F1 and roller coasters: US$3 billion development for low-key Lombok

F1 and roller coasters: US$3 billion development for low-key Lombok

An integrated resort with a theme park and race track is set to transform Bali's somnolent little sister
The sun rises over the mountains of Lombok, considered a laid-back version of heavily touristed Bali.

Watch out Singapore. Quiet, unassuming Lombok might soon be cashing in on the F1 action, too. 

Following the opening of the Indonesian island's new international airport last year, now comes word that a massive integrated resort will soon be under development in Lombok. 

Cue the cries of "paradise lost." 

Set to open in 2015, the US$3-billion, 1,175-hectare Mandalika Resort Lombok is pegged to include an F1 race track, integrated theme park, underwater marine museum, eco park, meeting spaces and a concert hall.

According to a report by travel industry site TTG Asia, the project’s first phase, including road construction, hotel developments and an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus golf course, will be completed within three to five years. More hotels and attractions will follow in the second stage.

Low-key Lombok 

So is Lombok's reputation as a quiet, serene alternative to nearby Bali due for a shake-up?  There's no denying the island has the goods to bring in masses of tourists.

Just this week, an article in the Sydney Morning Herald dubbed Lombok "the quiet achiever." 

"Lombok's trump card is its wonderful coastline: wild surfing beaches in the south; sweeping bays and calm waters on the west coast and the Gili Islands in the north-west," says the article.

"It is also home to Mount Rinjani, a 3,726-meter mountain that is arguably more spectacular and certainly less crowded than Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak in Borneo and one of the most popular draws for trekkers in Southeast Asia."

Lombok opened its extensive new airport -- Bandara Internasional -- last October, one of several moves to make the island more appealing to tourists, while luxury resorts have also been marching steadily in. 

Does Indonesia need a new Bali? 

Mandalika Resort Lombok will be located 20 minutes' drive from Bandara, and is being developed by the Bali Tourism Development Corp (BTDC), which was responsible for Nusa Dua, Bali's upmarket tourist enclave.

"Whether enticed by the secluded coves, the turquoise seas and incredible surf of the Indian Ocean, more and more people are now finding out why Lombok is being hailed as the ‘new Bali’," says the Mandalika Resort website.  

But the thought of a "new Bali" is already leading some to question the impact such a huge resort will have on the island.  

“The development will change Lombok, which is known as a tranquil, laid-back island," said managing director of tourism consulting firm Panorama Destination, Rocky Praputranto, in the TTG report

"Do the people in Lombok, who are more conservative [than the Balinese], want this? Are they ready for the change?"

Garuda and SilkAir fly to Lombok regularly, while Malaysia's low-cost AirAsia says it will soon add the Indonesian island to its roster.