In Travel

Beyond Bali: Indonesia’s Other Indulgent Islands

For many, the tropical island of Bali evokes images of white sandy beaches and absurdly clear water offset by vibrant coral reef. But recent years have seen the popular holiday destination become increasingly reminiscent of a small city.

While the bustling areas of Seminyak and Canggu certainly do offer extraordinary culinary experiences and innovative cocktail lists to boot, if you’re seeking a true island experience you may be best off venturing to some of Indonesia’s lesser-known gems.

Thankfully, with over 18,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago, when it comes to the pursuit of untouched powder soft sand, you’re spoilt for choice. In fact, the options can be downright overwhelming – which is why we’ve helped out by picking four other Indonesian islands:

Bawah Island

Bawah Reserve is so much of a well-kept secret that even many local Indonesians are unaware of its existence. This could be due to the island being only accessible by a luxurious sea plane. Here you’ll find dense, thriving jungle and overwater bungalows perched on aquamarine reef.

Fancy a man-mani in paradise? You’re in luck. Once you set foot on the entirely private island, access to spa treatments, wellness classes, and water activities are all available at no additional cost.

Also among the perks are a number of creative cuisine choices. Whether you’d prefer a picnic on the beach or fragrant fare in a treetop jungle canopy, Bawah Reserve has plenty of dining choices across its six islands.

Going beyond its luxurious offerings, the Reserve prides itself on sustainability. From ocean-friendly sunscreen to solar-powered boats, Bawah is about as eco-friendly as resorts get. It’s no wonder it was awarded one of CNN’s best paradise islands in Asia – an award which really put Bawah on the map.

Where to stay

As Bawah Reserve is a private island, you have no choice but to stay at the resort to access it. Though it’s hardly a tough ask.

Gili islands

Made up of three islands, Lombok’s Gili islands are best known for the party destination of Gili Trawangan. But, when it comes to unadulterated relaxation, paradise-style, it’s the island’s other sisters, Gili Air and Gili Meno, that really steal the show.

Ringed by gorgeous beaches and exuding some serious deserted island vibes, the tiny island of Meno is the perfect place to kick back in a hammock with a book and switch off from the rest of the world.

Dubbed the turtle capital of the world, the ‘Gili Meno Wall’ is located directly out front and divers and snorkelers can catch majestic turtles in their natural habitat being happily pulled along by the strong current.

Considered the darling of the three islands, Gili Air has it all; happy hours on pristine beaches, live music without an influx of intoxicated tourists and of course, the famed marine life that the islands are famous for. Slightly larger than Meno, it even offers barebacked horse riding along the beach at sunset.

Where to stay

After a luxurious and stylish stay? It’s hard to go past the private pools and manicured gardens of the Slow on Gili Air. Based on the slow spirit philosophy – slow cooking, slow moving and slow stretching – its villas are a great base and a short 5-minute day trip from Gili Meno.

Tanjung, Lombok

Though relatively unknown – and well off the beaten track – one island across from Bali in Lombok you’ll find Tanjung, an area unofficially known as the land of extravagant villas. Here you can experience opulence without having to forgo the opportunity to immerse yourself in local culture.

With meandering stalls and kiosks stocking handmade offerings and intoxicating Indonesian home cooking sold by grinning locals, in Tanjung you’ll get a true taste of Indonesia. Contrasting culture and luxury, here you’ll also have the chance to shoot some palm fringed holes with an obstructed view of the Indian Ocean at the Sire Beach Golf Club.

Where to stay

While The Lombok Lodge and The Oberoi are both five-star resorts that definitely will not disappoint, it’s hard to go past the expansive, private villa that is Villa Sepoi Sepoi. Set on six sprawling acres of tropical gardens, it features six bedrooms, a private chef, a large beachfront pool, and easy access to the Sire Beach Golf Club right next door.

Nusa Lembongan

indonesian islands

Nusa Lembongan is one of the 18,000 Indonesian islands. Image: Joel Vodell / Unsplash

In less transit time than a car ride from Bali’s international airport to Ubud, you could find yourself taking a dip in your private pool, margarita-in-hand on Nusa Lembongan. Connected to the adjoining island of Nusa Cenigan by a very famous yellow bridge, Nusa Lembongan can be reached by a 35-minute boat ride from Sanur, Bali or in 15 minutes by helicopter.

Above the sun-kissed sandy strip of the arrival port is a cliffside packed with luxurious accommodation offerings. If you’re not content relaxing on bean bags on the beach or lazing around your pool-equipped villa, take a day trip to the neighbouring island of Penida. Here, you can check out stunning spots that you’ve surely seen splashed across your iPhone at some point in your social media scrolls, like KelingKing Point and Angel’s Billabong.

Where to stay

Resort Batu Karang is considered the pinnacle of Lembongan Hotels. It features rooms from suites to three-bedroom villas with private pools and huge tubs overlooking the ocean.

(Lead image: Bawah Island / supplied)

Published 01 May, 2019