Indonesia’s Lombok Island is, for now, content behind the shadow of the more popular Bali Island. Yet Lombok and its equally amazing beaches can definitely hold their own. This less well-known island is one of the best that Indonesia can offer. Kuta Beach is the most popular beach on the southern coast of Lombok, and it truly rivals the beaches in Bali, even its namesake Kuta Beach Bali.
Those who have been to Bali’s Kuta and Lombok’s Kuta are quick to say that the latter is the better beach for three reasons: world-class surf, budget beachside restaurants and accommodations, and no overcrowding of tourists and hawkers. Considered by many to be a surfer’s paradise, Lombok’s Kuta Beach is a spectacular stretch of white sand along sparkling azure waters with picturesque rugged hills as a backdrop. Every year, surfers from around the world, both experts and beginners, come here to catch the waves. There are a number of surfboard and boogie-board rentals along the beach, standing alongside cheap food stalls that sell delicious and authentic local cuisine.
Kuta Beach is not just a natural wonder. For the locals, it also plays an important part in one of their local legends and festivals, the annual Bau Nyale Festival. This crowd-drawing festival can only take place in this beach because the nyale, a kind of colorful sea worm, chooses to surface nowhere else but here. According to the legend, the cute little sea worms are the hair strands of the extremely beautiful Princess Mandalika, who used to live in Kuta. She was so beautiful that all the princes fought over her. The fighting and jealousy got worse and seriously threatened the unity of their kingdom. Mandalika did not like what was going on. In the hope of restoring the unity of her people, the beautiful princess finally decided to sacrifice herself by plunging into the sea and dying. Today, the locals believe that Mandalika shows herself every year in the form of the colorful nyales. The tiny sea worms show up only in Kuta and only for 2-3 days usually in February or March.
To begin the festival, the locals perform several rituals and the children several games on Kuta Beach the night before they believe the sea worms would surface. And as the worms appear the next day, the locals catch, cook and eat them. “Bau nyale” literally means “catching the nyale”.
The Kuta area actually has five beaches. They are Novotel Beach, named after the 4-star hotel in the area; Tanjung A’an, a stunning, unspoiled white-sand beach; Mawun Beach, which boasts of a view of the Kuta-Lombok Bay and a big tree that offers a cool shade to picnickers; Selong Blanak; and, of course, the main Kuta Beach, which offers a picturesque sunset view with local fishermen casting their nets in the distance.
The best way of getting to Kuta Beach in South Lombok is on a shuttle bus. The ride may take long but it is very picturesque, especially passing by the tourist town of Senggigi and the Bangsal Harbor. It is faster traveling by taxi but a lot more expensive since it is a long way from the capital city of Mataram. Another way of traveling is on a series of public transports. From the city, one should take a bus going to Praya, and then at Praya, a bemo (minivan) ride to Sengkol, and then another bemo that goes all the way to Kuta.