Sunday, 8 March 2009

Senggigi, Princess of the West Coast

Senggigi, named after a princess in local legend, is the main tourist centre on Lombok. The resort area is about 10 km north of Ampenan, and about 20 minutes drive from the island’s Selaparang airport. Nowhere near as large or as busy as its Bali counterparts, Senggigi is a great base for exploring the rest of the island. The pace is very laid-back, with activities centre around the beaches and day trips to places of interest, which are all within a few hours drive from the town. At night, dine in the many restaurants catering to all tastes and budgets, listen to live music at the bars, or dance the night away at the nightclubs.

Senggigi Beach is the large bay that forms the centre of Senggigi, with the main road running parallel to the beach, and large resorts occupying the space between. The beach provides picturesque views of Bali’s Gunung Agung to the west and stunning sunsets with the volcano silhouetted on the horizon. Senggigi Reef, off the pont near the Senggigi Beach Hotel, has good coral for snorkeling and, in the right conditions, some decent surf breaks. Canoes can be hired from the beach on the weekends and during peak tourism times. Local outrigger boats (perahu) can be chartered from the beachfront for trips along the coast or out to the Gillis.

The main road in Senggigi is lined with small shops, tour agencies, restaurants, bars and nightclubs, there are a couple of supermarkets, numerous ATM,s and moneychangers, a post office and all the normal tourist facilities. Senggigi is a relaxing and attractive place to stay, with a good range of luxury hotels and resorts, as well as min-range and budget accommodations.

The Pasar Seni (Art Market) is on the beach between the Santosa and Sheraton resorts. There are numerous small stalls selling handicrafts and souvenirs form around Lombok, as well as t-shirt, sarongs and clothing similar to Bali’s markets. On the beach, local sellers ply their wares – watches, pearls and jewellery, as well as massages and manicures. Small restaurants line the beachfront and are a nice place to catch the ocean breezes during the day, or to dine at night watching the lights of the fishing boats across the ocean.

Batu Layar, on the hill a couple of kilometers before Senggigi, has an important ancestral grave (makam) where Muslims come to picnic and to pray for health and success. Nearby Pura Batu Bolong (meaning “rock with a hole”), is an interesting Hindu temple facing Bali across the Lombok Strait. Built on a large rocky outcrop with a natural hole near the base, it is said that virgins were once sacrificed to the sea from the seat-like rock at the outermost point. Colorful Hindu ceremonies are held here every month at the dark and the full moons, and at Hindu festival times. Admission and loan of a compulsory temple sash are by donation. This is a great place to watch the sunset, with fantastic vistas across to Gunung Agung on Bali.

Tourism development runs north along the coastal road for about 10 km, with many hotels and restaurants positioned along the beautiful beaches that line the entire west coast. About 2 km north is Kerangdangan Valley, with a popular beach nearby and some nice hotels slightly out of towns in a pretty valley. Further north, Mangsit has developed as an accommodation alternative to Senggigi, with boutique style hotels positioned along the breathtaking bays of this section of coast. Furthest north is Lendang Luar, with two hotel perched on the long stretch of pristine beach here.
Mainly deserted white sand beaches, flanked by coconut groves and untouched by hotel development, continue all the way north along the main coastal road. Malimbu and Nipah are two picturesque bays less than half an hour from Senggigi, which are good for snorkeling and getting away from it all. Teluk Nara and Teluk Kodek are on a large bay about 25 km north of Senggigi. All the main dive operators have boats here, which transfer guests to the Gili islands, as an alternative to nearby Bangsal Harbour. The harbour itself is reached at the crossroads in Pemenang, and from here it is easy to catch the public ferries (actually large outrigger boats) out of the Gilis, or to charter boats for island hopping.

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