Jul 18 2011

Which is the best boat service from Bali to Nusa Lembongan?

Published by at 8:43 pm under Nusa Lembongan,Transport


Nusa Lembongan is a beautiful little patch of an island just off the east coast of southern Bali. It’s famous for its surfing, sunsets and snorkelling, and is growing in popularity among those looking for a less crowded, unadulterated flavour of Bali. But the big question: how to get there?

We say: Scoot across with Scoot

We say: Scoot across with Scoot!

It’s an island, there’s no bridge and not an airport in sight, so unless you’ve got access to a helicopter and a landing pad, it’s boats all the way. There are fast boats and slow boats, shiny boats and rusty boats, expensive boats and cheap boats. All this for a short jaunt across the water!

Bali to Lembongan 101
Sanur, the south coast sleepy resort town, is the main gateway to Nusa Lembongan (and neighbouring Nusa Penida for that matter) so regardless of where you’re actually leaving from, chances are you’ll actually wade onto the boat at Sanur.

Boats arrive at Jungkut Batu, one of the two main villages on Nusa Lembongan. Jungkut Batu is home to the vast bulk of the accommodation, restaurants and other tourist paraphernalia on the island.

Pretty at sunset, ugly at sea

Pretty at sunset, ugly at sea.

The Badung strait swings between near glassy smooth waters and a boisterous torrent of swirling eddies and waves in the middle of nowhere. If the weather is foul ashore, rest assured the waters will be doubly so.

What are the options
Four main options are worth considering, each probably appealling to a specific segment of the market. Broadly speaking, there’s the “local” local boat, the Perama local boat (basically a local boat aimed at non-locals), speedboat services (many of these to choose from, though most opt for one of two main operators) and the daytripper cruise ships.

Lifejackets optional

Lifejackets optional.

Before we get into the nitty gritty, it is worth pointing out that excepting the daytripping services, none of these boats use a pier — you will need to wade (generally up to about knee-depth, but sometimes more) up to the back of the boat and climb the steps into the boat. If you are mobility-impaired or not comfortable getting onto a boat in this manner, someone will need to carry you. In rough seas getting on can be a bit of a circus and injuries do happen, so do take care. If you’re not comfortable getting on the boat, don’t get on the boat.

The local local boat
This leaves Sanur at 08:00 and Nusa Lembongan at 08:00, and costs 60,000 to 100,000 rupiah (depending on what they feel like telling you) and takes about an hour to 90 minutes. Like many local boat services in Indonesia, this boat is invariably overloaded and basically meets few of the safety regulations in your home country (unless you’re from say Indonesia or the Philippines). We saw no life jackets. In poor weather, or when travelling with children, we would not use this service.

The Perama local boat
This leaves Sanur at 10:30 and Nusa Lembongan at 08:30, and costs 150,000 rupiah. It takes about an hour to 90 minutes. There are few differences between the Perama boat and the local local boat, other than you’re likely to be sharing a bench with a German backpacker rather than a bag of rice and you won’t be as crowded. Other boats, not all run by Perama, run this route in a somewhat informal fashion. We didn’t see life jackets in any of the ones we looked into and watched a boatman on Nusa Lembongan tell a potential passenger that life jackets were not needed because it is a short, safe trip. In our opinion, this is not true.

Ducks in a row: Penida and Lembongan fastboats

Ducks in a row: Penida and Lembongan fastboats.

The fast boats
There are two main fast boat services between Bali and Nusa Lembongan: Scoot and Rocky Fast Cruises. The former is the more established of the two and runs boats not only to Nusa Lembongan, but also to the Gili Islands off the coast of Lombok. Both companies ostensibly offer pickup and drop-off services (to a set range of destinations) but we’ve found Scoot’s to be far superior and despite them being cheaper, we’d not use Rocky again solely due to their utterly inept approach to drop offs in Bali.

The actual boat services are close to identical, though Scoot has a larger boat if you end up on the boat that presses onwards to the Gilis after stopping at Lembongan. Both services have new-looking life jackets stowed under the seat, or overhead (though we didn’t actually eyeball the overhead ones). Luggage is tagged and porters carry bags on and off the boat for you.

