An Alternative to Bali
Hey folks, just got back from a truly awesome trip to Lombok with three nights in the middle on Gili Meno island. I have so many photos and different settings to show that I decided to split the blog into three parts. I will also go over some useful details on the trip itself, hotels, beach huts and the logistics of the travel experience. Lombok is a relatively undiscovered destination and is a genuine alternative to Bali although some would argue its not as culturally rich. Either way there is loads to shoot for travel photographers.
I took much more gear than normal because there was some equipment that I wanted to try out for travel photography and that included an Olympus E410 & twin lens kit, some ND grad filters, a light-stand with Nikon SB 900 strobe and umbrella, my D3 kit (detailed in a previous blog) and the trusty Fuji X100.
I must say that it was a bit of a pain to cart all of this around and I wont be doing it again in a hurry. It goes against my ethos for what travel photography should be a about. Having said that, it forced me to take a more diverse range of shots than normal and that can only be good.
We were also lucky to have Ryanti on the trip to model. Regular readers will recognize her from other blogs and she is a real asset on the trips and although she would rather be shooting photos rather than posing, was happy to help out as usual, even although that meant the occasional near drowning :)
Lombok is a pretty easy flight from Singapore and there are a few carriers who fly the route including some budget ones. My preference is Silkair http://www.silkair.com/mbe/Schedule/ScheduleSearch.jspx who are a Singapore Airlines lower cost subsidiary and they currently fly 4 times a week on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. I have found them reliable and the flights comfortable with an included decent meal to help on the approx. two and a half hour journey. The outgoing flights land at sunset and be prepared with a small camera as you can often get some nice shots on the short walk from the aircraft to terminal building.
Accomodation is easy to come by and we booked the Sendok Guest House http://www.sendokbali.com/sendok2.htm through Agoda http://www.agoda.com.sg and it came in at a very reasonable US$ 34 per night, fully inclusive of taxes and breakfast.
The Sendok is in Sengigi which is the main tourist and holiday area in Lombok and a good choice as a central location from which to base yourself.
This was, I felt great value for money, especially at this time of the season. Staff were also well trained and helpful.
This is a good point to dispel a myth that is in circulation that the largely Muslim Lombok shuts down over the Ramadan period. This is simply not true and the whole place appeared to be functioning normally with all restaurants and bars open as per usual. This was a bonus for us however as, despite being peak season (August) the town was very quiet and it was very easy to get accommodation and meals etc.
Other logistics were also simple. Visa on arrival, as usual make sure to get the voucher before going to the immigration counter. Very important - keep your luggage receipt from the airline, the customs officers like to use that to check the number of bags you are trying to leave the small terminal with.
There is a taxi office on the right hand side once you exit the terminal and expect to pay around IR 60,000 for the trip to Sengigi, make sure they put the meter on !!!!!
Once in Sengigi there is a choice of either using taxis for longer jaunts, booking the reasonably priced local tours or hopping onto the local pick-up truck styled buses which are extremely cheap IR 2K to 3 K per trip.
I wouldn't bother too much about sunrise at Sengigi or anywhere on that side of the island, the sun rises from behind the mountains and there it is pretty bright by the time it comes over.
It is of course still worth getting up early to get the morning light although I would suggest heading along to the fishing beaches at Kampong Bugis.
Sengigi itself, while clearly a holiday/backpacker type town, is also still a functioning fishing village and the boats come in between 9 and 11 in the morning.You could have breakfast or coffee at the very nice 'Office" bar and restaurant where you can watch for them arriving.
The beach itself is great for relaxing and its very easy to charter a boat for snorkeling or just laze in the sun.
Unfortunately, by the time the boats arrive the sun is well and truly up and consequently the light is not so good.
I found that my best shots came from going for detail and shooting against the light.
I shot these against the light with my Fuji X100. I am fast coming to the conclusion that the X100 is the perfect travel camera, it is light, strong and versatile. it exposed these perfectly without any fuss or compensation and the files stand up to a fair bit of processing if that is your thing. More about the X100 later.
When you are shooting the sails you need to be quick, they furl them very quickly to prevent damage from the strong breeze. The fishermen themselves are a bit shy but its worth being friendly to them and some pens for the kids always opens things up.
There are many restaurants in Sengigi itself but I can highly recommend that you go the short distance to 'Alberto's' Italian restaurant which is just along the road towards Batur Layer. Its on the beachfront and is a lovely location for either lunch or better still head along towards sunset when its really lovely.
Another option is Coco Beach which is a short taxi ride from Sengigi in the other direction and there is a nice outdoor restaurant at the far end of the beach near the rocks. This was a favorite destination for me and there is a very nice evening light there. On a clear evening there is also the bonus of being able to see Mount Agung on Bali and it makes a stunning sunset backdrop. More on this in Part 3 of the blog but here's a taster.
Another nice location for evening shooting is Batu Bolong which is again no more than a short taxi hop from Sengigi.
Again, I will cover this more fully in part 3 as we did a whole evening shoot there with some flash as well. The temple itself is small but in a very nice location. Its worth trying to go when there is normal activity and the 'Kliwon' praying is usually on Thursday evening and there is much more activity on a Saturday. The keeper and people around the temple are very friendly and they will happily advise you on prayer and special occasions. This is of course a very religiously important site for Lombok's Hindu population so you need to be respectful at all times and its important to be dressed properly and not clamber about on the statues. The location wont work for you unless you have some sort of interesting subject so another alternative would be to pay some models to come along in local dress for you. This can be easily arranged at any of the hotels where they have evening dancing (Quinci Villa, Sheraton etc) you don't need to be resident in these hotels, simply go along for evening dinner. Quinci Villa food and setting is excellent and highly recommended. S$50 will get you a full dinner and drinks in a delightful setting. http://quncivillas.com/
This part 1 of the blog has of course hardly scratched the surface of all thats available on Lombok but I wanted to use it as an introduction on some of the basics around getting there and the best places to stay and eat once there. It is also specific to this particular trip so I don't cover things like the wonderful falls at Sindanggila which will be covered next time I go.
I also haven't really gotten into the travel photography aspects in any great detail and will focus much more on this in the Gili Meno and final Lombok blogs.
Hope this has been interesting, see you for the Gili Meno part 2. This is a dream location for photographers so watch out for it I should have it ready early next week.
Keep shooting, cheers,