Picking which islands to see in Indonesia is not easy. First, there are so many-there are almost 9,000 named islands and an estimated 9,000 or so more! Second, they are not all easy to get to but all offer something amazing. So I decided to just go in a line, Labuan Bajo to Lombok, Lombok to Lembongan and Lembongan to Bali. This turned out to be a pretty good strategy for us (Lombok wasn’t our favorite island for hanging out or diving to be honest, but it was good for some R&R).
We took a fast boat from Lombok (4 hours) to Lembongan. I can tell you that picking a fast boat in Indonesia is about as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. There are so many boat options and many of them are NOT good. The safety standards in Indonesia have not caught up to much of the rest of the world so boats can often sink, catch fire, be overcrowded without enough safety equipment etc. (So, be careful when booking if you are going. Google ratings/TripAdvisor ratings are a big help here.).
When we arrived at the Lembongan port we were later than expected and the tide had started to go out. When the tide goes out in Lembongan it really goes out (more on this later in the story). This meant the Captain and crew had to figure out how to get us to shore. Their best option was to call in smaller boats who could drive us most of the way and then have all of us (fully clothed) jump out of the boat and wade the rest of the way. Luckily I had opted for shorts that day as the water came up past my knees. Getting the luggage was even more of an adventure. The smaller boat took our luggage after us, then put it on a very small boat which could come all the way to the shore, then people pulled it onto the beach so they could unload our luggage right in the sand. From there we had to get it to the street. After we shook the sand off our clothes, our skin and our luggage we were on our way to the sweetest little island.
While mostly underdeveloped Lembongan offers more in the way of charm, great food, beautiful scenery and great diving than most places we have visited. The loving kindness of the Indonesian people abounds here where the sunsets will take your breath away, the view of Bali at night knocks your socks off and where you can easily get a whole bag of laundry done for 3.00.
We spent our time in Lembongan exploring the island by golf cart-causing quite a few traffic jams on the one road on the island-as we tried turning around at the dead ends, swimming, shopping, eating, and diving. While we had some incredible dive experiences, swimming with giant manta rays, drifting along huge turtles in the current, seeing an off season baby Mola-Mola, and taking an exquisite private dive along a gorgeous untouched reef, what left us speechless every night was the low tide followed by an ethereal sunset.
Every night the tide begins to recede about 7:00. It continues until about 20 feet of the water has gone out past the break. It leaves behind small little pools of water where some locals come every night to try to find little shrimps to use for fishing bait. The boats stack up on the sand bars, waiting for the water to come back and fill the area with life again. Occassionally a boat will be caught unawares and then the crew is left to try to push it out to the break or worse, leave it sit until the morning when nature will set it back on its rightful path. Watching this phenomenon from the restaurants on the cliff was truly spectacular and inspiring. I sat with my camera trying to capture each detail, each change in lighting, and scenery. Then on the last night we sat on the shore just to watch as everything changed, Bali became visible and the sky shone bright orange.
The island does not disappoint with its beautiful temples-they are in every single yard as it is a law to build one when your home is built-yummy beach front restaurants, and adorable children running along to say hello and welcome you to their little piece of heaven.
Driving around the island we came across a Veterinarian who was spaying and neutering dogs on the side of the road. When we stopped to ask about it the founder of the organization Paws for Lembongan explained to us what was happening and why. There is a stray dog problem on this island. The locals can not afford to spay and neuter dogs so the population of dogs can get out of control. When this happens the government sends people over from Bali to poison the strays and get the population back under control. Paws for Lembongan raises money to bring a Vet from another island over and spay and neuter the stray dogs and the local dogs when they have the funding. Their goal is to get the stray population under control so there is no more poisoning. The Vet comes and performs the surgeries for only a few dollars per animal, on the side of the road. Then they are cared for on the side of the road until the come to and are then released. They have a GoFundMe page if you are moved to donate. I can tell you their mission is purely from the heart, with every dollar going to supplies for the surgeries and transportation costs for the Vet.
I feel so lucky to experience the lives and stories from each place we visit, but sometimes the truth is hard to see. I find a cause or two or three at every and have to remind myself that I can’t be involved in everything no matter how much I want to. I often wonder though if each of us gave a little time or money to the cause we are most passionate about, if we purchased responsibly (not supporting low wages, chemicals, or slave trade products) could we truly change the world in this generation? Each little thing we do affects change sometimes so small we don’t see it, but it does change the momentum.