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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 two weeks and contains valuable information for all visitors to our magical island.

Our cover photo this issue beautiful Gili Asahan… no camera tricks, no Photoshop editing… just one of the magnificent beaches to be found off Lombok’s southwest coast. See our special feature on page 49.

In this issue we also bring you an eagerly-awaited update on the new Lombok International Airport… see our special report on page 10. On page 18, there’s an outline of the programme of events for the Senggigi Festival, starting on 14 July; a new Gili Cat fast boat on page 70, and much more!

To find out more, pick up a copy of The Lombok Guide from the locations listed on http://www.thelombokguide.com/deadline_publishing.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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With much news about the imminent opening of the Lombok International Airport in local and national press over the past weeks, we visited the site of the new airport once again on Tuesday, 28 June 2011, for one of our regular airport updates.

Visiting the site for first-hand inspections has become an absolute necessity; with the Government propaganda machine (and Government-funded media) continuing to churn out optimistic and false headlines about imminent completions and openings.

Only a few months ago, we were told that the much-delayed opening of the airport would take place in March 2011. When that deadline was missed (as so many deadlines during 2010 were also missed), a new deadline of July 2011 was set.

As we enter July, the media machine is already pushing the next completion date back to October 2011.
On 18 June, the national Kompas newspaper reported that the long-delayed project is “now in its final stages of completion, including the acquisition of lands needed to improve access to the new airport.”

The report went on to say: “During a visit to the new airport on 13 June 2011, the Vice-minister for Transportation, Bambang Susantono, called on contractors to hasten the completion of their work. Said Susantono, ‘If we want to inaugurate the airport in October, then all work on the airport has to be completed by September’.

Susantono confirmed that the radar and navigation systems are operating and ready to go, with only the terminal and road access work still uncompleted.”

The airport project has suffered numerous problems, including security issues, theft of construction materials and equipment, land disputes, tensions with villagers, the quality of the main runway and problems with the control tower, as well as lack of funding, poor management and project managers quitting in frustration.

From our own observations on 28 June, it would seem the opening of this airport is still a long way off. While other reports dismiss the uncompleted work as just “the airport terminal and access roads”, these are two major obstacles to operating. While road work in the area is progressing well, work in the airport terminal is crawling at a snail’s pace.

While we may have been led to believe that Pt Angkasa Pura 1 was “throwing money and labour” at the airport to have it completed by October, workers we interviewed at the site said that there “might be around 100 people working at the terminal”.

With only three months until October, and with Ramadan due to start at the beginning of August, it is doubtful that this deadline will be met either. Workers at the site said that they planned to work during the month of Ramadan “with shorter working hours, of course” and “return to our villages a week before Idul Fitri, for the Lebaran holiday”.

Last year, all work ceased at the airport during Ramadan and Lebaran.

Looking around the echoing terminal building, we struggled to count 50 workers and many of those were “resting”.

Certainly, little has changed since our last visit 2 months ago. Concrete pillars suffering from water damage have been covered with sheeting, presumably to hide the concrete cancer, and sections of the roof that were leaking are similarly covered.

The third floor, which was originally supposed to house a restaurant and air bridge, is still not completed. The roof is open, the escalator remains in the same partially installed condition that it was at the beginning of the year. Five workers from Surabaya were struggling to install a sheet of glass in the open panels that make up the entire circumference of the floor.

The rust on the chrome stair railings has now taken over completely and the workers tell us that they will all need to be dismantled and re-chromed prior to opening. Likewise, the hundreds of baggage trolleys that have been moldering in the same storage area for the past two years.

We wonder if anyone has actually checked that the large LG flat screen monitors installed in the check-in areas almost two years ago are still operational.

Outside, tall weeds cover the entire site and it’s hard to see where the original landscaping (carried out almost 3 years ago now) was; car parks are overrun with weeds, wild shrubs block views of the buildings, curbs are hidden out of sight by a tangle of overgrowth. The workers tell us that the entrance road to the toll gate floods so badly when it rains that they have difficulty entering even on a motorbike.

