Bali and beyond: two magical stops in Indonesia

Benoa and Lombok are two highlights of Carnival’s 15-night cruise from Sydney to Singapore. Here’s what to discover while you are in port…

Emerald-green rice paddies, peaceful villages, colourful ceremonies and the friendliest people on earth await in this laid-back southern corner of the Indonesian archipelago.

Despite being hugely popular holiday spots, Bali and its neighbouring island Lombok still offer encounters with traditional culture, lush forests teeming with monkeys, artisans creating exquisite decorative wares, quiet white-sand beaches and a gentle way of life.

But despite their proximity, Bali and Lombok also have striking contrasts.

In Bali, you’ll also find sophisticated bars and world-class restaurants, irresistible boutique shopping and sumptuous spas. On Lombok, you can see donkey-drawn carts, sarong-clad locals wading for shellfish and striking unspoiled landscapes alongside five-star resorts.

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Bali’s main port, Benoa Harbour, is a great place to land – it’s a hub for day-trip tours via boat or car and is within easy striking distance of some typical Balinese experiences.

There’s plenty to do around the harbour, too, with operators offering canoeing, scuba and snorkelling trips, glass-bottom boat cruises, parasailing, jet skis and other water sports.

If you’re interested in the cultural side of the Bali, look out for a temple and village tour. There are some great half-day options.

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Fashionable Seminyak is less than an hour’s drive away (traffic permitting) and the perfect place to soak up the island’s cosmopolitan side. Walk on the beach, swim in the waves or go for a fabulous meal and a drink at famed Ku De Ta, where the stunning beach view is matched by the beautiful people lounging on the lawn.

There’s some seriously good shopping in Seminyak. Stroll Jalan Raya Seminyak, Jalan Laksmana and Jalan Petitenget for gorgeous artisan-made jewellery, beachy homewares and high-fashion resort wear. Lots of young European and Australian designers have based themselves here. Look out for the stores of clothing label Magali Pascal, and for truly local and unique pieces, visit Uluwatu to buy exquisite garments of handmade Balinese lace.

Just remember: there is no haggling in Seminyak’s (or most of Bali’s) boutiques. For that, head to the various markets.

For bargain souvenirs, Bintang T-shirts, and the fun of the negotiation, Kuta Art Market is hard to beat. It’s a traditional-style Balinese market and is great for souvenirs and some fantastically priced handicrafts made by locals. Depending on your nerve, you can start haggling at a third of the price offered and work up. Always be prepared to walk away – there’ll be something great around the next corner at the right price for you.

Nearby, Kuta’s Beachwalk Shopping Centre has some fabulous boutique shopping, and lovely cafes, bars and restaurants with al fresco terraces overlooking the ocean.
The pace is a little different on Lombok, located south of Bali across the Lombok Strait. With a lush rainforest centre crowned with the second-highest volcano in Indonesia and fringed with beaches, it’s a stunning locale. Venturing inland from the harbour, it doesn’t take long to see enchanting waterfalls and towering trees, or, if you’re travelling along the coast, idyllic palm-tree-shaded crescents of white sand.
Visitors love the Pusuk Monkey Forest which lies in an incredible mountain landscape accessed by the picturesque winding road to Bangsal. Be careful of your belongings; the curious creatures are known to snatch bags and cameras. But this is also an area of exceptional natural beauty and there are hiking trails taking in waterfalls and rice paddies.

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Lombok’s craft villages are fascinating glimpses into local life. Sukarara is a specialist weaving village, where you can learn the tradition craft from the artisan women who live and work there and buy beautiful hand-loomed textiles to take home. Beleka and Penujak villages are dedicated to pottery and here you will find some beautiful handcrafted pieces that make great souvenirs and gifts. Sesala village specialises is woodcarving and pearl creations.

The early 18th-century Lingsar Temple Hindu shrine is often combined with tours to these fascinating enclaves.

For some beach time with casual bars, relaxed trinket vendors and the chance to interact with the local Sasak people, head to Senggigi beach. Some tours will get you to nearby Gili Trawangan for a taste of the famed Gili Island lifestyle.

A little further away is Kuta, which has stunning beaches and a rustic village ambience. Shopping for clothes, jewellery and souvenirs can be done in Lombok’s capital, Mataram. With buzzing traffic and bustling markets such as Cakranegara, the city is the place to get a feel for everyday Indonesian life.

Though hiking Mount Rinjani takes days, you can stand at the foot of its majesty, and visit the Sendang Gile waterfall, a towering triple-layered cascade.