The Life of a Fisherman in Lombok

The Sasak and Bugis coastal settlements, some dating back as far as 4,000 years, hug the Lombok coastline and many traditional small fishing villages can be found in between mountain regions and fertile alluvial plains. The local people of Lombok, known as “Sasak”, share a few insights into life in a fishing village with our writer, Stephanie Brookes.

I talked with Pak Riffah, a local fisherman about life in the village, “I go out fishing every day, just like my father and my grandfather. We have been in this village for many generations. A long time ago the Bugis people from Sulawesi settled here, but now we are mixed with the local Sasak people,” he continued. “I come from a big extended family and some of my family are lobster farmers. It is very good money and a small baby lobster sells in the market for around Rp17000. My cousin is a seaweed farmer and my other cousin earns his living breeding fish. Me, I love the sea and every day I am out there fishing with my crew. I use a ngerakat (net) to catch fish.”

Life-of-a-FishermanRiffah explained he catches white snapper, tongkol, cakalang, octopus, shark and manta ray. He either sells his haul at the morning fish market in the main town or, if his catch is small, he will sell at the local fish market.

A fleet of boats head out very early, at around 4.30am and the night-run leaves at around 8.00pm. Riffah told me on the night-run he stays out for the whole night and comes back at daybreak, hopefully with a full catch.

When the boats come back, the women greet the men with buckets, baskets and containers of all shapes and sizes. Some of the fish are spread out on huge drying trays and are then salted. When a haul of octopus comes in, these are strung up on drying racks. Along with their fish duties, the women seem to be cooking all day and food preparation is a never-ending task. The children possibly get the best deal of all — they are constantly playing at the waters edge, swimming or engaged in a game of football, which seems to be in constant motion. Laughter constantly permeates the air as the little ones make up games and keep themselves busy with nature at their doorstep.

Life-of-a-FishermanLife in a traditional Lombok fishing village is full of bustling daily activity and presents a colourful scene as spider-like outriggers stack up closely to one another, like rows of dominoes gracing the shores in vibrant hues. Twice a day, bronzed fishermen push these simple wooden crafts into the water and disappear for up to eight hours at a time.

Hopefully, they will return home with a healthy haul of fish.

After I had watched the early morning crew heave-ho and crash through the surf-break, I found my way back to the main street, passing many small lanes with fragrant aromas beckoning me to discover more. I sauntered past blackened pots of bubbling corn, steamy fragrant rice, hot spicy fish stew, tiny steamed eggs bobbing on the surface of hot yellow curries and then stopped for a strong black coffee served with a welcoming smile.

Some of the villages in Southern Lombok have found an alternative income stream to supplement their fishing revenue. Traditional fishing is the mainstay for most of these villages and has been in existence for many generations, however, since the early 1970s a surfing industry has grown and for some villages this brings in a healthy second income.

Life-of-a-FishermanThe surfing crowd that flows in from all corners of the world come seeking the challenging waves to ride. They stay in small guesthouses, eat at the local warungs and keep the boat owners busy with daily trips out to the main surf breaks that cut some mean action in Lombok. Some of the more established villages have active volunteer English teaching programmes in place and foreigners are happy to give up the odd surfing day to try their hand at chanting nursery rhymes, teaching ‘days of the week’ and inspiring the children with English instructional games.

A typical Sasak fishing village consists of tightly knit clusters of wooden houses and most of the cooking is done over an open fire. A gentle pace of life matches the calm waters of the bay and is a great example of how tourism can exist on a small scale, with low impact, allowing it to blend softly into village life.

Accommodation :
Novotel Hotel, Kuta, South Lombok (
Lombok Eudiamon Villas, Kuta, South Lombok (
JEEVA Beloam Beach Camp (
Getting Around :
Driver /Tour Guide: Alyn (

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