Another told us that there are plans to build two artificial lakes to cope with the run-off from flooding when it rains. The poorly constructed drains will need to be rebuilt – hopefully, this time, taking into account the monsoon season, the local water table and the site’s proximity to Batu Jai Dam. 

All in all, we think it would take a miracle to complete construction of the terminal building by October. And even when the actual building is complete, the airport will still need to undergo testing and apply for certification prior to operating as an international airport.

At The Lombok Guide office we are constantly being asked, “When will the new airport open?” As one worker answered when we asked him: “By October, or maybe another year.”

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Fans of all things football will be delighted to hear that The Beach Club have just upgraded their satellite facilities and will now be screening Rugby Union and League matches on the big screen at the popular beachfront bar and restaurant.

Die-hard AFL fans have already been enjoying the weekly matches telecast at The Beach Club, together with the authentic pies and ice cold beers… it’s footy heaven (or so they say!) Girls can escape the testosterone by heading out to the beachfront bale for a cocktail! Ph: 693637, www.thebeachclublombok.com

SHAGS (Senggigi Hackers Amateur Golf Society) is a non-profit golf club, with members playing social golf every Saturday at the Kosaido Golf Course in Tanjung. Tourist and visitors to Lombok looking for golfing partners are welcome to join in a game, and to compete in the Monthly Cup and other regular events. A golf tournament will be held in Bali on 30 July – golfing enthusiasts can contact the club at: www.golf-lombok.com

With the beautiful sunny weather we’ve been having, most of us are spending more time outdoors. If your pool and garden furniture is looking a bit ratty after the long wet winter, now is the time to pay a visit to the Elements showroom in Duduk Garden (just south of Senggigi).

Elements has a beautiful range of the latest synthetic rattan outdoor furniture – classic and stylish and yet, tough and durable enough to withstand the tropics. There’s also a nice selection of beautiful plantation and reclaimed Teak wood furniture, and contemporary stainless steel and aluminum furnishings. Forget trawling through the traffic on Sunset Road… we’ve got it all here in Lombok! www.lombokelements.com

The Beer Garden at Asmara Restaurant is quickly becoming the place for great music in Senggigi. On 15 July, the restaurant will host the annual Blues Night 2011… the biggest local blues music event of the year!
Organised by the
Lombok Blues Community, the Blues Night 2011 will feature top performances by popular local bands, including Tomstone, Ary Juliant Bluesesat, Black Talk, Bobo & Brotherhood, Agus & Friends; as well as a blues jam session.

If you love the blues and want to see some of Lombok’s favourite musicians in action, don’t miss Blues Night 2011 at Asmara Restaurant, Senggigi on Friday, 15 July. Show starts 7.30pm. www.asmara-group.com

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The annual Senggigi Festival is scheduled to take place from 14 – 17 July, with performances being held on the beachfront in Senggigi, as well as at the Pasar Seni (the Art Market on the main street south of the Sheraton) and in Senggigi Square (alongside Square Restaurant).

The Festival is Senggigi’s (and, possibly, Lombok’s) most colourful and fascinating event of the year.

Commencing with a grand opening on the beachfront in Senggigi, the event is a brilliant kaleidoscope of colour, music, traditional costumes and cultural performances that showcase the best of Lombok’s culture and arts.

The official opening ceremony will take place at 2pm on 14 July on Senggigi beach. The main event is the parade, marketed as “The Parade of Culture”, which is the highlight of the Festival each year. The Parade is planned to commence from the beachfront and to follow a route from the beach to the Art Market.

Traditional performances will be held in the Pasar Seni (Art Markets) every night during the festival. Different performances and exhibitions are planned for each day of the Festival and include traditional Tarian Sasak (Sasak dance), Kepembayunan (rhyming poetry), Gamelan (traditional orchestra) and Gendang Beleq (Lombok’s famous big drums), and other traditional dance performances such as Rudat and Batek Baris. Check at the markets for performances and starting times.