Scoot charges 300,000 rupiah one way and Rocky 250,000 rupiah (both include pick-up and drop-off services). A return ticket is slightly cheaper.

Seatbelts? The Kusamba boat arriving at Nusa Penida

Seatbelts? The Kusamba boat arriving at Nusa Penida.

Aside from Scoot and Rocky, a bunch of other operators offer a fast boat service for as little as 150,000 rupiah one way. Ask around at either beach for a “cheaper boat” and you’ll get what you want. Personally, we feel Scoot is worth the extra money.

The daytrippers
Bounty and Bali Hai are among the companies that run day-trip cruises to Nusa Lembongan. They leave from Benoa port on Bali and moor at especially unsightly pontoons near Playgrounds surf break on Nusa Lembongan. Once on the pontoon you’re able to be ferried to the mainland to mix it up with the natives — or in the case of Bali Hai, take a trip in their semi-submergeable coral-viewing submarine.

These services are essentially a pleasure cruise with an island tacked on and, unless you are especially rushed, not really worth considering — the boat services from Sanur are better value. Bounty offers a one way ticket for US$35, a day cruise with Bali Hai $95 — but there are a few options available.

Butt ugly

Butt ugly.

Which boat service to use?
If it doesn’t break your budget, or if you’re travelling with kids, use Scoot. If you’re on a tight budget, use Perama. Given the other options available, we wouldn’t use the local boat service.

In bad weather we wouldn’t use either the local service or the Perama boat. Boats have sunk, and will continue to sink on the Bali to Lembongan/Penida route — the waters can be treacherous.

Are the fares set?
No, sort-of, maybe — well, it depends really! There is a local rate to Nusa Penida for starters. If you have a KITAS and speak Indonesian, you should be able to make an effort at getting the local fare, but at the end of the day, you’re most likely not really local, so don’t risk an aneurism over $7.

Tourist fares, especially onwards to the Gili Islands, are absolutely negotiable. Note though, you will need to show up in person to haggle (neither the phone centre, nor the website will haggle, in our experience!).

Final thoughts
By Indonesian standards, the Bali to Nusa Lembongan route is one of the most organised and with the best safety standards you’re likely to encounter in Indonesia. That doesn’t mean it operates at international standards.

Nusa Lembongan is worth the effort to reach

Nusa Lembongan is worth the effort to reach.

If you’re new to how boats typically run in Southeast Asia (unsafely and overloaded, but generally speaking, without incident), then you may find it a little confronting. If weather is bad, the boat overloaded and you’ve got a bad feeling, then don’t get on. The boats run daily, multiple times a day — there is always another boat.

Looking for more reassurance? Read our boating in Indonesia story.

Have fun and be sure to head up to mangrove beach one sunset!

Bali Hai Cruises
T: (0361) 720 331
http://www.balihaicruises.com/content/reef-cruise

Bounty Cruises
T: (0361) 726 666
http://www.balibountycruises.com/html/nusa.htm

Perama
T: (0361) 750 808
http://www.peramatour.com/Daily-Bali-Lombok-Shuttle-Bus-Boat.html

Rocky Fast Cruises
T: (0361) 801 2324
http://www.rockyfastcruise.com/

Scoot Fast Cruises
T: (0361) 285 522
http://www.scootcruise.com/

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4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Which is the best boat service from Bali to Nusa Lembongan?”

  1. Adam @ SitDownDiscoon 18 Jul 2011 at 9:09 pm

    That kusamba to Penida boat is a disaster waiting to happen. I saw them loading it up on the rocky beach at kusamba and everything looked unsafe from the way cargo was stacked to the way the boat was lurching from side to side as the waves pounded it. I guess the human cargo is also stacked precariously.

  2. Leahon 02 Aug 2011 at 8:55 pm

    Thanks for posting this, really helpful stuff.

  3. Agion 30 Jan 2014 at 3:35 pm

    WE STRONGLY RECOMMEND BOYCOTTING SCOOT CRUISE!

