Indonesia Earthquakes, my earth-shattering experience

Lombok and the Gili were part of my plans when I visited Indonesia, what wasn’t on the plans were earthquakes or tsunamis…
During the summer of 2018, Indonesia was hit by several earthquakes, and I was there.

first earthquake

A deadly 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck off Lombok, on 29 July 2018, followed by nearly 100 aftershocks.
At this time I was in Bali, I felt a strong long shaking, that woke me up. It took me a while to understand what was happening because this was my first earthquake experience, to be fair one of those experiences you wish not to have.

The epicenter was below Mount Rinjani, Lombok, and I was in the island of Bali approximately 200km away, so there was no destruction on the island of Bali.

During the following days I followed the news to know what was happening in Lombok.
And I read a lot about earthquakes, tsunamis, and the Ring of Fire (an area in the basin of the Pacific Ocean where many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. The Indonesian islands are located right in the middle of the Ring of Fire).

You probably know the felling of “I wish I didn’t read about it” sometimes the more you know more you are afraid of, and that is what happened to me. I was ready to finish my trip and fly to another country somewhere else, just to have peace of mind and be able to relax.
My partner, on the other hand, didn’t share my worries or concerns, and I ended up convincing myself that was very unlikely that Indonesia was going to be hit by another earthquake soon. So I relaxed as much as I could and tried to put the worries away.
When things seemed to get calmer and safer we took a ferry to Lombok.

Second  earthquake

It goes without saying that during our first night in Lombok on 5 August 2018, a destructive and shallow earthquake of magnitude 7 struck the island again.
I was in the room when everything started shaking and the earth roaring, I run outside on my underwear, locals were running, shouting, and crying and there was a deep feeling of panic on the street.

The quake lasted for what seemed like a minute building into a crescendo of panic and destruction. The lights flickered and then suddenly, darkness swallowed us.

I’m not going to lie. I was petrified. Fumbling my way in the darkness, the shaking intensified and fear consumed my entire body. They were the longest seconds of my life.
I sat on the street, in a relatively safe place, rolled up in a blanket and stayed there for the rest of the night. I didn’t dare to go inside the room again.

During that night I felt several aftershocks beneath me, but with no falling bricks, roof tiles and coconuts near me, I sort of felt safe. If you can feel safe when all you see around are locals crying and praying.
The family from the house in front of me killed a chicken in a sacrifice and all the families got together and slept in the street .

With a second earthquake in the same island there was no way I would stay longer, but like me, hundreds of tourists were trying to leave, so I only managed to get a flight 2 days later.

During those two days I was ok and relatively calm during the day, but really scared during the night and I wasn’t able to sleep.

Third  earthquake

After two weeks I still jumped when I heard a loud noise and I was constantly feeling the earth shaking even when was not.

While Lombok was still recovering, another 6.9-magnitude earthquake struck on the northeast corner of Lombok and northwest Sumbawa on 19 August, two weeks after the quake that killed more than 460 people.

I was on the island of Sumbawa waiting for the bus to go to Maluk when I felt the ground shaking over me, everybody ran to the middle of the street. It was a small earthquake compared to the previous two. What I didn’t know, is that this quake was a “warning” of what would come later.
I was in the bedroom with my partner later that day and we started to feel a stronggg shake.

We looked at one another, and we knew what this was, we had felt it before.

Again a massive earthquake, and the longest 30 seconds of my life, everything was rocking side to side with such intensity, that I swear I could see the road pavement rippling beneath me.
We were just a few meters from the beach, so I started to say to my partner that we should go to higher ground far away from the sea, while he was trying the calm me down scared people began running shouting tsunami, tsunami and my fears became a reality. All you could hear in the darkness was the sound of hysterical people screaming to “head for the hill” and “the tsunami is coming”.
Everyone was petrified. With no helicopter to take us all magically from there, we grabbed our motorbikes and drove as fast as we could through the deep night, without really knowing where we were going.
We passed collapsed walls, cracked roads, smashed windows, locals were shaking with fear, huddled together praying frantically.
We got as high and far as we could and stopped the motorbike.
Two families where at the same place we stopped our motorbike, and one of them asked us to join them, they made a fire and we tried to communicate using google translator. The night was cold and they invited us to sleep in their car.

The groud kept moving and shaking countless times during the night. The women was constantly checking the reports on her phone, sending messages and calling to friends and family.
When the aftershocks started to get weaker and more spaced people started to get back home.
It was a terrifying night and I didn’t want to stay another night sleeping near the beach, so we grabbed our bags and looked for a place on the top of a hill.

I finished my holidays at the beginning of September and through out my stay I felt countless shakes that made sleeping impossible. I really got traumatized by the all experience and sometimes a feel the bed shaking for no reason.

Fourth earthquake

A magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province on September 28 and triggering a tsunami and landslides that caused widespread destruction and loss of life. I feel really sorry for all the Indonesian people that leave in fear and lost everything. So many catastrophes in such a short period of time.
Unfortunately, seems like natural disasters are more frequent and more severe nowadays than a few years ago..

Some Tips:
  • Have emergency supplies such as food, water, first aid, torch, battery charger, passport, insurance papers, money ready to grab.
  • Make an escape plan
  • Keep yourself safe from falling or moving objects during a quake.
  • Drop down to your knees, so the earthquake cannot knock you over, and protect your head and neck.
  • download the app earthquake.
  • Doorways, windows, bookcases, tall furniture and light fixtures.
    Elevators, power lines, coastline, and entering damaged buildings.

Located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, Indonesia has seen more than its share of natural disasters. In the last 10 years, it has experienced many volcanic eruptions, floods, and earthquakes.

