The outlying islands near Bali have a lot to offer, yet they’re not as popular as the main island of Bali. In July, we decided to pay one of these islands – Nusa Lembongan – a visit and see its beauty that has been in several off-the-beaten path travel sites for ourselves.
The journey there wasn’t as fun. My family and I hopped off our morning flight from Yogyakarta and went straight to Sanur to hop on a speedboat scheduled to depart at 1 PM, operated by a company called Marlin. Since it didn’t leave from any official port, we soaked our legs into the sea to get on the boat.
I thought the waves will be somewhat similar to the waves I encountered on my trips to Kepulauan Seribu, but I left my brain compartment containing geographical information at home and forgot that I was sailing through a part of the Pacific Ocean and not the Java Sea. The waves were naturally choppy and I was struggling to keep the contents of my stomach in. The 2-hour boat ride felt like a torture until we finally stopped at Mushroom Bay, Nusa Lembongan and the captain looked at me and said “you’re sick? This is nothing compared to other days.” That didn’t really help.
Because once more, there is no official port, we had to have our legs drenched in some seawater again, carrying our bags. Only once I was safe on dry sand did I notice that the water was incredibly clear with a tinge of light blue. We were picked up by a guy from Naturale Villas where we spent the night and climbed up roads with steep incline to get to the villa.
The villa turned out to be everything I envision a villa by the beach to be like.
There was a laidback vibe to the place that makes you feel like “hey, this is really summer”. The furniture was a mix-match between warm colors and vibrant ones that give off this chill-here kind of feeling. They also offered snorkeling and diving packages, tour of the island on a buggy, and a motorbike rental (which is the primary mode of transport in Nusa Lembongan)
We stayed in the two-story family villa (about IDR800.000-1.000.000/night) with the lower story having twin beds and the upper having a king bed. There’s only one bathroom in the villa and it’s an open-air one, but hey, showering under a sky full of stars with the sound of waves in the background was a pretty amazing experience.
What’s so cool is that both bedrooms have their own chill area right in front of them with cushions, beanbags, books, magazines, iPod docks, and board games – the lower-story chill area even has its own swing! Our family villa was also at placed nearest to the beach and so our view consists of a patch of grass, a tree, and the sea.
Long story short, this villa had everything I ever wanted in a house – chill areas, bean bags, a swing, and a view of the ocean. If I had all the money in the world, one of the first things I’ll do is build a house like this.
We had lunch from this place in Jungutbatu (the other side of Nusa Lembongan) that sells rice with pork, then got on a motorbike to explore the island.
The beauty about exploring a small island is that you can stop by anywhere you think is cool. We stopped at this cliff covered in dry grass next to a big white villa (yep, there’s literally no way to describe the place) with gusts of strong wind but stunning view of the sea. This cliff was surrounded by dying trees and seemed like there used to be construction project on it that was never completed. There were plenty of surprises I found walking on the cliff, such as cow poop everywhere, tall grass that scratch your legs, and craggy reefs. But once I got to the edge, the view was incredible.
We got on the motorbike again and went further away from the villa, initially heading to Dream Beach to catch the sunset. But because Devil’s Tears was located in the middle of our path to Dream Beach (and it’s always been a dream of mine to see the waves splash the top of the cliff there), we headed to Devil’s Tears instead.
Devil’s Tears is essentially a cliff which towers above the sea, but the waves there are so furious that they crash on the upper parts of the cliff instead of the lower, forming incredible shapes. What I hadn’t known about Devil’s Tears is that the access to the cliff itself where the waves spray is quite a steep drop with prickly bushes lining it. Some narrow parts of the access path have been eroded and the cliff itself is craggy and slippery. I can see why they call it Devil’s Tears and not Angel’s Tears now.
It was here that my lens got sprayed by seawater and thus, image quality may be somewhat affected. However, the shots I managed to take were pretty awesome displays hinting what nature can do at its rage.
The sun eventually went lower and cast amazing light, perfect for silhouette photos.
And then sunset time came along, which – in spite of the clouds forming near the skyline – was quite a beautiful one with the waves crashing behind you and the strong winds blowing.
The roads were getting dark so we didn’t stay long enough to catch the twilight because we had quite a long way to go to get to the hotel, going through dark forests and possibly some old graveyards.
We ended the day having dinner at the villa, served by a chatty guy named Made who had a loyal cat named Lexi following him everywhere. I had a humongous portion of BLT and then chilled in front of my room, listening to the sound of the waves hitting the nearby beach, playing chess with my sister and my dad, talked about the future, and then retired to my room and had the best sleep I’ve ever had.
I woke up at 7 AM the next day and actually chilled for a while, staring at the sea before getting ready and having breakfast. Breakfast was toast and jam with a platter of fruits, eaten while reading one of the many used books at the dining area. I honestly wished I could have stayed longer at Naturale and perhaps bring a laptop or tablet next time I come around so I can spend my days writing, relaxing, and going to the beach. That would be a dream life.
