Searching for a princess in a Lombok lagoon

Each year on the full moon in February, the Sasak people of Lombok in Indonesia gather to search for a beautiful lost princess who put love for her people above all other love.

Lombok's Bau Nyale Festival celebrates the legend of the Mandalika Princess around the appearance of fluorescent Nyale sea worms which arrive for only a day or two and then disappear for another 12 months.

The south coast beaches of Lombok, including the beach lagoon in front of Novotel Lombok, are where people gather to catch the thousands of worms that appear and spawn in the sea. The ugly sea worms are believed to be the manifestation of the Princess Mandalika, the “Putri Nyale” or “Princess of Light” who according to legend, sacrificed her happiness and her life so that the people of Lombok might live in peace.

Faced with a choice between one of three princely suitors and perhaps creating jealousy and hatred among the subjects of the three kingdoms of Lombok, the beautiful princess fled to Mandalika mountain where she leapt into the sea while proclaiming her love for her people.

The men of the island also leapt into the ocean to save their beloved princess, but they found only
thousands of unusual fluorescent worms.

Many believe Princess Mandalika dwells still in Lombok’s seas and once each year, she shows her love for the people of Lombok when she appears in the form of the aquatic glowworms. Local belief is that the Nyale are not just regular sea worms, but sacred creatures that can bring prosperity to those who honor them, or misfortune to those who ignore them.

Bau Nyale is a four day festival with stick fighting, cock fighting, and traditional rhyming poetry. There's also dancing and singing.

The local priest predicts the success of the rice harvest based on the number of sea worms. A good catch means a good harvest.

Then it's time to eat the worms! Raw, steamed or fried, the worms are rich in protein and believed to be aphrodisiacs.

Lombok is an island east of Bali and west of Sumbawa, known for beaches and surfing spots. The Gili Islands, Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno, off the west coast,  have long stretches of  beach, reefs popular with divers and snorkelers, and a sea turtle hatchery.

Disclaimer: Eat, drink and be Kerry stayed as a guest of Novotel Lombok.