There will also be displays and competitions on the Senggigi beachfront daily. A traditional sailing demonstration is planned for 15 July, and beach volley ball competitions will take place each afternoon.

Market stalls will also be set up on the beach and at the Art Markets selling traditional handicrafts from around the island. These make great souvenirs and gifts to take home!

Peresean is a popular traditional stick-fighting competition, where competitors fight with rattan sticks and ward off blows with a shield made from toughened hide. Competitions will be held daily from 15 – 17 July from 4 – 6pm in Senggigi Square.

All performances during the festival are free and tourists are encouraged to attend. Bring your camera!

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Senggigi's favourite son, Scott, hosted a fabulous dinner to welcome visiting family members– Dennis, Liza, Norma and Sami – back to Lombok.
Qunci Villas Executive Chef, Edy, prepared a sumptuous feast and guest star, "Georgina Franklin" kept everyone laughing!

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

QUESTION: I am an artistic woman, aged 53, blonde and petite, and love Lombok so much, I have bought a small plot of land and intend to build a holiday home. The trouble is, I don’t know much about building and need some help and advice. 

I used to live with a foul-mouthed, bad tempered old bastard in a damp cottage in the arse end of Orkney, Scotland; but since the court case, we are now divorced. 

I love rainy walks on the beach, writing poetry, unusual sea shells and interesting brown rice dishes. I seek a mystic dreamer for companionship, back rubs and more, as we bounce along little tumbling clouds on life’s beautiful, crazy journey. Could you recommend someone?

MR FIXER: I can put you in touch with someone of medium build, brown hair and blue eyes, who seeks an alibi for the night of 27 February, between 8pm and 11.30pm. Let me know how you get on.

QUESTION: The idyllic island of Lombok is like a breath of fresh air with its happy, smiling faces and relaxed pace of life, after the cruel world of hatchet-faced bitches in Orkney, Scotland, where I come from.  
I have been seeking peace of mind ever since the court case, when the wife ran off with the next door neighbour. I do miss him. 

I have been in the building trade for 30 years and can do all the trades, from bricklaying to plastering. I am considering buying a small plot of land and using my skills as a builder to build my dream villa by the sea. 

My years in the building trade have left me with a drinking problem. I have been receiving nightly liquid therapy at the Happy Café, in the popular tourist town of Senggigi (where I can also get my sinuses cleared for free). The beers help keep the asbestos and fags I have breathed in over the years at bay, but the memory of that night in the cemetery with my former wife still haunts me. It wasn’t my fault! He asked me to put the rope around his neck. 

The thought of building my dream villa keeps me sane and stops me from phoning the Samaritans. Do you think I am on the right track?

MR FIXER: As long as you stay in Lombok, you will be okay. If you return to the Orkneys in Scotland (where a blue sky could easily be the name of a cable TV porn channel), you are more likely to phone the Samaritans.  
With all the cut backs in the UK, you are only going to be transferred to a call centre in Pakistan. If you tell them you are suicidal, they are only going to get excited and ask you if you can drive a truck. Cheers!

QUESTION: I am a 42 year old chartered accountant, devil-worshipper, who used to live in the arse end of Orkney until the court case, where I was found not guilty. 

I have come to the beautiful island of Lombok to forget everything and find the love of my life. I enjoy wining and dining, good conversation, dancing, romantic walks and slaughtering dogs in cemeteries at midnight under the light of a pale moon. Can you recommend a place to stay in Lombok?

MR FIXER: Yes! There is a place in Green Valley, Senggigi, where you will be most welcome! The local residents will be happy to see you and introduce you to all the dogs.  What a relief!

