IMAGINE A HOLIDAY WHERE YOU EXPERIENCE 50 SHADES OF BLUE IN THE LAP OF LUXURY WITH FEW PEOPLE OTHER THAN LOCALS
I’m barely 30m from shore in water so crystal clear it’s like looking through glass. Fifty shades of blue assault my eyes as I adjust my snorkel and goggles and put on my fins.
It’s blisteringly hot, but the water is deliciously cool.
I swim out to a shallow rocky outcrop and see dozens of rainbow-coloured fish in all shapes and sizes darting through the rocks.
To my delight there are even small pieces of coral in shades of bright indigo and orange.
Tiny electric blue fish swim so close I can nearly touch them, while a large pastel-coloured fish glides past ever so graciously.
I’m at Senggigi Beach in Lombok, Indonesia and it’s picture-postcard perfect.
Just a 25-minute flight from Bali and an hour drive from the airport, Senggigi Beach is an unspoilt paradise.
I surface and take off my mask and my eyes are drawn back to the beach which is ringed with hundreds of swaying palm trees.
The sky is insanely blue and jukungs (traditional fishing boats) can be seen bobbing on the reef.
A lone fisherman casts his net into the glassy waters hoping to catch his lunch.
I swim lazily back to shore, where I climb through a fence and onto the grounds of my beachfront hotel – the Kila Senggigi Beach Resort.
Palatial grounds, manicured green grass, coconut trees, huge water features, a large pool, two restaurants including a beachfront bar and grill, beachfront spa, beautiful accommodation, tennis court, magnificent pool club villas and friendly staff – this hotel has it all.
I’m travelling with family, including two grandchildren, and when we book in we are treated like long-lost relatives.
The staff can’t do enough for us, and my blond, blue-eyed, two-year-old grandson gets particular attention with everyone wanting to hold him and stroke his cheek.
We have booked oceanfront rooms which overlook the beach and the pointbreak where the surfers in my family spend many happy hours riding the fun waves.
We spend our days swimming, snorkelling, relaxing, reading and exploring the local area.
One day we walk into town and it’s like I’m back in Bali in the 1980s. Quiet and unspoilt by any high-rise shopping centres, there are family warungs (cafes) everywhere.
The mainly Muslim population are reserved but friendly and follow a very traditional way of life.
It’s stinking hot, so after a quick walk through the main street, we hail a bemo (small truck) to take us back to our air-conditioned hotel rooms.
In the cool of the evening we organise for a horse and cart (one of the main modes of transport in Lombok) to take us up a nearby hill to a lookout where the sky turns from orange, to pink to purple in a spectacular sunset.
Except for the hotel guests, there are very few tourists around, so we opt to eat most of our meals at the hotel, knowing the produce will be fresh.
Here we enjoy some really authentic and tasty Indonesian food including the famous
MY EYES ARE DRAWN BACK TO THE BEACH WHICH IS RINGED WITH HUNDREDS OF SWAYING PALM TREES.
ayam (chicken) taliwang.
This baby chicken dish is first grilled halfway on a charcoal grill before it’s tossed into coconut oil and fried in a wok.
The chef then pulls the chicken out, spoons over red chilli paste and puts it back on the grill.
The chicken is served with a side of savoury pelalah sauce made out of smoked dry chillies, plecing kangkung (water spinach), beberuk terong (eggplant with tomato sambal) and white rice.
We also dine at a popular beachfront restaurant, La Chill Bar, which features colourful beanbags set up on the sand and enjoy fresh seafood and wood-fired pizzas all washed down with Indonesia’s famous Bintang beer.
Another restaurant, Asmara, in Senggigi’s main street attracts our attention one night with its immaculate and gorgeous gardens strung with fairy lights.
The food is fresh and delicious.
One afternoon while the rest of the family is snoozing, I take myself off to the hotel’s spa for a massage and some foot reflexology.
The lovely receptionist hands me a cool hand towel soaked in lemongrass before I’m ushered into a darkened room where the young male therapist starts to work his magic.
I’m so chilled out that I don’t hear the receptionist pop back into the room at the end of the treatment with a refreshing glass of lemon-scented iced water.
I stumble back to my room in a state of pure relaxation.
All too soon our time here is over and we pile into the van to take us to the airport and back to busy Bali.
It’s been four days of pure bliss on a beautiful unspoilt island paradise.