The Ocean Star Express – Bali to Lombok

Ocean Star Express: Luxurious and fastest boat to Gili islands and Lombok”

With a motto like that, how could we go wrong?

The plan was to go from Bali to Lombok, the easiest and most comfortable way possible.  There are numerous boats to get you there, but it’s like playing roulette when trying to pick.  You never know what you’ll land on until the ball drops.  It definitely helps to have someone on the inside when trying to decide who to book with.   And a friend on the inside is what we had.  Abdul set us up with a killer deal by fast boat at half the advertised price (600 000 Rp pp/return, approx. $70 CDN).  We told him we wanted to get there fast and comfortably, and he assured us this was the way to go.  Of course, he’s never traveled to Lombok before, or to Padang Bai to tour the boats at the harbour.  He, like all the other travel agents, are recommending solely on photographs from the brochures, friends they have with the different companies, and hopefully some customer feedback.

Bali to Lombok

Like a herd of cattle, we navigated through the maze of fruit, bracelet, and sarong sellers.  We had a few hiccups in the maze, forcing us to fall behind the herd and arrive at the Ocean Star Express last.  As we walked the plank and got on board, we realized that the boat was oversold and we were the last to arrive.  “Sweet!” we thought, being last meant we could definitely sit up on the top deck.  Feeling lucky by arriving last, we headed to the top as soon as the boat left the dock.  We thought for sure that others would join us once they saw us climb up, but nobody ever did.  Perhaps they knew something we didn’t.

We were feeling pretty awesome sitting there on the top deck.  Usually arriving last to things means getting last pick, last served, last everything.  This time however, it had worked out in our favour.  Or so we thought.  The first 30 minutes was fantastic.  Here we were, sitting on the top of this small “luxurious” boat, feeling as though we were on top of the world.  With our legs stretched out in front of us, hair blowing in the wind, we were in paradise.  At one point, we even spotted a flying fish (see the YouTube video below if you’ve never heard of them)!

Then it started.  The bumps.  The wind.  The excessive amount of water spraying all over us!  Things turned sour real quick.  As soon as we got further out into open water, the captain sped things up, around the same time that the water got choppier.  The choppy water, combined with the excessive “fast boat” speed, resulted in us getting pounded with what felt like buckets of water.  We made hand gestures to each other to go down, but were both worried that we’d be thrown overboard trying to crawl to the ladder.  We stuck it out for another 10 minutes before we had finally had enough.  Crawling on all fours, with one hand on the rails, and the other protecting our cameras, we managed to make it over.  Yelling down for them to open the hatch, we waited for what seemed like an eternity in what was even a wetter location on the top deck.  Bucket after bucket of water smacking us on our backs, we were drenched and pretty relieved, to say the least, to make it back downstairs.

The main cabin of the boat appeared to be no better though.  Several kids were puking, and most adults were standing to help curb their seasickness.  The two people at the back of the boat, who we thought got the 2nd best seats on board, ended up with the 2nd worst.  All of the water from the top deck was pouring down onto them for the entire ride!  The boat couldn’t dock soon enough.  Luckily, the brochure was correct when it said “fast boat”, as we arrived at Lombok shortly thereafter.

Lombok to Bali

This time, we knew what to do.  Get there early, get a seat on the inside, and take some Gravol.  We got there early, we took some Gravol, and we were bound and determined to get a seat on the inside.  Even if that meant elbowing granny out of the way.

After picking up some others from the nearby Gili Islands, The Ocean Star Express docked at Lombok right on time.  As it was docking, we noticed that at least 8-10 people were sprawled out comfortably on the top deck for their short ride over from the Gilis.  “Suckers!”, we thought!  They had no idea what was in store for them for the ride back to Bali, and we were not about to tell them, as we needed a seat on the inside.

As we set off, we were moving pretty smoothly.  Things were looking up.  The boat had picked up speed, the skies were clear, and the water appeared calm. Standing at the back of the boat to take some final photographs of the island, an odour started emanating from the slats in the washroom door.  Thinking the last guy to use it had a bit of the usual traveler’s diarrhea, we figured the smell would dissipate quickly.  However, it wasn’t long before one of the crewmen came along with a stick and entered the washroom.  As he opened the door, there we saw it; toilet overflowing with urine and feces.  It looked as though Armageddon had fallen upon that toilet.  The rocking of the boat wasn’t helping matters for that washroom and the poor crewman.  All we could hear was the “water” sloshing around and splashing all over the place.  There was no way we were going to hang around to see if he was successful in fixing whatever the problem was.  Straight to our seats we went!  “Luxurious my a%$”, we thought.

The Gravol started to kick in, and we were out like a light.  For the rest of the ride we were in and out of dream states.  It wasn’t the most comfortable of sleeps, but the Gravol did the trick.  We don’t remember much about the trip, but it went something like this.  Dreaming, open eyes to woman puking, dreaming, people coming down from top deck, dreaming, wet people coming down from top deck, dreaming, more puking, dreaming, cabin full of wet people from top deck.

When we finally arrived at Padang Bai, EVERYONE was relieved to be getting back on land.  The ride back was fast, as promised, but certainly not luxurious.  It wouldn’t be a day in Asia though without one last experience to finish the journey.  As we were nearing shore, it appeared as though the tide was low.  This of course poses a problem for boats with large motors.  What the captain would NORMALLY do in this situation is, using hydraulics, raise the motors just enough to avoid the coral and rock below, and still be able to use them.  However, our boat’s hydraulics were broken.

As you may have already guessed, this posed a problem.  We must’ve sat in the open water for what seemed to be 30 – 45 minutes for the crew to come up with a solution.  One crewman tried raising the motors with wooden planks.  That didn’t work.  A different crewman tried raising the motors with wooden planks.  That didn’t work.  The captain jumped into the water and tried raising the motors with wooden planks.  That didn’t work.  Afterwards, they must’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to get to shore would be to let the current take us in.  And so we sat, patiently, allowing the ever so gentle waves of a low tide guide us to shore.

How the motors missed the coral and rocks below remains a mystery.

Tags: , , ,

Categories: Bali, Lombok, Travel Tales

Author:Thomas & Katherine

A love for travel, adventure, and photography. We just can't help but write about it!

One Comment on “The Ocean Star Express – Bali to Lombok”

  1. Buddhabelly
    August 9, 2010 at 11:03 am #

    What a journey!


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