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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Kuta and The Sublime South Coast

South Lombok has beaches that inspire photograph from around the world and draw crowds to bake on the blindingly white sands, swim in the crystal clear ocean and challenge some of the best surf breaks in Indonesia.

KUTA is the main town and tourism centre on the south coast of Lombok, and is the hub for exploring the fantastic southern beaches and the main point of interest in the region. Located around 60 km south of Mataram and about one and a half hour’s drive from Senggigi, Kuta ( sometimes spelt Kute ) makes for a wonderful day trip from others points in Lombok, or an alternative holiday destination for travelers exploring Lombok.

With the Lombok International Airport currently under construction in the area, all the major roads are being renovated and the main road to Kuta are very good. The new Airport  is  located only 15 minutes north of Kuta and is expected  to spark major development in the area.  for now, the beaches are pristine and spectacular.

Kuta and surrounding beaches have gained an International reputation for some of the bet surfing destinations in southeast Asia. It is here that the gentle waters surrounding Lombok meet the currents of the Indian Ocean, forming great swells and surf breaks. Kuta attract thousands of visitors every year for the great surf Locations at Gerupuk, Tanjung A’aan and nearby beaches. It is easy to hire a board and a surf guide from here to learn surfing or, for experienced surfers, to acess the more challenging surf breaks in the area.
The drive down to the south coast is an interesting rural tour of small villages and farming communities. Fields of tobacco, corn and peanuts line the roadsides and farmers still the fields using Antiquated ploughs pulled by large water buffalo.

Just before arriving in Kuta, the road passes two traditional Sasak villages  Sade and Rambitan. On the east side of the road is Rambitan, a village that caters to tourists and has authentic clusters of thatched Lumbung ( rice barns ) and traditional homes made of thatch and bamboo, with hardened cow and buffalo dung  floors.
Nearby on the hilltop, is one of the oldest mosque in Lombok, Mesjid kuno. The small building with a thatched roof is considered holy and many believers make pilgrimages to pray here.Slightly further south is Sade , a hilltop village with more Lumbung and traditional home. Both villages have been renovated and cater to the tourist market but are still interesting example of traditional Sasak architecture and communal living within compounds. Where life continues as it has for centuries. Residents, who act as guides for a small fee, encourage walks through either of these villages and are happy to share a glimpse of their lifestyle with visitors.

The south coast itself provides plenty of opportunities for exploring beaches and coastal scenery of such breath taking beauty it is hard to describe. Hire a car or motorbike and you can spend days visiting beautiful, mainly deserted beaches, both to the east and west Kuta.

Kuta itself is a small, relatively unattractive town of hotels, home stays and backpaker’s hostels that cater mainly to the thousands of surfers from around the world who are drawn to the area every year to surf the left and right hand breaks out in the day.

There is a good variety of hotels and restaurants for budgets travelers and one luxury resort: the Novotel Lombok Resort. Designed to blend in with its environment, and with  stunning beachfront location, the Novotel is a wonderful example of traditional Sasak architecture.

Situated just to the east of the main Kuta are is Mandalika, named after legendary Princess Mandalika. It is near here that thousands of people gather every year celebrate the colourful ritual of Bau Nyale, when masses of sea worms spawn in the water offshore.
Around 4 km east Kuta is Tanjung A’aan, with a perfect white sands beaches and good waves for surfers. Slightly further east is Gerupuk, well known as a top surf location and situated on a penninsula of land that just out into the ocean, with stunning views of the sea, and the surrounding islands and bay. There is a good surf school here and no fewer than five surf  breaks.

The beaches and scenery continue all the way to the east coast, with fantastic places such as Bumbang, Ekas, and Pantai Sorga ( Heaven Beach )...the same says it all. Simple beach cottages and a charming restaurant sit right on the sands of Bumbang beach, for those wishing to stay a few days, surfing and exploring the eastern beaches.

To the west of Kuta are another series of beautiful beaches and bays hidden behind headlands and rolling hills providing peaceful and secluded spots for picnic and swimming. All are within easy day trips of Kuta.
Ashtari, around 2 km west of Kuta, stands out from the usual Kuta cafe’s and is a “Must stop” for those touring in the area. Perched on top of the hill with spectacular views over Kuta and the surrounding beaches, Ashtari serves exquisite teas and juice and delicious vegetarian meals and snacks that are truly out of the ordinary.

Mawun Beach is arround 30 minutes drive to the west and is picturesque, almost circular bay with small green headlands rolling into the ocean from either side. It is a spectacular beach with calm blue waters, perfect for swimming and spending a day lazing on the sand.

Mawi, around another 7km to the west, has good right and left hand barrels for surfing when the swell is large enough. At others time, it is a lovely beach with impressive views of Gili Lawang just offshore with three starling pinnacles of rock jutting out of the ocean.

Further west are picturesque Selong Belanak, Sepi and Blongas, and many more scenic bays and beaches along the way: all are mostly deserted. The road deteriorates rapidly and the going can be rough at times. Be sure to use an experienced local guide with a good vehicles. The recently opened Sempiak Villas in Selong Belanak has a restaurant and several comfortable villas for those wishing to stay in this secluded region.
Steeped in history and legend, surrounded by beaches of almost surreal beauty, the south coast is a fascinating area to visit, wheter your interests are historical, cultural or just the opportunity to see and explore some of the most beautiful and pristine coastal scenery in Indonesia.


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