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sunsetWelcome 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.

With only four weeks until Christmas, Lombok is preparing for another busy holiday period over the Christmas and New Year high season. The best hotels in Senggigi are already reporting heavy bookings and, with special packages and celebrations for Christmas, many are sure to be fully booked over the coming weeks.
Gili Trawangan, the most popular of the three Gili Islands, has barely quietened down since the last high season in August and is sure to be buzzing over the next month. Gili Air and Gili Meno are wonderful alternatives, if you find you’ve left your bookings too late!

With beautiful tropical islands to delight, white sand beaches, green jungles and mountains to explore, and top quality resorts to cater to your every desire… who wouldn’t love Lombok for Christmas? If you’re planning a festive season break on our beautiful island, make sure you book early!

To find out more, pick up a copy of The Lombok Guide from the locations listed on http://www.thelombokguide.com/distribution.html 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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traditional dancersEvery year at Lingsar temple, a very special war takes place. This isn’t a riot between warring groups and it isn’t a real war, although the name “Perang Topat” literally translates as “(Steamed) Rice War”.

Topat is short for “ketupat” and are small parcels of rice, which are wrapped in woven coconut leaves and boiled --a delicious local alternative to ordinary rice. In this friendly war, Hindus and Muslims stage a mock battle, hurling the topat at each other amidst much fun and laughter.

Built around 1714, Pura Lingsar is located about 10 km northwest of Mataram and is renowned for its unique temple complexes. In 1990, the temple complex was declared a cultural conservation site because of this uniqueness. The temple was built during the reign of King Anak Agung Gede Ngurah, a descendant of the kings of Karangasem from Bali, who once ruled this part of Lombok.

Lingsar temple is the only temple on Lombok where Hindus and Muslims gather to worship and pray together. The temple is considered sacred by both religions; it has been associated with fertility for centuries and is an important link to the island’s animist roots.

old instrumentWithin the complex, the Hindu community occupies the yard of the Gaduh temple; a peaceful courtyard entered through a gate decorated with ancient statues. The Muslim Sasak community gather in the Kemaliq area, which contains sacred pools and unique altars of rocks believed to contain the spirits of the ancestors. The two buildings stand side by side, and in front of each is a jabe or courtyard.

The ritual of Perang Topat has been performed at Lingsar Temple every year on the full moon in the seventh month of the Sasak calendar for hundreds of years, in a tradition that is passed down through the generations. This year, Perang Topat took place on Sunday, 21 November.

On the day of the full moon everyone gathers at the temple complex. At Gaduh temple, the Hindus prepare banten, or offerings, for the prayers for Pujawali. Over at the Kemaliq, the Muslims prepare kebon odek, colourful offerings of fruit and vegetables. The topat are prepared by communities from around Lingsar; Hindu and Muslim alike.

Meanwhile, thousands of people, locals and visitors, pack into the temple complex to witness the ritual and take part in the battle.

balinese carrying fruitsThe ceremony starts with an elaborate parade – flowers, fruits, rice cakes and offerings of all colours and varieties are carried in colourful towers on the heads of the women, who are dressed in beautiful coloured kebayak (traditional lace blouses) and fine sarongs.

The ritual includes prayers and chanting, and traditional music and dancing, after which the offerings are carried in a circle three times around the Kemaliq and then blessed by temple priests. Together, the people pray for fertility and prosperity, for good rains and a bountiful harvest, both literally and spiritually.

The serious part of the ritual over, the event then concludes with the mock rice war: Perang Topat.

Tall bamboo poles with the woven rice parcels tied to them are shaken and the topat that fall are gleefully grabbed by the crowd. Offerings are raided and others pull hidden topat from their clothes. Two sides are drawn as everyone, adults and children alike, starts throwing the topat at each other.

rudat danceIt’s a hilarious sight, seeing everyone throwing the topat as far as they can into the opposing crowd and then scrabbling on the ground to snatch up the fallen topat, before someone else can grab it. The air is filled with good-natured yells and laughter and, after the solemnity of the holy ritual, it’s a good way to release the tension and bring the community together in a fun way.

After the battle, the ketupat are collected to be taken home. Some are planted in the rice fields, following a traditional belief that it makes the land more fertile. Some are taken to places of business or to the markets, in the hope that it will keep trade going smoothly.