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PEARL BEACH RESORT… A Rare Gem in the Southwest

It’s no secret that “the secret islands” off the southwest coast of Lombok rate as some of our favourite places in Lombok. These thirteen islands, only a few of which are permanently inhabited, beckon travellers with sparkling clean beaches, soft white sand and fabulous reefs teeming with tropical fish and live corals.

Lack of hotels has made staying in the area south of Sekotong difficult in the past, and accommodation on the islands off the coast is particularly scarce, with the exception of Gili Nanggu and Gili Gede. Now a new option is available on the beautiful island of Gili Asahan – one of the islands furthest south.

We had the pleasure of spending three days at Pearl Beach Resort last week and found it hard to tear ourselves away from this lovely new oasis on Gili Asahan.

At present there are only four bungalows available at the Resort, with more planned in the near future.

However, this makes it a very special getaway… with a private beach right in front and an entire island to explore for the lucky few staying here.

The ocean surrounding the island is a clean, translucent turquoise and, just below the surface, are pristine reefs of colourful coral and thousands of bright tropical fish. Pearl Beach has snorkelling gear available for their guests and Dive Zone, based in Sekotong, is the area specialist for diving in the southwest and can arrange dive trips from the Resort.

Each of the bungalows face the beachfront, with a nice sandy area for swimming only steps away. The large terraces, with their unique swinging daybeds, are perfect for lounging the time away… looking out at fabulous sea views across to the other islands, with the mountains of the mainland as a backdrop. On the day we arrived, the volcanic peak of Mt Rinjani was clearly visible in the distance.

Electricity and other resources are, of course, precious on this developing island and the resort runs its own generator at night to provide power for guests. The spacious and comfortable bedrooms have ceiling fans and romantic draped mosquito nets. Fresh water is gravity fed from their water tower throughout the day and the pretty open-air bathrooms have hot water showers.

A simple bamboo restaurant on the beach, staffed by the smiling and multi-talented Samsul, serves tasty meals from the blackboard menu. The lunch and dinner choices change daily, with fresh meals prepared from available seasonal produce. Breakfast is included in the room rate and guests can help themselves to coffee and tea throughout the day.

The fridge is well stocked with cold drinks and beer, and guests are often treated to a barbecue at night, sitting around the blazing bonfire on the beachfront when the evenings turn chilly.

On the other side of the island is a now defunct pearl farm – testimony to a once large-scale operation that suffered when the global price of pearls declined. Pontoons float offshore and there is a long jetty, which is a popular hangout for local kids and fishermen.

A walk around the entire island takes about two hours and passes over rocky headlands and small hills, which give way to long stretches of deserted beaches almost breathtaking in their exquisiteness.

Pearl Beach Resort is a delightful place to spend a few days truly getting away from it all. With no cars or motorbikes, and only a small community living on the island, there is little noise or distraction from the natural peace and beauty. At night, the sky is so clear the stars glow brightly, and the Milky Way seems close enough to reach out and touch.

Walk, swim, snorkel, dive, read a book, or just doze on the gently swinging daybeds… three days melt together and become timeless. All too soon it is time to go home!

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Members of Commission II and III of the West Lombok Parliament (DPRD Lobar) took to the field to meet fishermen and coastal communities in the tourist area of Senggigi on Thursday, 30 June 2011.

Representatives surveyed the buildings currently on the beachfront in Senggigi and found that a number of the buildings in this tourist area violate the rules of their Building Permits (Ijin Mendirikan Bangunan or IMB).

“We’re going to demolish the buildings that violate the rules, and there is no compromise for this,” Chairman of Commission II DPRD Lobar, Sulhan Muklis Ibrahim, told reporters after the dialogue. “It’s set in stone and will happen, but must pass through existing channels before it can be enforced.”

“It is very wrong if there are people who think that these buildings cannot be demolished because the regulations of spatial plans (RT / RW) for West Lombok do not yet exist. The rules relating to procedures for construction on the beachfront have already been established long ago,” he said.

“Previously, the law forbade the building of any permanent structure within 100 metres of the high tide line. However, distances of 40 and even 30 metres from the high tide line are tolerated,” he stated.

