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2010年2月6日  

2010-02-06 11:24:52|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Swim with the fishes

By Liu Wei (China Daily)

Updated: 2010-02-04 10:24

2010年2月6日 - wbdbsh - wbdbsh Comments(0) 2010年2月6日 - wbdbsh - wbdbshPrint2010年2月6日 - wbdbsh - wbdbshMail

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2010年2月6日 - wbdbsh - wbdbshThe beaches of Lombok island are far less crowded, but thewaters are just as clear and the landscape just as stunningas in Bali. Courtesy of Garuda Indonesia

The little-known Indonesian island of Lombok, neighboring Bali, is a diver's paradise. But that's not all it has to offer, writes Liu Wei

If Bali is the elegant, mature beauty, the neighboring island of Lombok is the naughty boy, whose innocence and gaiety bowl over visitors.

Although backpackers from Europe, Australia and the United States have been exploring Lombok, a 20-minute flight from Bali, for more than 20 years, Chinese tourists are still rare.

The boatman on our diving trip, Asmellen Pamile, tells me we are the first Chinese he has seen in 12 years.

Most Asian travelers to Lombok are from Japan and South Korea. So the warm greetings of the locals are mainly in Japanese and Korean.

This may well change in 2012, when Lombok will have its own international airport.

Compared to Bali, the beaches here are less populated, but the water is equally clean and the sun, just as bright.

Diving shops are everywhere. They are the most common sight, after Internet cafes and restaurants.

One of the must-do activities on the island is, of course, diving. The Gili Islands lying in the sparkling ocean just off the northwest coast of Lombok is a clear favorite.

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Gili comprises three perfect coral islands. Fringed by white sands and swaying palm trees, they are a much sought-after diving paradise. Each of the three islands has its unique personality, and appeals to different groups of holidaymakers.

Gili Air is the closest to the mainland and the most densely populated. It abounds in diving facilities and you can go snorkeling right from the shore, particularly from beaches on the east and northeast. The south of the island offers some good surfing.

Gili Trawangan is the largest island and furthest from the mainland, but can easily be reached in less than 1 hour by slow boat, or 10 minutes by speedboat. It is the most developed of the three islands, offering a variety of accommodation, bars and restaurants.

It is one of the best diving spots in Lombok. Snorkeling is extremely easy just off the shore, with vast gardens of blue coral and abundant tropical fish to enjoy.

Snorkeling for a day costs $30, that includes the boat and instructor fee. Top off the diving with a fresh seafood barbeque on the beach, where fish costs just $2.

The island has home-style hotels run by the locals. Those with Western toilets, shower and fan cost about $25-30 a night.

Gili Meno is the smallest of the three islands. While not as developed as Air or Trawangan, it has its own unique charm. The island sees the fewest tourists, which can leave you with the wonderful feeling of owning the place. Small hotels and beachside huts are perfect for those seeking a peaceful spot in the sun.

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Gili islanders are shy and extremely nice. Our boatman Pamile, for example, always wears a smile and has a tale to tell.

Having worked on the boat for 12 years, he looks much older than his 25 years. But I am surprised to learn he does not enjoy his job. He tells me that because of an ear infection, he can only go snorkeling, not diving, and so is restricted to the boat, helping tourists put on and take off their diving gear.

Born in Trawangan, the furthest he has ever traveled, is to Lombok. But, he says, he has heard about China. When I suggest he visit Beijing some day, he smiles and says simply: "I cannot afford the flight."

Smiling comes easily to the islanders. Children love being photographed and become very excited if you let them see their images on the camera. Their parents generously encourage them to pose and really don't care about receiving the photographs.

However, there is more to Lombok than diving - like climbing to a vantage point for a bird's eye view of the island.

Rinjani Mountain soars 3,726 m above sea level and is the second highest volcanic mountain in Indonesia. The huge crater near the top contains a lake, Danau Segara Anak (Child of the Sea Lake), and a small volcanic cone, Gunung Baru Kari, which was formed several hundred years ago. There are a number of caves, small waterfalls and hot springs near this mountain, a favorite haunt of trekkers.

Those looking for a tropical getaway in Lombok should head to Senggigi.

Named after a legendary local princess, Senggigi is a 4-km strip of beaches, restaurants, and luxury resorts. The resort is about a 20-minute drive from the island's Selaparang airport and boasts some of the best hotels in Lombok, such as Senggigi Beach Hotel and Sheraton.

Senggigi is famous for its stunning view of the Lombok strait to the west and the breathtaking sunset that silhouettes the volcanic mountain on the horizon. You can also rent a bicycle and set off for the eastern part of Senggigi to enjoy the pristine beauty of nature. You can even see misty Mount Agung, the highest mountain in Bali, in the distance.

Senggigi Reef near the Senggigi Beach Hotel is great for snorkeling and offers decent surf breaks in the right conditions. Canoes can be hired from the beach on weekends during the peak tourism seasons in July and August. Local outrigger boats can be chartered from the beachfront for trips along the coast or out to the Gili islands.

The main road of Senggigi is lined with small shops, tour agencies, restaurants, bars and nightclubs, and diving shops. You can also find supermarkets, ATMs and moneychangers, a post office and other tourist facilities. In short, it is a great base from which to explore the rest of Lombok.

Many believe Lombok will become the next Bali; others worry that tourism will destroy its tranquility. The only way to find out is to pack those bags and get on the plane, as fast as you can

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