Perang Topat is both an expression of gratitude and hope to the Gods, and a strengthening of relationships between Hindus and Muslims. If you have a chance to join in the ceremony at Lingsar, it’s a great way to witness a fun, authentic Lombok event.

The atmosphere at the temple is awesome and the display of offerings and traditional performances is well worth the visit. The local community is used to having foreigners visit their ceremonies and the crowd will make you feel welcome. Just watch out for flying topat – they pack a punch and are surprisingly indestructible!

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• The new Garden Café at Manna Kebun is taking shape, with the soft opening planned for the middle of December. The street-side café is the latest addition to the stylish resort which opened earlier this year and will offer guests a casual venue in which to relax, in a garden setting featuring rare and exotic tropical plants. The café has full bar facilities and a selection of Tapas style snacks on the menu, and live acoustic music every night by local musicians. Located at the north end of town, opposite the Sheraton, Garden Café will be a welcome addition to the Senggigi nightlife scene! www.mannavillas.com

Verve Villa in Mangsit has undergone a lot of changes in the past six months, with new landscaping, signage and a privacy wall being built on the main road. Inside the spacious villa, all rooms have been renovated to create a light, tropical feel throughout. Comprising three large bedrooms, each with luxurious ensuite bathrooms and oversized spa baths, the villa is equally suitable for couples, families or groups. Facilities include open living and dining areas, modern kitchen facilities, a large swimming pool with decking, sun lounges and a romantic bale, as well as a unique beachfront BBQ area with more bales and areas for entertaining. Now offering a gourmet B & B (bed and breakfast) service, Verve Villa can be rented per room or as a 3 bedroom villa in entirety, for short and long term stays… this is a great place for the Christmas holidays and private parties! www.vervevillas.com

It’s not long now to Christmas and hotels and restaurants are already preparing delicious Christmas menus to woo guests over the high season. One Christmas tradition that has become an institution for many in Senggigi is the Roast Duck Christmas Dinner at Asmara Restaurant. The restaurant will celebrate on Christmas Eve, as is traditional for European guests, serving roast duck with red wine gravy, red cabbage and potato croquettes as the night’s special (in addition to the main menu). To complete the festive atmosphere, guests will be entertained by a Children’s Choir singing carols. More treats are planned for Christmas Day, but we will bring you that in the special Christmas Events feature in our next issue. www.asmara-group.com

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Dear Ed

I agree totally with Glenn's comments and also Udin and the anonymous writers in the previous editions re: motorbikes and their excessive noise levels.

Unfortunately, it will never be police controlled as they are having extreme difficulty in enforcing the traffic regulations / laws as they are. It was made mention in your paper some months ago about the new traffic rules that came into effect in April this year.

Just look around Senggigi any time of the week… literally hundreds and hundreds of motor cyclists can be seen driving around with no helmets being worn. They even drive past the police traffic post set up next to Senggigi Jaya Supermarket. I have been told that police do not enforce the law because the locals cannot afford the Rp 200 000 fine and that the police have nowhere to store all the confiscated motorbikes.

A simple solution to this is to confiscate their ignition keys, Blue Book, KTP and Driver's License (if they have one!) These could be placed in an envelope marked with the name of the driver and the registration number of the motorbike. These documents can then be held by the police and returned when the driver pays the fine at the police station. It is up to the owner to have the motorbike removed when they are caught.

Comments were also made about children riding motorbikes. In BTN Green Valley a very large number of kids as young as 8 years old can be seen riding around. Three minor accidents (that I know of) have occurred in the past few weeks. It is just a matter of time before there is a fatality.

I personally have reported this to the Senggigi Police Station on two occasions and to the traffic police next to Senggigi Jaya and each time I was told, "Ok, we will do patrol". I rarely see the police patrol in BTN, unless they are looking for expats who haven't made a Police Report.

Jon, Green Valley


Kepada Penulis

Saya sangat setuju dengan komentarnya Glenn dan Udin juga beberapa pengirim surat yang tidak ingin disebut namanya di beberapa edisi sebelumnya, mengenai sepeda motor dengan tingkat kebisingan yang berlebihan.