Anyway, we went on the back of a pick-up truck that morning which took us on a scenic trip to Jungutbatu where we could snorkel, fish, and kayak. Along the journey, we stopped by a lookout point called Panorama Point, located on a narrow cliff-side road to check out what Jungutbatu looks like from above. It looked marvelous, even from far away.
Something I’ve noticed immediately en route to Jungutbatu is that the topography is much flatter and the roads smoother than Mushroom Bay. Jungutbatu is also more lively than Mushroom Bay with more eateries and beach bars. Another focal difference is that European tourists mostly head to Mushroom Bay, whereas Asians and Australians head to Jungutbatu. These factors can be taken into consideration when deciding which part of Nusa Lembongan do you want to stay at.
We finally got to Nano-Nano Restaurant and Water Sports – a laidback beach diner run by an entire family. You can honestly feel the love they put in the diner here.
My dad and sister planned to go snorkeling so my mom and I decided to go kayaking. We had to wait for a while because the tides were too low for a boat to get anywhere. So we got some coconut water and I caught up with my writing for a while.
Once a higher tide finally came around, my dad and sister went on a boat to go snorkeling and my mom and I got on the kayak in hopes that we’ll reach the mangrove forest as we were supposed too.
The thing was, no one told us that the inland currents of the water would be so hard to fight. So, our efforts to paddle the kayak turned out to be a humorous affair. We kept trying to synchronize each other, saying “left, right, left, right” at some points and we actually were kind of synchronized, yet our kayak kept turning back towards the shore or getting caught in mangrove roots. There was a lot of getting off the kayak and dragging it back to its intended course involved and I was a bit freaked out by the seaweeds covering the sea floor and thought about all the dangerous creatures that might have lurked there in Discovery Channel. We became an object of attraction for tourists lounging in front of their cottage next to Nano-Nano because we never exactly got into open waters no matter how hard we tried. We ended up laughing our heads off on the kayak and giving up, dragging it back to shore when my dad and sister returned from their snorkeling trip 1.5 hours later, laughing at us as we were still stuck on the same spot. I think the owners of Nano-Nano pitied us so much that they told us not to pay for the kayaking.
The next thing we did was get on a motorized boat to actually tour the mangrove swamps. Mind you that my camera died during this point of the trip and I was so bummed about it that a lot of the tour was a blur. However, there were several things I remember.
It was an enchanting boat ride through murky rivers and mangrove branches that even towered over us and knitted itself together to hold back sunlight. There were birds chirping and fishes in the swamp. The guy who steered our boat turned off the engine once we got to the darker parts of the swamp to preserve the mangrove roots. He was a really old guy who knew the swamps like the back of his hand, though he was quiet unless asked a question.
My mom and I were actually glad that we didn’t get to the mangrove swamps because who knows what’s lurking underwater if our kayak flips over. To think there were people paddle-boarding there, I’ll take a pass on that one.
We eventually made it back to Nano-Nano and paid for our tours. Even the checkout counter was pretty cool as it head photos of the family with their biggest catches.
We ended our two days in Nusa Lembongan by heading back to mainland Bali with a boat operated by Glory Express. I don’t know if it was the Balinese music played in the cabin or whatever’s equivalent to a car’s shock-breaker in the boat working better than the previous one, but the ride back was a lot more enjoyable than the ride to Nusa Lembongan. Anyway, I was a bit saddened to be back on mainland Bali, but I know I’ll come back to Nusa Lembongan someday somehow.
If you’re looking for a place in Bali where you can chill and go to different beaches anytime you want, Nusa Lembongan is definitely it. I recommend spending more than one night here so you can get over the bridge and visit the neighboring Nusa Ceningan.
If you’re heading to Nusa Lembongan soon, here are a couple of tips:
- There are no ATMs in Nusa Lembongan so bring a lot of cash
- There’s not too many places on the island that work like minimarkets on the main island so pack your snacks too.
- Don’t bring your wheeled suitcase. You’re going to have a hard time getting off the boat with it.
- It’s advisable to learn how to ride a motorbike before going to the island or at least go with someone who can.
- The roads in Nusa Lembongan, particularly Mushroom Bay are really, really dark at night. Unless you want to be totally lost, get back to your hotel or cottage before it gets dark.
- The currents in Nusa Lembongan are a bit on the strong side, so if you’re an inexperienced snorkler, make sure you have someone who is an experienced one with you during the snorkeling trip.
- There are no lifeguards on the beach and no fencing on the cliff-edges so venture at your own risk. It’s inadvisable to get too close to the edge, especially when the rocks are wet.
- Do explore the island and chill a lot!
You can read about this destination, get an offline map of it, and learn more about Bali in my Bali for the Family Guidebook App available at Apple App Store.
Application created in collaboration with Favoroute. You can learn more about the app here.