“Furthermore, any business that already has an IMB for beachfront buildings must provide public access to the beach,” he added. “This right of public access is not just for the fishing communities, but for all of the community. Society should demand public access to any beach, because every permit issued requires that the public have access.”

Meanwhile, the Chairman of Commission III West Lombok, Bahr H Fahmi, promised to resolve this problem as fairly as possible without harming the parties, namely the public and fishermen. Fahmi urged people to remain calm and said that, in the near future, parliament would invite them to solve this problem together with the businesses involved.

At the same time, Head of Community Service (BP2T Lobar), Musib, said that since the “one-stop service programme” was established, the process of obtaining a building permit is very strict. The permit can only be issued with the approval of the local kampung, together with the village and the district in which the building is to be constructed.

BP2T is the government’s Integrated Licensing Services Agency, established in 2009 and intended to be a “one stop” office for licensing and building related matters.

“Essentially our task is only as the executor, after all the components such as village, sub-district, and related SKPD provide recommendations for the building,” he said. (The initials SKPD stand for Satuan Kerja Perangkat Daerah and refer to the local forum responsible for regional development.)

“Since the establishment of BP2T, every building permit issued has always stressed to the applicant that space and access must be provided for the public,” he said. “If this is not given or the applicant violates this agreement, we can dismantle the building.”

Before a building can be demolished, a first warning is given and the building is marked with a tape with a red cross, which notifies that the building violates the rules. BP2T then gives the option to owners to dismantle their own buildings.

On the same occasion that the DPRD representatives visited Senggigi, they also investigated other locations, such as the development of the “mini Ancol” Water Park currently under construction in Montong. The building is also considered to not provide access to public roads leading to the beach.

In addition, they stated that the owner does not have the full permission of the district government to build, but that construction of the project has already reached 60 percent. According to sources at Lombok Post, Ancol Water Park plans to begin operating this August.

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Gili Cat’s new all aluminium monohull, Enterprise, made its maiden voyage carrying passengers between Padang Bai and Gili Trawangan on 1 July 2011. 

This Australian-designed, 20 metre and 71 tonne vessel will carry 70 passengers in two classes of accommodation and will be the largest vessel operating on the transfer service between Bali and the Gili Islands. 

In line with Gili Cat’s excellent safety record, this new vessel has been designed and built to meet international survey and safety standards of DNV (Den Norske Veritas) and BKI (Biro Klassifikasi Indonesia). Powered by twin inboard 1200HP Caterpillar Engines, Enterprise is capable of speeds in excess of 30 knots – but will maintain a cruising speed of between 20 and 25 knots for passenger comfort and safety.

Despite its size and quality, ticket prices for Enterprise will be around the same as the smaller, outboard motor driven boats operating fast boat services between the island – which is a bonus for those travellers on a budget who are seeking a more comfortable way of making the one and a half hour, 32 mile open-ocean crossing between Padang Bai and the Gili Islands / Lombok.

The official launch for the vessel was held at a cocktail party on Thursday, 30 June at the Benoa Marina, in conjunction with the launching of the new Hotel Ombak Sunset on Gili Trawangan, which will operate in partnership with the new vessel.

Gili Cat operates one of the longest-running and most popular fast boat transfer services between Bali and Lombok, and has an outstanding record for safety and reliability. Enterprise sets a new standard in fast boat transfers to the Gili Islands, the introduction of which has been soundly welcomed by the local tourism industry.

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Author, Sandy Hausman, visited Gili Trawangan in June and met with Delphine Robbe from the Gili Eco Trust and Anna Walker from Big Bubble Dive to learn about the work of the Eco Trust in restoring reefs around the Gili Islands.

The article was published on the major German media website, Deutsche Welle, in June, as well as the original interview being broadcast on German radio. The full article is published below, with kind permission from the editor, Nathan Witkop.