Sayangnya, ini tidak akan pernah bisa dikontrol oleh polisi, sejalan dengan kesulitan besar yang mereka hadapi dalam menerapkan peraturan lalu lintas / hukum yang berlaku. Sebagaimana kita ketahui telah diberitakan di dalam koran anda beberapa bulan lalu tentang aturan lalu-lintas baru yang seharusnya diterapkan pada bulan April tahun ini.

Lihat saja di seputaran Senggigi setiap hari… sekitar ratusan pengendara sepeda motor bisa kita lihat berkendara di jalan tanpa mengenakan helm dan tanpa ada tindakan peringatan atau penangkapan. Mereka bahkan berkendara melewati pos polisi yang ada di sebelah supermarket Senggigi Jaya. Saya diberitahukan bahwa polisi tidak menerapkan hukum tersebut karena orang lokal tidak mampu membayar denda Rp 200 000 dan polisi tidak punya cukup tempat untuk menyimpan sepeda motor yang mereka sita.

Solusi yang gampang untuk masalah itu adalah dengan menyita kunci, BPKB, KTP dan SIM (itupun kalau mereka punya!), lalu biarkan pemilik kendaraan tersebut membawa sepeda motor mereka pulang. Kemudian dokumen yang disita tersebut bisa disimpan di dalam amplop yang ditandai dengan nama pemilik beserta nomor plat sepeda motor mereka. Dokumen harus tetap dipegang oleh polisi sampai pemilik kendaraan tersebut bisa membayar denda di kantor polisi.

Beberapa komentar yang telah diterbitkan juga mengenai anak dibawah umur yang mengendari sepeda motor. Di BTN Green Valley, dalam jumlah yang sangat besar, anak-anak seumuran 8 tahun bisa kita lihat mengendari sepeda motor. Tiga kecelakaan kecil (yang saya ketahui) terjadi di dalam beberapa minggu terakhir. Hanya masalah waktu sampai akan terjadi kecelakaan yang fatal.

Saya secara pribadi telah melaporkan hal ini ke kantor polisi Senggigi sebanyak dua kali dan juga ke polisi lalu lintas yang ada di sebelah Senggigi Jaya, dan setiap kali saya selalu dijawab dengan "OK, kami akan patroli". Sangat jarang saya melihat polisi berpatroli di BTN, kecuali pada saat mereka mencari penduduk asing yang belum melaporkan keberadaannya kepada polisi.

Jon, Green Valley

Dear Editor

Being a regular reader of your periodical, I have been interested of late to read comments about the "boy racers" in the Senggigi and Green Valley area. On this topic, I believe it's not only the ex-pats and tourists that are fed up with this, but most of the local people too!

Are the police so inept that they cannot start to clamp down on this?! Bad news travels quickly; don't they realise that this will deter tourists from revisiting Lombok? It's been bad enough for the last 6 months, what with no dry season and "mati lampu", it only takes something like this to change peoples' attitude to this beautiful island...

However I digress. I would like to tell my story to see if similar things are happening elsewhere in the area. I live in the middle of Green Valley, just down the street from the lapangan (playing area). This area is used by kids of all ages during the day for volleyball, martial arts training and the occasional kick boxing competitions featuring teams from across Lombok. I myself used to walk up the street to watch these well organised events.

Now, however, teenagers (usually between about 12 and 18 years old), come there every night making an infernal racket. During the week it's usually until around 11 or 12, but on weekends it can go on until 1 or 2 in the morning! They have recently been joined by a couple of "Guitar Joes"... that's nice…

Due to the open nature of the housing here, all sounds are clearly heard in the houses. I live down the street and it's bad enough, but I pity the residents who live around the area itself. I know that in Western Europe and elsewhere in the world we have "noise abatement" and "nuisance" laws. Do they have nothing like this in Lombok?

There has already been petty theft on this estate and bogus policemen around trying to get easy money from the non-local residents.....What next??? Does anyone else have these problems, or did I just make a bad choice of place to live? It's beginning to remind me of my home city about 40 years ago, and that's not a good sign! I moved to Indonesia to get away from all that! I hope someone who really cares and wants a good future for this beautiful island is listening!

Sorry for being so pessimistic... but I've seen it all before!!! And it doesn't get better on its own.

