Insider Knowledge Of Lombok
Jenny Wall / 7 min Read
We had the incredible opportunity to sit down with Sara, the brilliant General Manager of Puri Mas Resort in Lombok. With her deep-rooted connection to the island and a wealth of insider knowledge, Sara graciously shared her favorite experiences, the essence of Lombok's culture, and her invaluable recommendations for those who yearn to explore this paradise. Just as Lombok holds a special place in Sara’s heart, it does in ours too, and we've poured that sentiment into every detail of our wonderful Lombok bag which was inspired by this beautiful paradise.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your role at Puri Mas?
I am originally from the UK and emigrated to New Zealand around 38 years ago.
It’s a bittersweet story that led me to work in Puri Mas Resort Lombok, firstly as a volunteer, and later as a General Manager.
My late husband was a diver and all of our holidays were taken up by diving. On a trip in 1999 my husband had a diving accident which left him unable to work as before. I had an open mind for us to look at a different lifestyle and we left New Zealand and ventured to Bali where we met the owner of Puri Mas whom we knew from our times as guests in his small backpacker hotel (Puri Mas). I told him that I had always wanted to manage a place like Puri Mas and he informed me he didn’t have the budget for a General Manager, to which I replied, “no problem, you give me food and accommodation and I will work for nothing for you”.
Two years of volunteering later and we had to return to Australia to earn real money for a couple years – I was then asked to return to Puri Mas but this time as the GM, thankfully it was a paid role!
Could you describe the unique aspects and charms of Lombok that make it a desirable destination for travellers?
Lombok is often compared to Bali as it was 30 years ago.
Perhaps the only similarity in fact is that it is quiet and peaceful. It is exactly as you would expect a tropical island to be. Swaying palms, amazing crystal clear empty white and black sand beaches but that is not all.
Lombok lies East of Bali just a 30-minute flight or 1.5hr boat ride. You travel across the “Lombok Strait”, also known as the “Wallace Line”. But who was Wallace?
Wallace was alive around same time as Darwin. It was Wallace who discovered that there was a unique difference between the flora and fauna of Bali (Asia), and the flora and fauna of Lombok (Australasia).
The Lombok Strait is one of the deepest in the world. It divides Asia from Australasia and visitors can see the differences that are so apparent from the bird life to the geographical characteristics. Perhaps that is why I was drawn to this island, because I could find everything I missed from home, the village lifestyle of the UK, the mountainous terrain and deep oceans that make up New Zealand, and the wildlife from black spider -monkeys to the Golden Crested Cockatoo, Lombok is the last place to find them before you hit Bali.
Lombok is known for its beautiful beaches and natural landscapes. Could you share some of your favourite spots or hidden gems that visitors should explore?
It goes without saying that the Rinjani Mountain, the second highest volcano in Indonesia, is without doubt a spectacular experience. It is not the easiest of mountains to climb, but worth every step of its more than 3,700 meters.
Another recommendation is to head South East to the Seketong area where you will be amazed at the array of little islands you can boat between. Explore some uninhabited islands, stay the night on others and get high on the colourful unspoiled coral and fish snorkling opportunities around Gili Asahan. You can almost jump from one side of the island to the other on the baby Gili Kedis (Gili means island). I just love this area – so peaceful and far less touristy than the more popular 3 Gilis in the North of Lombok.
How would you describe the local culture and traditions of Lombok? In what ways do they impact the hotel industry and visitor experiences?
Lombok has been described as a “colour of cultures”, and I agree. The indigenous people are known as Sasak. They have their own language, food, music, materials and costumes.
Additionally, Lombok was inhabited a couple of 100 years ago by the Arab community of Yemen. This has led to the introduction of a different culture again, including Gambus music, Arabic food, clothing, and a host of Arab shops selling imported goods from the Middle East. Guests visiting Lombok should really try to experience the local cultures, arts and crafts of simple island life.
Our crafts are known as Lombok Primitive and have an almost African look in contrast to the detailed intricate carvings found in Bali. Textiles in Lombok are an Interior Designers dream. Hand woven, and naturally dyed fabrics with handed down patterns are simply beautiful.
Lombok is known for its traditional craftsmanship, including textile weaving and pottery. How does the local artisan culture influence your hotel or the experiences you offer to guests?
Puri Mas slogan is Tradition, Luxury & Style. Tradition being the most important in my mind. We do our best to showcase the arts of the island, and surrounding islands such as Bali, Java and so on. We have statues, textiles, paintings, and local fabrics (our staff uniform) on display throughout the resort. It truly is an “Indonesian Experience” when you stay in Puri Mas. During covid we stopped our cultural shows held once a week in our beachfront restaurant. Stick Fighting, and local dance along with the “big drums” Gendang Beliq are part of our amazing show performed only by our Puri Mas Sasak Staff. Happy to report these shows are again happening!.
Sustainability and eco-tourism are increasingly important. How does Lombok and your hotel contribute to these practices and the preservation of the island's natural beauty?
Honestly like so many other countries and islands, Lombok is also struggling under the weight of single use plastics and other rubbish.
We work hard with the local people regarding how and where to dispose of rubbish. Before plastic, local people wrapped rubbish in leaves, the leaves broke down naturally. That is why even to this day you see local people sweeping the leaves around their homes. However, when it comes to plastic – they don’t have the resources, as we do in the west, to dispose of it in a positive way.
Having said this, we have many groups now educating the locals on how to make amazing crafts from plastic, from bags to placemats to baskets woven in traditional ways. We wish we could do more, but there is a long journey to go!
Puri Mas does play a part in the education of our own staff, and we have stopped providing plastic drink bottles, instead offering gallons to all rooms on check in, and we do our best to encourage guests to not to use straws etc. Regular beach clean ups are also top of our list.
Lastly, what advice or tips would you give to travellers planning a visit to Lombok for the first time? Any must-see attractions or activities they should include in their itinerary?
Stay in Puri Mas Boutique Resort & Spa of course! That has to be my number one recommendation! Visit the remote and secret islands of the Seketong area. Enjoy the local food – remember Lombok means Chili in Sasak.
Take a drive up to the foothills of Rinjani, and if you are reasonably active – leave 3 days spare to climb it. If you dive, then make sure you visit the East of Lombok where my husband claims the coral gardens are superior to any he saw in Fiji, the Great Barrier and beyond.
Ensure you stay as long as possible because you need time to enjoy the people and the island. Don’t just stay in the hotel, get out and explore anything and everything you can but most importantly enjoy the local people – they are what makes Lombok to me the “most special place on earth”.
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