A new ecotourism destination is taking shape on scenic Lombok, Bali’s less-popular neighbour.
One of the Indonesian tourism ministry’s 10 priority destinations, Mandalika spans an impressive 1,175 hectares – two and a half times the size of Sentosa Island in Singapore. It is an ambitious undertaking by the state-owned Indonesia Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC), the same enterprise behind Bali’s high-end resort enclave of Nusa Dua.
The natural beauty of southern Lombok is undeniable: Mandalika itself includes 16 kilometres of stunning coastline, with a string of white- and golden-sand beaches interspersed between rugged headlands. ITDC has committed to developing the area according to sustainable principles. At least 51 per cent of the overall land area will be kept as open green space, clean energy will be provided by solar cells, and because this part of Lombok is significantly drier than Bali, water desalination plants will use reverse osmosis to convert seawater into freshwater for Mandalika guests.
Even in its early stages of development, Mandalika has much to offer the discerning visitor. Don’t miss Tanjung Aan Beach, a sweeping expanse of brilliant, powder-soft sand on a tranquil, balloon-shaped bay, where you can relax and read a book before taking a dip in the crystal-clear waters. There’s also Merese Hill, a grassy headland indented with small coves that have already gained a reputation on Instagram for its beautiful ocean sunsets. If you’re keen to learn about Lombok’s indigenous Sasak tribe, make a beeline for the nearby villages of Sade and Ende; the former is mainly known for its colourful ikat weaving, while both contain traditional thatch-roofed dwellings and distinctive high-hatted Sasak rice barns.
Mandalika was designated a special exclusive economic zone in October 2017, representing a long-term project that aims to create up to 58,000 jobs and draw 13 trillion Rupiah (about US$920,000) of investment over the next few decades. ITDC has recently completed a kilometre-long beachfront promenade, while a Pullman resort with 229 rooms and 23 villas, a 15.6-hectare Club Med, and a 27-hole golf course are all in the pipeline.
For now, the most luxurious option is the four-star Novotel Lombok Resort & Villas, whose 102 rooms, suites, and villas have been done up in a local style without sacrificing modern comfort. Equipped with an all-day restaurant, a spa, two swimming pools, and a kids’ club, the beachside property is well suited for both romantic escapes and family vacations.
Mandalika is located a 30-minute drive from Lombok International Airport, which has frequent flights from Bali as well as direct services from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur aboard Silkair and AirAsia, respectively.