Green Valley

Kepada Penulis

Sebagai pembaca setia koran anda, saya tertarik dengan komentar terakhir mengenai "pengendara ugal-ugalan" di area Senggigi dan Green Valley. Dalam hal ini, saya percaya bahwa tidak hanya bule dan turis yang merasa muak dengan masalah ini, tetapi orang lokal juga!

Apakah polisi benar-benar tidak bisa diandalkan dengan tidak mampunya mereka mengontrol masalah ini?! Berita buruk adalah suatu hal yang tersebar sangat cepat, apakah mereka tidak menyadari bahwa ini akan membuat para turis takut untuk mengunjungi Lombok kembali? Selama 6 bulan terakhir keadaan kita sudah cukup jelek dengan adanya musim hujan yang berkepanjangan dan masalah "mati lampu", ini semua bisa merubah persepsi dan sikap orang-orang tentang pulau yang indah ini…

Saya ingin menyampaikan cerita saya guna mengetahui apakah hal yang sama juga terjadi di tempat lain di sekitar area ini. Saya tinggal di tengah-tengah Green Valley, di seberang jalan dekat lapangan. Area ini digunakan oleh anak-anak segala umur untuk bermain volley, latihan seni bela diri dan kadang-kadang kompetisi kick boxer dari seluruh Lombok. Saya sendiri sebelumnya biasa berjalan-jalan di area ini untuk menonton acara yang diatur dengan rapi tersebut.

Sekarang, para remaja (biasanya sekitar umur 12 dan 18 tahun), datang setiap malam dan membuat keributan yang sangat mengganggu. Biasanya sampai sekitar jam 11 atau 12 malam, tetapi pada akhir pekan bisa sampai jam 1 atau 2 pagi! Ditambah lagi dengan suara gitar dan nyanyian keras.

Dilihat dari model perumahan disini yang terbuka, semua suara bisa terdengar jelas di dalam setiap rumah. Bagi saya yang tinggal di jalan seberang, ini sudah terdengar cukup jelek, tetapi saya kasihan dengan orang-orang yang benar-benar tinggal di sekeliling area itu sendiri. Saya tahu bahwa di negara barat dan dimanapun di dunia mereka punya undang-undang "pengurangan keributan" dan "pengacau". Apakah kita tidak punya aturan semacam itu di Lombok?

Sudah ada masalah pencuri yang nakal di daerah ini dan polisi palsu yang berkeliling mencoba mendapatkan uang gampang dari penduduk yang bukan orang lokal… apa lagi berikutnya??? Apakah ada orang lain lagi yang punya masalah-masalah seperti ini, atau apakah saya hanya membuat pilihan yang buruk untuk tinggal di tempat seperti ini? Ini mengingatkan saya akan kota kelahiran saya sekitar 40 tahun yang lalu, dan itu bukan sebuah pertanda yang bagus! Saya pindah ke Indonesia untuk meninggalkan segala macam masalah seperti itu! Saya harap seseorang yang benar-benar peduli dan menginginkan masa depan yang bagus untuk pulau yang indah ini mendengarkan!

Maaf kalau saya bersikap pesimis… tapi saya sudah melihat semua ini sebelumnya!!! Dan masalah ini tidak akan membaik dengan sendirinya tanpa adanya upaya dari kita untuk merubahnya.

Green Valley

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Gorgeous kids, fun and games, a great MC and a beautiful venue at a "military themed" birthday party for Dr Farida's children, Keysha (7) and Arvyn (5)

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(Tongue-in-cheek answers to your personal building problems)

QUESTION: My name is Fuji Hari Kari and I come from Japanese to the rovery island of Rombok for horiday.  I rike it so much with rovery radies who do massage with happy ending, so I want to buy virra with pool and sea view. I meet nice man on beach who have friend who own virra and make offer to owner through nice estate agent man on beach. Beach man say virra cost 3 birrion rupiahs, so I meet owner who say only 2 birrion rupiahs. Difference is commission, say beach man. 

I say, “No way, beach man. Get rost!”  I say, “Why you charge so much commission?”   He say, “Fluctuations!”   I say, “Fluck you Indonesians!”  He just raugh in my face! He think I make joke. Velly funny. Not so funny since I give deposit 1 birrion rupiahs to beach man. Not see him since. What I do now?

