on the Bali-Singapore sector. The Airline is also awaiting the delivery of a new Boeing 737-900ER aircraft that arrived in Indonesia on April 20, 2008.

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While the months of January to March usually represent the lowest season for foreign tourist arrivals in Bali, figures now in hand for the first three months of 2008 indicate that the “low season” now no longer applies.
Each month, from January through March, Bali foreign arrivals broke into new territory setting new "best ever" levels and fuelling hopes of achieving 2 million arrivals for 2008.

March foreign arrivals to Bali hit 153,216: +28.58% ahead of March 2007 (119,163). Also worthy of note, March 2007 was the "best ever March" on record until the current March 2008 arrival totals broke new ground.

Equally impressive, total first quarter (January-March) foreign arrivals to Bali reached 446,553, an increase of 24.48% ahead of the same quarter in 2007 (347,310).

The arrivals figures also show a shift in key markets for Bali. According to the results for the first three months of 2008, the “top-producing” markets show the emergence of Mainland China and Malaysia as key contributors to Bali tourism.

Top arrivals for first quarter of 2008:

Japan 94,357
Australia 57,238
Taiwan 36,925
Peoples Republic of China 35,994
South Korea 31,609
Malaysia 24,984

An analysis of European markets demonstrates the importance of the newly emerging Russian market.

Top markets to Bali from Europe in order of importance for 2008:

Russia 19,182
United Kingdom 16,712
Germany 15,899
France 13,032
The Netherlands 11,078

If current growth rates are sustained through the remainder of 2008, Bali arrivals will top 2 million for the year.

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Tour operators, accommodation providers and the Regional Government of West Flores (Manggarai Barat) combined forces to launch their developing tourism industry at a gala dinner reception in Bali on Wednesday, April 23, 2008 at the Ramada Bintang Bali Resort & Spa. Some 200 leaders from the Bali tourism industry were invited to join the gala evening which included Flores culinary specialties, traditional cultural performances and exciting door prices.

The event, which coincides with the launch of the region's tourism branding program of "West Flores: Komodo and So Much More" also coincides with the opening in May of the 59 room 4-star Bintang Flores Hotel and a new website featuring the entire West Flores region at www.floreskomodo.com .

The Bali promotion represents a joint effort of the Government of West Flores, tourism stakeholders in the region, the Bintang Flores Resort and the WiSaTa Project - a tourism initiative funded by Swisscontact and the Australian Government (AusAid).

Thomas Ulrich, the WiSaTa Project Manager based in Labuan Bajo explained his team's goals, saying: "The Swiss contact WiSaTa Project, based on an Australian Government - AusAID initiative, started in June 2006 and aims to improve the performance of tourism service providers in West Flores through creating a more conducive environment for tourism, in terms of more and better services and facilities, more effective promotion functions and better government planning and service delivery.”

“The project works in partnership with the district government of West Manggarai and the private sector. It is expected better tourism products combined with effective promotion and marketing, will lead to increased average length of stay, increased average spending, and higher visitor numbers, resulting in more employment opportunities and increased government and household income. A strong focus is given on the promotion and the first steps of development of new mainland based tourism products, allowing income generation and job opportunities in remote rural areas."

Among the highlights of the Gala West Flores Evening were presentations on new tourism products from Komodo and West Flores, musical presentations,West Flores food items taken from a cook book project being spearheaded by the WiSaTa Project and a number of exciting door prizes.

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The political manoeuvrings we predicted in our last issue of The Lombok Guide during the run up to the elections for Governor of NTB have already started in Lombok.

Local newspapers are carrying stories about the current inquiry into corruption by Lombok's Governor, Pak Lalu Serinata. Pak Serinata has been NTB's Governor for the past five years and is a leading candidate in this year's election.

Prior to his election as Governor, Pak Serinata was the chairman of the DPRD (House of Representatives). The corruption allegations relate to his time in the DPRD, when public funds disappeared from governmental coffers during the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 financial years.

On 24 April 2008 the Governor was summoned to Jakarta to appear for questioning before the Public Prosecutor. One billion rupiah of the money in question were election funds, for which Governor Serinata was directly responsible. Answering the inquiry, the Governor stated that, of the one billion rupiah in question, Rp 540 million had been paid to the TNI (armed forces) and police for security operations relating to the election. He said that the remaining Rp 460 million was not used and was returned to government funds.

The Governor's lawyer, I Gusti Bagus Made Harnaya, said that the governor had cooperated fully with the inquiry and that there was no evidence that he had misappropriated election funds. He said that, while the leader of the DPRD was technically responsible for his government, the Governor himself should not be answerable for what appears to be failures by the accounting department.

Meanwhile, Pak Serinata's political opponents have seized on the chance to slur his election campaign with accusations of corruption. Sticky posters were attached to walls and buildings throughout the cities last week, slandering the Governor and exhorting voters “not to choose a corruptor”. Informed sources told us that during the inquiry in Jakarta covert opponents attempted to organise a demonstration against the Governor at the high court, notifying local reporters and media that 3000 people would be demonstrating. In the end, a mere 30 people turned up in an attempt to force the prosecution.

One source went on to say that, “Only the mindless would believe that these latest events have anything to do with a serious corruption inquiry. There are fourteen candidates vying for the post of NTB Governor – all will do whatever they can to win. Educated people will be asking themselves why such an inquiry is taking place, five years after the alleged events and just three months before the election”.

More than three million people in NTB (Lombok and Sumbawa) have already registered to vote in the government elections to be held in Lombok on 7 July 2008.

Speaking to the Governor this week, he told us he was unconcerned by these displays of dirty politics, stating that he is innocent of corruption and more than happy to answer the prosecutor's inquiry. “I hope that the inquiry will proceed quickly, so that I can clear my name and focus on the important projects I hope to continue while I am Governor”, he said.

Among those projects are the conclusion of plans for the US $600 million development by Emaar Properties in south Lombok, negotiations currently being held with another major investor in developing Lombok and, of course, being able to witness the completion of the Lombok International Airport in 2010.

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