Discovering the People and Untamed Wilderness of Northern Lombok
Dominated by Mount Rinjani National Park, north Lombok is one of the island’s most beautiful and unspoiled regions with long, deserted beaches and a wild, untamed wilderness that is home to some unique indigenous cultures and an abundance of flora and fauna.
Senaru, a quiet village in North Lombok that lies on the north side of Mount Rinjani, is a popular place to embark on treks to the volcano’s caldera, where you can look down on Segara Anak, a lake inside the crater. The name which means locally ‘child of the sea’ is due to the lake’s stunning turquoise color – a spectacular sight.
In 2008, the Indonesian government proposed to UNESCO that region become a global geopark – a territory designated by UNESCO that sustainably advances the protection and use of geological heritage. If successful Mount Rinjani National Park would become the first such geological park in Indonesia.
One of the reasons that North Lombok and villages like Senaru – along with neighboring Bayan and Sembalun – are so important is that this is the ancestral home of the indigenous Sasak people of Lombok, who make up 85 percent of the island’s population.
Although the Sasak are related to the Balinese in language and ancestry, unlike the Balinese who are predominantly Hindu, the majority of Sasak are Muslim. However, many of the Sasak in North Lombok still practice pre-Islamic beliefs that incorporate both animist and Hindu aspects – a syncretic form of Islam.
Known as the Sasak Boda, in reference to the Sasak people’s original Bodha religion, the Sasak of North Lombok follow the Waktu Telu form of prayer that requires them to pray only three times a day, instead of the five times stipulated by the Quran.
There are many interesting aspects of the Sasak Boda way of life in North Lombok, including the Senaru Traditional Village – a reconstruction of a traditional Saka Boda community – while in Bayan village, the island’s oldest mosque still stands, dating from 1634.
A little further east on Mt Rinjani’s higher eastern slopes is Sembalun Valley, a rich farming region that is home to two Sasak Boda communities – Sembalun Lawang and Sembalun Bumbung – where the patchwork of fields turn spectacular colors in the wet season as the crops of rice, cabbage, potatoes, strawberries, and garlic ripen.
One of the best ways to appreciate this region’s rich attractions is to do a multi-day trek with Khiri Travel into the foothills of Mt Rinjani. Your very capable female guide on this trek is part of an NGO project that has to date trained more than 20 women from Senaru village to become local guides in the area.
With your guide visit the traditional ethnic villages of the Sasak people and hike along trails through bamboo forests with awe-inspiring views of rice terraces; follow winding irrigation channels and enter the cool, green rainforest of the famed Sindang Gila Waterfall Reserve.
The Sasak people believe that a refreshing dip behind the thundering Sindang Gila falls can cure any illness. Stop along the way to enjoy a picnic lunch in an area where you might be lucky enough to spot long-tailed macaques, or even the rare Javan lutung, also known as the ebony leaf monkey.
On reaching your campsite, relax and enjoy the wonderful sunset. A delicious dinner will be accompanied by a Sasak dance performance. Get up early the next day for the stunning sunrise, before descending to the pickup point where a car will be waiting for you.
If you’re planning a visit to Lombok this year, you really can’t afford to leave the island’s colorful north off your itinerary.
For bookings and more information about authentic Lombok experiences, get in touch with us at: [email protected].