MR FIXER: Accept the ross... ah, sorry, loss. Confucious, he say, “Give beach man inch, he take mile.”  If you give freely to the universe, it will give it back to you ten-fold. If you take from the universe, it will take from you ten-fold. When purchasing property (especially in Indonesia), do not hand over any money until you have verified ownership.  Always deal through a recommended Notaris (Public Notary). Speak to others who have bought property for their advice. Deal through a recommended real estate agent.  Remember Pearl Harbour!

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lombok international airportDespite upbeat stories in the local media, Lombok’s new international airport continues to be dogged with problems.

At the same time as quoting government heads enthusiastically stating that the new airport will be operational by March 2011, local newspapers are carrying reports that the funds needed to finish infrastructure at the airport have not been disbursed; nor is there any news on when those funds will be made available.
An estimated Rp 76 billion is needed to finish work on the terminal building, medical services, roads and a host of other supporting facilities.

The funding is apparently slated to be provided by PT Angkasa Pura I, the national airport authority in charge of the airport’s construction.

Head of Department of Transportation, Communications and Information (Diskominfo) NTB, Ir Shah Ridwan, told reporters that the funds should be available by December and that the government was pushing for funds to be released as soon as possible.

However, based on recent reports, disbursement of the funds was still under discussion and subject to a meeting of shareholders, together with BUMN (Board of State Owned Enterprises), the Transport Ministry and PT Angkasa Pura.

Head of the Public Works Department (Kepala Dinas Pekerjaan Umum) NTB, Ir Dwi Sugianto, told the press that the money was needed not only to complete the building construction, but was also vital to construct the planned bypass and other road access to the airport.

Incredibly, even at this late stage, the government still hasn’t finalised negotiations for the acquisition of land owned by local villagers and required for the construction of the roads to the airport.

The House of Representatives (DPRD NTB) has called on the government to “make a more serious commitment” to completing the airport in accordance with the (latest) planned schedule of March 2011, or risk losing public trust in the government.

Meanwhile, the Jakarta Globe reports that dozens of villagers living around the site stopped construction at the airport last month.

Protesters from the villages of Pujut, Ketara and Tanak Awu in Central Lombok blocked the road to the airport for two days, complaining about unpaid wages, lack of fairness in hiring of airport personnel and unpaid compensation for their land.

According to the protestors, PT Angkasa Pura had failed to pay the villagers for five hectares of land the company acquired for the airport site. They also said the company owed local construction workers Rp 500 million (around US $50 000) in wages.

They complained that the company had promised jobs and “benefits” as a result of the airport construction in their area but felt let down by false promises. To date, only three people had been hired from the villages, while the rest of the workers had been bought in from Java.

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The Indonesian government has announced that all foreign workers in Indonesia will soon be obliged to undergo a certification process to ensure they have a competency in Indonesian language in order to obtain working and immigration permits.

It is expected that the new language requirement regulation will come into force in 2011, with the rule awaiting the President’s signature for final implementation to take place.

As reported by Bisnis Indonesia, the head of the language enrichment division of the Ministry of Education, Mustakim, said the testing of Indonesian language proficiency for foreign workers will be similar to the TOEFL test for English skills and will result in a certificate of proficiency for those who pass the test.

Defending the new policy, Mustakim said, “This is a balanced principle. Moreover, within Bank Indonesia, all foreign consultants are now required to be able to speak Indonesian. Those who cannot are entered into language courses.”

To date, only 100 foreign workers have followed the language skill testing. However, the number of foreign workers increases each year with 47 320 foreign workers registered in 2007; 53 150 registered in 2008; and 59 577 registered until May 2010.

The largest number of foreign workers hail from China (11 458), followed by Japan (7 135), South Korea (4 437), Malaysia (3 688), Thailand (3 606), Australia (3 491), USA (3 307), UK (2 851), Philippines (2 675) and other nations combined (15 929).

Bisnis Indonesia says the majority of foreign workers are employed in professional capacities such as educators, while other occupations include technicians, managers, directors, consultants, supervisors and company commissioners.

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The Bali Post reports that the renovation of Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport, scheduled to begin in November 2010, will now commence one month later, in December.

