Pusuk Pass lies on the western edge of Lombok’s Gunung Rinjani National Park, about a 30-minute drive from Mataram, the capital. An alternative inland route to Tanjung and the Gili Islands, the winding road through Pusuk Pass traverses dense forests and offers fabulous views across the North Lombok Sea. Don’t forget to pack some bananas! The mountain roadside teems with monkeys who come down from the forest to accept fruit and nuts from passing motorists.
Head north from Mataram to the furniture-making village of Gunung Sari. Browse stalls selling bamboo furniture and crafts and visit Gunung Agung Temple, with three distinctive spires looking a bit like pine trees. From here the road climbs to the hill-tribe village of Sidemen where you can see local residents processing palm sugar. As you approach Pusuk Pass, 1,000 metres (3,300 feet) above sea level, you’ll see monkeys in the vines and trees by the roadside. Groups of monkeys often gather on the road itself, so slow down and drive carefully.
Pull over at the rest stops or by the roadside warungs to feed the monkeys who are quite comfortable around humans. However adorable and friendly these monkeys appear, they are still wild animals so you should never try to pet or hold them. Don’t tease them by offering and then withdrawing food, as they can occasionally become aggressive if provoked. Monkeys have also been known to steal loose items like sunglasses and car keys, so keep your valuables secure!
After enjoying the monkeys and views of Pusuk Pass, continue down the road as it drops to the coast. Head north to the Gili Islands or on to Tanjung, or take the scenic coast road south back to Mataram, stopping to explore the fabulous beaches and resorts at the town of Senggigi.
Pusuk Pass is an easy daytrip from Mataram, Senggigi or Tanjung and can be included in a multi-day adventure. Hire a car or motorbike or arrange a van with a driver. There are also numerous tour operators who include a visit to the monkey forest as part of their sightseeing itineraries.