Written by: Jaii Fredregill
Destination: Nusa Lembongan/Nusa Penida, Bali, Indonesia
Visited: July 2016
Not so long ago, very few travelers journeyed to these tiny islands when visiting Bali. Other than surfers happy to crash in hammocks, or bunk in beach shacks, most tourists preferred the comforts of places like Ubud, or the party scene of nearby Kuta. Eventually, divers, snorkelers, and day-trippers began to arrive. Now hotels, restaurants, and tour companies have popped up to accommodate them.
Nusa Lembongan remains sleepy, and most visitors do not stay long. Many come only for a day of snorkeling and wandering. There are higher end resorts and hotels, but most hotels have only brackish water showers, and saltwater pools regardless of their price point. There is also just one cash machine on the entire island that rarely works. It is possible to pay by card at quite a few places, and there are money changers if you need them, so cash is king around these parts, and it’s a good idea to bring plenty of it.
A fast boat from Sanur, Bali only takes 30-minutes. Be prepared to get wet, as wading out to get aboard is typically required. It is also helpful to understand that just because the boats are fast, doesn’t mean the people running them are as well. I have taken fast boats from more than one company, and I have never left on time.
The company you book through will send someone to pick you up and drop you off. If they seem particularly late, give them a call. They are coming and will get you to where you need to be, and even hold the boat if their driver is late getting you there. When returning to the main island don’t cut it too close. I usually give myself an extra 2 hours to make my flight or reach my destination when dealing with fast boats. Here’s a link to the site I book through. Scoot Cruises and Rocky Fast Cruises seem to get the best reviews. http://www.balifastboats.com
You can roam by foot, bicycle, or scooter in Nusa Lembongan. The roads are narrow and busy, and there are no sidewalks. Motorbikes, bicycles, pedestrians and large trucks transporting tourists and goods all have to yield for one another. I found it much easier to get around on a scooter than on foot. Better to be in the madness rather than getting run over by it.
If you prefer to walk, check out the coastal trails that connect everything. You can walk from Mushroom Bay on the southeast to Jungut Batu on the northwest side of the island in under an hour. You can also walk across the yellow bridge to Nusa Ceningan. These trails are a great way to see some of the most beautiful and scenic parts of the island.
Sunset Beach and Dream Beach are small white sand beaches at the southern end of the island great for those looking to nest their toes in warm sand and take a dip in the ocean. Jungut Batu in the north also has a white sand beach. It is the largest beach and seems to have the most activity.
There are a lot of affordable options for food and lodging in this area. Backpackers, surfers, and budget travelers tend to stay here. There is also a mangrove forest at the northern end of the island. Kayaking, paddle boarding and boat tours in these mangroves looks to be doing real damage to them. Unfortunately, many tourists either don’t know or don’t care how they impact the environment around them.
If you would like to do something good for this island and the world in general, bring along a couple of refillable bottles. You can refill them for a nominal fee at the Bali Eco Deli. They also pay to have plastic bottles taken back to Bali to for recycling. This is a small business, so they can only do so much. Bring plastic back from places like this for recycling if you would like to help. You can often drop them in a recycling bin at international airports.
Mushroom Bay has a lot of places to stay and eat, and another nice white sand beach. One of my favorite memories from this trip was having lunch at a restaurant near here that looked out over the ocean. There’s a seaweed farm down this way. The farmers wade through the surf gathering the seaweed then lay it out to dry.
I watched them for about an hour, and they watched me. Sort of like maybe they thought I should get a life. Fair enough, that’s what I get for staring. Cultivating seaweed has been a significant income source for locals for some time. Tours of seaweed the farms are available. I have not taken one yet. However, word on the street is that they’re worth your while. Here is a link to a Facebook page where you can book a tour.
My whole purpose for visiting Nusa Lembongan was to scuba dive. There are several reputable dive shops on the island. I booked 3-days of diving with World Diving Lembongan for my husband and me, and I really cannot speak highly enough of them. They are excellent in every way. They are experienced, professional and knowledgeable, and their equipment and boats are in top condition.
Komang was our guide for all 3-days, and he was just awesome. We were paired with other experienced divers and Komang knew just how much to tend to us and just how much to let us do our thing. The diving was fantastic!
Thank you, Rob and Doris, for the footage of my husband Matt swimming with the Mola Mola. You can probably tell by the name of this blog that I’m pretty into Molas. This was the first time I have encountered them diving.
Manta Rays tend to hang around these parts too. Several of the local dive shops let researchers go out on their boats with them so to try to see and study the Manta Rays. Our first day out we met Lily from Marine Mega Fauna. We learned a lot from her, and you can too. Here’s a link to Marine Mega Fauna http://www.marinemegafauna.org/
You can help research and conservation efforts uploading pictures of mantas you encounter to their Manta Matcher. Here’s a link to the website and the specifications of what is needed to identify a manta http://www.mantamatcher.org/