The development and expansion of the island’s sole air gateway is a matter of top priority due to rapidly expanding tourism arrivals and the under-capacity of Bali’s airport, which now handles more than 10 million travellers each year.

The chief director of PT Angkasa Pura I, the Bali airport’s management company, Tommy Soetomo, said, “The physical construction of the Ngurah Rai terminal will cost Rp 2 trillion and is targeted for completion in March 2013.”

Soetomo confirmed that the acceleration in the renovation of the airport is being done at the express orders of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who wants the work completed in time for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit (APEC) in 2013.

The expansion of the terminal facilities and parking areas will require the removal and demolition of 143 staff houses and 3 schools.

Badung’s Regent, Anak Agung Gede Agung, welcomes plans to move up the date for work commencement, adding, “We are pushing for the development of the Ngurah Rai Airport so it can be a much better international airport.” The Regent has been a consistent voice calling for Bali architectural finishes to be included in any final design plan for the airport.

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Airport tax charged to passengers departing on domestic flights from Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport will increase by 33%, effective from 1 December, 2010.

Heru Legowo, the General Manager of PT Angkasa Pura I, the State-owned company that manages Bali’s airport, told NusaBali that the domestic airport service charge will increase from Rp 30 000 (US $3.26) to Rp 40 000 (US $4.40) at the beginning of December.

Heru defended the increase, saying the hike had been discussed in planning sessions since 2005, awaiting the agreement of Indonesia’s Minister of Transportation.

“In the past several years, PT Angkasa Pura has undertaken repairs of the airport’s facilities, including the terminal, landing strips, navigational equipment and a number of other aspects requiring substantial expenditures, “he said, “Because of this, the PJP2U (airport service charge) needs to be adjusted and more facilities added, such as the recent increase from 400 luggage trolleys to 1 000.”

Bali’s airport collects approximately Rp 1.2 billion (US $130 500) every day in domestic and international service charges and other fees, while handling between 6 000 and 7 000 passengers.

In the recent past, Bali’s Governor has unsuccessfully fought for a share of the passenger service charge to be paid to the provincial government.

Similar passenger service charge increases are also being applied at major airports across Indonesia on 1 December, 2010.

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Tempo Interactive quotes Sumaryanto Widayatin, the deputy minister in charge of infrastructure and logistics at the Ministry of State-owned Enterprises, confirming that the initial public offering of shares for national carrier PT Garuda Indonesia will take place in February 2011. Citing a target date of 11 February, 2011, Widayatin explained that the first quarter of 2011 is deemed an opportune time to put the share offering before the public.

The money secured from the IPO will be used to retire debt and finance the modernisation and expansion of Garuda’s fleet of aircraft.

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Australian Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, has formally announced the appointment of Brett Farmer as the new Consulate-General for Australia in Bali.

Farmer assumes the job formerly held by Lex Bartlem, OAM, who has been shifted to Beirut in an ambassadorial role.

Farmer is expected to begin his Bali assignment in December 2010.

In announcing the appointment, Rudd emphasized how Australia’s association with Bali is both long-standing and growing. He said that Australia’s official, community and business links with the island province represent an important part of Australia’s broader relationship with Indonesia.

Farmer is a career officer of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, with an extensive background in consular services. He is currently Counselor (Administration) and Consul-General at the Australian High Commission in New Delhi. Farmer has previously served overseas in Hanoi, Abu Dhabi, Dhaka, Colombo, Manila, Bangkok, Dar es Salaam and Jakarta.

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DIVE LOMBOK… An interview with Blue Marlin Senggigi

As part of our commitment to providing visitors to Lombok with accurate information from experts in their field, we will be publishing a series of articles on scuba diving in future editions. In this issue we bring you an exclusive interview with Master Instructor, Stuart Pike, partner and manager of Blue Marlin Senggigi.

The Lombok Guide: What first brought you to Indonesia?

Stuart Pike: A good family friend’s father worked in Jakarta. In 1988, we chose to visit him while travelling through Jakarta, Bali and Flores. At 17 years old, it was fantastic and so happily different to my European holidays! I almost immediately decided one day to spend a lot more time in the country.

lionfishTLG: What first brought you to Lombok, specifically?