Indonesia’s Gili Islands are the focus of a new model for marine protection. The program is rebuilding reefs and employing fishermen to guard them against destructive catch methods.

Gili Trawangan is famous for its white sand, sparkling water and rich coral reefs – a trifecta of tourist attractions that draws some 100,000 visitors each year.

Anna Walker arrived on the island more than a decade ago. She fell in love with Gili Trawangan and the spectacular diving opportunity that it, together with two neighboring islands, affords.

But what made the location ideal for underwater exploration – the coral reefs teeming with marine life – was under threat. Local fishermen were using dynamite to catch large groups of fish.

“It either kills or stuns all the fish so they then just flare up to the surface,” Walker told Deutsche Welle. “And then they just pick them all up and collect them like that.”

Citizens on patrol

Today, she owns the Big Bubble Dive Shop. Like many of her neighbors, Walker lived through the tourist slump that followed the terrorist bombings on the Indonesian island of Bali in 2002.

“If anything good came out of the Bali bomb, it was like a little opening of our eyes to see what happens when there are no tourists around,” she said.

Similarly, the destruction of local reefs could deal a permanent blow to Indonesia’s status as an international diving destination.

With valuable local habitat on the line, seven dive shops decided to take action. Using money brought in by a ‘head tax’ on their customers – a fee equivalent to about two euros each – the collective paid a police force of fishermen to patrol the reefs, not destroy them.

For Delphine Robbe, the head of a local group committed to saving the reefs, the system worked by giving fishermen a vested interest in promoting sustainability.

“The most important thing is educating people that they could actually make money from the coral reef, rather than just fishing as fish and selling it for a barbeque,” she told Deutsche Welle.

Building habitat with ‘Biorock’

Yet the dynamite from years' past had already taken its toll – and the group’s efforts to protect the surviving habitat still did not address the need for rehabilitation of the reef.

Robbe saw the answer in a new technology designed to create reefs more quickly.

Pioneered by the late German scientist, Wolf Hilbertz, “Biorock”, or “Seacrete”, involves planting wire structures of varying lengths and widths on the ocean floor. By shooting low-voltage current through the metal, a layer of limestone that mimics natural coral forms on the wire.

“The reaction we’re doing is the actual normal, natural reaction of the sun, the coral and all the minerals in the sea water,” Robbe said, adding that the system worked by simply ‘speeding up’ that process.

And speed is just one of Biorock’s advantages. It grows at nearly five times the rate of natural coral, but it’s also stronger and more resistant to disease and bleaching.

But there are some drawbacks: Walker said the Biorock looked “totally unnatural” in the water the first time she went diving after the team implanted the structure.

“Then, after two or three days, it has already gotten its first coating of limestone, so then it stops looking like metal and looks a little more natural.”

62 new reefs, and counting

The Gili Islands now boast 62 new reefs made of Biorock, and other countries have taken note. New reefs are taking shape in the Maldives, Thailand, the Philippines and the Caribbean.

In the future, Robbe hopes to power these projects with a renewable source of electricity. She said her group was searching for a volunteer electrician to set up a prototype that would use tidal and current energy and a turbine to power the Biorock.

The project could set an example for businesses on the Gili Islands: “That they should use different energies, and green energy to power all the AC, the swimming pool and things like this that they have on this island.”
Biorock has also served as a teaching tool for university students from around the world who come to the islands to dive – and stay to help maintain the reefs. Robbe said that even the fish themselves are defending their new habitat.

“Some are on the Biorock, and they are telling you, ‘That's mine, now you can get out.’ (They) actually bite you or grab your hair because you are on their territory,” she said.

Robbe hopes to spread the gospel of Biorock to other parts of Indonesia – but she knows that it’s a huge task in a country of 17,000 islands.

Author: Sandy Hausman. Editor: Nathan Witkop
Published June 2011 at: www.dw-world.de/environment
For more information on Eco Trust projects and activities, visit: www.giliecotrust.com

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