Few visitors to the tourism giant of Bali travel beyond its glittering beaches to surrounding islands. If you’re seeking adventure, unbeaten paths, and deserted paradise beaches, this works in your favor. The island of Lombok is a mere 35 kilometers away and, in terms of its natural beauty, varied landscape, and friendly locals, is a legitimate contender to its more well-known neighbor. Buffeting its credentials as a legitimate travel destination is its relative obscurity, giving travelers a sense exclusivity and authenticity that’s difficult to find in Bali these days.
About 85% of the inhabitants belong to an ethnic group known as the Sasaks, whose clouded history on the island fails to diminish the uniqueness of their way of life. Nobody quite knows when they arrived on the island, but the lingering remnants of animist beliefs, which are now infused with Islam, suggest that their presence on the island has ancient roots.
While the Sasak come from a history shrouded in mystery, their modern lifestyles are just as intriguing. Much of the Sasak on Lombok practice a uniquely Indonesian religion, Wetu Telu, which blends elements of traditional Indonesian Hindu-Buddhist beliefs with Islam. Though their culture and community still retains religious links to other parts of Indonesia, much of the Sasak are also adherents to the Waktu Lim version of Islam, calling on believers to pray five times per day.
Today, the Sasak make their living with agriculture and fishing, but within these quiet island villages, many Sasak still practice traditional forms of making earthenware and weaving. Unlike the Batik styles that are popular in other parts of Indonesia, the Sasak create incredible hand-woven fabrics that are now helping raise villages out of poverty.
A brief jaunt around any of the number of traditional villages on the island will quickly set to rest any notion that Bali is the only island with unique culture in Indonesia. The levity with which people interact with you is contagious and rooted in a sort of “village mentality” that harks back to days when social interaction was paramount to happiness. Smiles are given freely, and few people on the island look at you as anything more than a novelty.
This is Lombok and its people; a veritable paradise by anyone’s definition, and far more accessible than it should be given how authentic it is. If a picture is worth a thousand words, these images convey the palpable sense of serenity that exists on Lombok, and the humbling friendliness of its people.
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See more of Alexander’s destination photography on his website.