SP: After too many years in Finance for various banks back in London, I finally saw the light, quit my job and decided to take a year off travelling the world. I had been to Lombok and the Gilis on short holidays before, but with time on my hands I planned to spend ten days on the islands and enrol in the PADI Advanced Open Water course.

TLG: What year was this?

SP: 1999. So that ten days has turned in to just over eleven years so far!

TLG: So you were already a scuba diver then?

SP: Yes. I took the Open Water diver cert in Grand Cayman a few years before and I knew instantly this was a sport I’d like to continue for many more years ahead. I had dived a good few places in Thailand and Malaysia, and wanted to upgrade my PADI certification during my stay on the Gilis.

TLG: What made you choose Blue Marlin Dive?

SP: At the time on Gili Trawangan, there were only four dive shops to choose from. Clearly, Blue Marlin was the best set up. I’d met the instructors, who seemed professional but also quite chilled too. Most importantly, I spoke to other guests and Dive Master trainees, who really sold me on the idea of taking the course there.

TLG: So you didn’t leave the dive courses at just an “Advanced” qualification then?

SP:  No. After completion of the “Advanced” course, I was easily convinced to take the “Rescue” and “Medic” courses. Then the “Dive Master” course was the natural extension and an excuse to stay on the islands longer. Luckily, with the two month visa on arrival in 1999, this was easily possible. Early in 2000 I took the PADI Instructor course and worked for many years at Blue Marlin on Trawangan. For my own interest I took further PADI Instructor courses through to Master Instructor.

TLG: After all these years, does diving the Gilis still interest you?

SP:  Ah… good question! This is often asked by my students. 100% yes. We’re not diving in an aquarium, so you really never know what you are going to encounter.

TLG: What is the most impressive fish you’ve seen around the islands?

blue marlin diverSP: Unfortunately, there’s not a straight forward answer to that one. Any shark will still “make” my dive. A Manta Ray will have me smiling for the rest of the day. Any one of my students knows that Lionfish are my favourite. But the most impressive would have to be a 3 metre Striped Marlin I saw a few years back. I was diving with an Open Water student on his third dive. He was decidedly unimpressed, despite me almost loosing my regulator – it was that jaw dropping! I quizzed him later why he wasn’t as excited as me. He’d assumed diving with “Blue Marlin” we must see them all the time. I really hope that will not be a once in a lifetime sighting.

TLG: Are there any fish you’d still like to see?

SP: A Mola-Mola would be amazing to witness. There have been sightings recently off Gili Meno in the shallows. My colleague, Simon Liddiard, has seen quite a few, but he is usually down at 50+m on his technical dives.

TLG: Anything new to report from Blue Marlin Senggigi?

SP: After hosting dive clubs from embassy staff in Jakarta, and a club from Singapore this year, we’d like to promote more of our exclusive “Dive and Stay” packages. We provided our guests with a private boat for their stay and their own dive guides each day. This way, we could take the guests to some of the less dived areas, with snacks and drinks on the boat. With the benefit of having Blue Marlin dive centres on all three of the Gilis, we were able to mix up the lunch break venues and enjoy a buffet lunch together. The guests and the Blue Marlin staff had a great few days.

We have a great relationship with our partner hotels in Lombok, and we are able to offer our guests excellent room rates at the Holiday Resort and Senggigi Beach Hotel as a combined “Dive and Stay” package.

TLG: Your promotions quote “Dive the Difference”. What makes Blue Marlin Senggigi different from other dive operators?

SP: Happily, there’s a whole list of differences for our guests to enjoy. Probably the most commented on benefit of diving with us at Blue Marlin Senggigi is the efficient time saving over our competitors. We leave around 08.30 and return our guests to their hotels around 16.30 – saving guests a couple of hours on their day trip. We don’t combine the Senggigi-based guests with guests from our other dive centres, which provides a more personalised service. Our dive guides are trained to a minimum of “PADI Dive Master” level for the comfort and safety of our divers. We have two dedicated Snorkel Guides to accompany snorkelling guests exploring the island’s reefs. At the lunch break, we have excellent facilities on Gili Trawangan for our guests to relax in between their programmes. We can proudly boast that these factors do make a huge difference to our guests’ experience during their time with us here in Lombok.

TLG: Thanks for talking to us, Stuart. We look forward to seeing your dive articles in future issues of The Lombok Guide.

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