When you travel, there’s always room for adventures and misadventures and this time we just weren’t lucky. Although, in a way we were lucky to go through this experience without getting hurt.

I hope Mother Nature stays calm and allows Indonesia to heal and rebuild ?

Bali, what about it? the GOOD and the BAD

First of all, I need to say that Southeast Asia is till now my favourite region on the planet. I’ve visited nearly all countries and some of them more than once. The last one I’ve visited was Indonesia, and here things were a bit different. For the first time, I’ve disliked several things about a country and probably would not choose to visit it again.

Bali for me is an overrated location, and other islands in Indonesia are way superior in many aspects and don’t receive as many tourists as Bali.

The first thought you have when you think about Bali it’s probably the paradisiac beaches, but you should think twice, Bali doesn’t really have the best beaches in Indonesia not even close. If you are not a surfer, the beaches will disappoint. Even for surfing, there are better waves elsewhere.


You can go to popular destinations like the Gili Islands, or Lombok, but for a more relaxing and less crowded experience, you have the island of Borneo, the Banyak Islands,  The Raja Ampat Islands,  East Sumatra, Sumbawa, and the province of East Nusa Tenggara.

Bali is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world but still has a few (not many) sites off the beaten path await to be discovered.

So what does Bali have to offer then?

Bali has a rich and diverse culture, incredible places and sights, exotic temples and palaces, stunning natural backdrops, towering mountains, pristine jungles, looming volcanoes and, lush man-made terrace rice fields that exude peace and serenity.

Bali can also enchant with its dramatic dances and colourful ceremonies, its arts, and crafts.

It’s also heaven for vegans, vegetarians and, anyone that likes to try new flavours. Be prepared for the grandiosity of the vegan food scene there.

Negatives about Bali

Comparing with other places, Bali has quite a lot of negative points in my opinion.

Although finding Vegan options around Bali is quite easy, on the other hand, a new report by World Animal Protection (WAP) has criticised Bali,  for being among the worst destinations in the world when it comes to animal cruelty in captivity,  claiming the region is responsible for the most “horrendous” cruelty towards animals. If you care about animals avoid the parks and so-called “sanctuaries” altogether.

The obvious ones are the elephant rides, marine attractions, horses with carts, cockfights, and zoos with cage sedated animals that are used for photography purposes. The less known animal cruelty attraction is the  Luwak (Civet Cat) Coffee, where civet cats are caged in small enclosures and force-fed to respond to the high demand for coffee. Don’t visit any coffee plantations that offer this kind of coffee.

Make ethical choices when you visit Bali, and research if you want to see wildlife, because there are options for ethical tourism experiences where you have chances to see mammals, birds and, fish in their natural environment.

I think that is great when a country gets a boost through tourism but some regions in Bali are just too spoiled by that, where you are constantly accosted by locals trying to sell you all kinds of stuff all the time. It is exhausting and you lose the opportunity to create true and meaningful human contact because to them you are just a wallet walking around.

The constant hassle is definitely something very negative about the island that will drive tourists away eventually one day.

Traffic is another big problem, getting around Bali can be painful, the streets are completely overloaded, plus some of Bali’s infrastructure is at breaking point.

There is also no, or broken tiled sidewalks, rubbish EVERYWHERE, chaos, noise, and pollution.

Indonesia is the world’s second-biggest contributor to marine debris after China, and a colossal 1.29 million metric tons is estimated to be produced annually by Indonesia (Source: AFP).

The scale of the problem is huge, and you don’t see locals or tourists take responsible actions to minimize the island’s rubbish problem. The island is overwhelmed by garbage, little of which is recycled. Trash fires are also common, creating toxic pollutants.

Unfortunately, natural disasters are also quite common. Indonesia is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire (an area with frequent tectonic activity), so they have a high risk of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, floods and, tsunamis.

During the time I was there, I felt three massive earthquakes and too many smaller ones to be able to count, and we also had to deal with a tsunami alert. The experience was pretty scary and stressful.

The first one came as a complete surprise, I was laying in bed and I didn’t understand what was happening straight away, because I had never felt something like that in my life, was such a surreal experience. The way the ground moves under your feet and the noise is very hard to explain and describe.

The earthquake had a magnitude-6.9 but didn’t damage the place we were in. For the following ones, I knew what an earthquake feels like and had a much quicker response. During the second one, all the walls in my room cracked, and during the third one we run to the middle of the street and grabbed our motorbikes to drive as fast as we could while people were shouting “tsunami”.

Sadly these earthquakes were quite deadly, they killed hundreds of people and injured thousands, not to talk about the astonishing number of people that have been displaced, rendered homeless.

Get Around

There are not many good ways of transport to get you around in Bali.

Despite the abundant tour packages, taxis and private drivers/guides you are only left with the option of renting a motorbike or a car. There’s no public transport in Bali.

Do I recommend Bali?

If you don’t have the opportunity to travel much, I wouldn’t waste time visiting Bali, there are so many other great places over there to be explored, much nicer than Bali. But it all depends on what you like and what are you looking for.

There is a big difference between a holiday and traveling. If you are looking for some lazy days around the pool, in a stunning resort most likely Bali is a great destination.

I have visited almost all Southeast Asian countries and Indonesia (mostly Bali) is by far the one I enjoyed the least. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed my time in Bali, I saw great places and had amazing experiences. But on my list, Bali ranks as the most overrated destinations.

I know that what I have written here is quite controversial, some people will have the same feeling about Bali and others feel the opposite. It’s always a matter of personal taste and sensibilities.

I would love to hear your thoughts about Bali…

thanks for reading ? 🙂

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

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