There is much more to Lombok’s west coast than Sengiggi and the Gili Islands. Sekotong is the next big thing on the traveller radar after years of quietly developing out of the limelight. It is the gateway to the rugged south west peninsular and only a short drive from the main ferry port at Lembar. At its heart is Sekotong Bay, a huge arc of white sandy beaches overlooking a small chain of islands, collective known as the ‘secret Gilis.’ These south west Gili islands are a far cry from their more famous cousins in the north and now attract a small but steady stream of weekend trippers and tourists looking for a real desert island escape.
Getting to Sekotong
It is around 60 km south of capital Mataram, but feels much further due to the winding rural roads that pass through a never ending series of small villages. It is doable on a day trip but best experienced over a few days, especially for divers or if exploring some of the sleepy offshore islands. Coming over by boat from Bali, it is just a short taxi ride away from the ferry port at Lembar.
Scuba Dive the pristine reefs (MyDestination.com)
If you are in search of bright lights and lively late nights, you’ll be disappointed in Sekotong. This is the perfect example of untouched beach scenery where industrious locals bring in the local catch or collect seaweed and shellfish in the shallows. The Sekotong area encompasses the neighbouring village of Tawun which is the jumping off point for the short trip to some of the offshore Gilis. The whole area is well spread out along two large bays and beyond, so wherever you choose to eat or stay, fabulous seascapes come as standard. Most of the hotels and resorts sit on prime beachfront in acres of space, even for budget accommodation. Apart from superb diving and snorkelling, this is a place to be dazzled by the scenery and do next to nothing.
Heading west towards the tip of the peninsular, Pelangan offers up a prime example of local Lombok life. The traditional market here is one of the best in the southwest. Tourism is slowly making its mark here but gold fever has already struck in the green hills overlooking the sea. As you pass you’ll notice countless local gold miners eking out a living among the cashew nuts and mangoes trees. From here it is a short winding trip passing countless deserted beaches to Bangko Bangko, also known as ‘Desert Point.’ If you are a seasoned surfer it needs no introduction. Desert Point is widely regarded as one of the world’s very best surf spots on its day and the fast moving, barrelling waves are not for the faint hearted.
The ‘Secret Gilis’
Just beyond the beaches of Sekotong are a dozen dreamy small islands fringed by pristine reefs and abundant soft white sand. Little more than tiny specks in the ocean, these secret Gilis offer peaceful island living and even the more established Gili Nanggu, Gili Gede and Gili Asahan are super chilled out. Other islands include Gili Sudat, Gili Tangkong, Gili Genting and Gili Lontar, all with superb snorkelling and scuba diving close by. Arguably the most memorable is Gili Kedis, the so-called ‘Honeymoon Island.’ All the islands can be reached by a private charter outrigger boat from the mainland.
Diving around Sekotong
The first thing you notice after taking the plunge, is how complete and pristine the reefs are here in the south west. There has been no cyanide or dynamite fishing and in fact, these dozen or so dive sites were undiscovered until around a decade ago. In some of the more exposed sites, the currents can be pretty unforgiving but generally it’s a great spot to learn the basics while seasoned divers can go deep in the more challenging spots. Between the various dive spots, here is a little bit of something for everyone – a huge variety of hard and soft corals, mantas, reef sharks and lots of small sea critters. Check out the trio of dives sites west of Sekotong between Gili Gede and Gili Layar – good for all levels and great examples of reefs in tip-top condition. There are just a couple of dive centres based in Sekotong so far but dive trips can also be arranged from the Gili Islands in the north and Senggigi.