The Indonesian island somewhat of a 'best kept secret'
It might be just a quick 30-minute flight from Denpasar Airport, but Lombok is certainly no Bali.
While it has all the hallmarks of the popular destination to its east, Lombok is a back to basics alternative where natural beauty combines with authentic culture in a way that seems to slow down time. Tourists and locals alike in Lombok have a "no worries” demeanour that makes you want to kick back in a hammock and spend the afternoon sipping on fresh coconut milk.
The tropical paradise, part of the Lesser Sunda Island chain, is somewhat of a "best kept secret”. While it is growing as a tourist destination, there are plenty of parts of the island that remain relatively untouched - such as Sekotong Barat on the island's west - home to the luxurious five-star destination Wyndham Sundancer Resort.
It is a place where you are instantly made to feel at home, and where there is a concerted effort to offer western luxury while preserving the natural beauty of the area.
Perfecting this balance is a goal of resort manager Ardi Wilson. The self-confessed visionary joined the Sundancer team in August with a view of creating a destination that would provide a home away from home for visitors, while also giving back to the Sekotong community.
"Culture is very dear to me. I would like to build the community,” he said.
"It is amazing, we have 70 staff and 80 per cent are local. It is a very challenging area because of it being a third world country, especially Lombok where the education is very poor, but as you can see, they are very nice, they speak some English, they have the eagerness to help... you have to build the community.”
The resort had been under development for the past 18 years before opening under the Wyndham banner in September last year - and there is much more to go. As holiday-makers relax, skilled workers somewhat stealthily craft the resort's expanding offering - luxury pool-villas that seem to float from the hillside behind the resort. Infinity pools have incredible views down over the ocean.
Mr Wilson might just be the first to "product test” one of the hillside villas. Since joining the Sundancer team, he has made it his mission to test as many different rooms in the resort as possible - to find out which has the best view of the ocean, and from which balcony he can capture the perfect sunrise or sunset photo. He already has a favourite.
"This area just in front of the pool you see the beach, the coconut trees and the pool. It is like a movie - sunrise, sunset, Sundancer,” he jokes.
"For the time being we are operating with 40 villas and altogether we will have 75. It will be staggered room openings, including seven hilltop suites that will be open in 2020.”
If you manage to tear yourself away from the resort - and the seemingly endless supply of incredible food - its private beach and beach club act as a gateway to the famed Gili Islands. It is from here that Mr Wilson plans to launch the resort's next brainchild - jet ski safaris, which will pair with the new Dive Centre opening soon. Just make sure you wait 30 minutes after gorging yourself at the resort restaurant to don your dive gear.
In the meantime, tourists can explore the southern Gili Islands - a collection of 13 pristine islands featuring white, sandy and mostly deserted beaches and crystal-clear waters. It's an interesting experience reaching the famed islands, but a traditional Indonesian canoe will get you there - and, like the one I travelled in, it might even have Wi-Fi. While the vessel might look a bit dubious at first, once you see the man sitting at the helm, years of experienced at sea visibly etched into his skin, you will feel at ease. After about an hour, you can expect the boat to moor on a sun-kissed beach. Strap on a snorkel and wade into the water and an underwater world. The sea life has remarkable similarities to that of the Great Barrier Reef. The coral might not be as impressive, but the fish are just as colourful. If you're lucky, and quick enough to catch them, a friendly sea turtle might even cruise by. Back at the resort, the perfect way to finish the day is with a massage at the Sundancer Spa where practised hands can work away any post-adventure aches.
Getting there: Fly direct from Perth to Lombok with AirAsia or take the 30-minute flight from Denpasar Airport with a number of smaller carriers. From there, reach Wyndham Sundancer Resort by car. There are airport transfers available, as well as taxis.
The writer was a guest of Wyndham Destinations