    Our holiday in Bali has left only one very negative mark: dealing with Scoot Cruise Company. While we received a small discount (on already much overpriced tickets) for a three-way boat transfer (Sanur – Lembongan – Gili Air), we wished at the end that we had chosen a different company altogether. Here are all the problems listed, with the finale as the worst experience of the holiday.

    The first problem occurred just after paying for the tickets. It turned out that the final journey (Gili Air – Sanur) would take four hours, because the boat goes via Lembongan instead of straight back to Sanur, as we expected. This meant that we would miss our flight back home. So we decided to return one day earlier and stay on Lembongan to have a nice last night. However, the company refused to offer this flexibility, even though they were going via Lembongan anyway and there was a lack of information on their part. Nowhere does it list the arrival times, which is crucial for planning return flight journeys.

    The second problem we encountered on the boat to Lembongan, because no bottle of water was offered as advertised by Scoot. Upon arrival at Lembongan, I told the staff about this and he replied that I should complain in their office, instead of simply arranging a bottle of water.

    The third and fourth problem was on the trip to Gili Air. What is supposed to be “the fastest way” turned out pretty lengthy. Firstly, there was at least half an hour delay, and secondly the boat unexpectedly went via Lombok. After the arrival on Gili Air it turned out that passengers are not offered any transport to their hotel. This was apparently only included on Lembongan and Sanur. It seems inconsequent not to include hotel drop-of on the Gili’s.

    The fifth and worst problem happened on the day that we were supposed to return to Sanur. The boat was cancelled due to bad weather – something we found out ourselves because Scoot does not contact you with any information. We went to the small office and asked the woman what Scoot can arrange for us instead, as we could not wait any more days on the island due to our return flight. The day after. She said that Scoot would arrange and pay for plane tickets from Lombok to Denpasar for the same evening. However, to our big surprise, they would not organise anything else: a boat transfer to Lombok, a car transfer to the airport (2h away!) and transfer to our hotel in Sanur. We argued that this is bad service, since they cancelled, but there was nothing possible and we finally gave up. We were also very sceptical about the price for the plane tickets she mentioned: 550 rupiahs per person, instead of around 300 rupiahs that our hotel owner speculated. The woman said that a ticket confirmation would be emailed to us. We returned to our hotel, satisfied that at least we would get back to Sanur on that same day. We arranged all the other transfers and waited for the email. That email never arrived. Our helpful hotel owner called the Scoot office and heard that no plane had been booked for us, and that the plane was full. We went again to the office, aware that we would miss the public boat to Lombok, which turned out to be closed. From neighbouring shops we got directions where to find the woman, and luckily found her half way, walking back to the office. Although we were clearly angry and in a hurry, she ignored us and continued her telephone conversation walking very slowly. Finally in the office, we furiously asked why she had not booked the plane nor informed us of this timely. The following half hour was a nightmare during which we tried to get a full refund in compensation for the lying about the plane arrangement, the terrible service and because the return journey would end up costing us so much more. However, the woman kept on repeating that the main office does not allow her to do so and only can offer half. The woman, Pasir Indah, proved to be totally inept at arranging anything, lying to us, giving misleading information and unable to offer a proper compensation. We felt like talking to a wooden doll that had no clue what was going on, or even how to respectfully treat clients. In our view, she was incapable of representing Scoot and just sat there crying, instead of actually helping us out. When we tried to talk to Scoot main office on the phone, the woman did not listen at all and just talked at us. We repeatedly asked “please listen to what I want to say”, without any effect. Pasir Indah similarly could not say a word, and seemed to be totally left to her own device by the main office. In the end, she offered her own money to pay us a full refund, which we of course declined as Scoot should be paying up rather than individual members of staff. All by all, the service we received was worse than terrible, and in addition Scoot company treats their own staff appallingly. The company’s proud message of having “Australian owners with over 40 years experience in the industry” means absolutely nothing in light of their awful service. We left the office with only half the refund, and no way of getting back to Sanur. It is only thanks to our hotel owner and friendly staff that we managed to buy plane tickets for the next morning, and travelled the same day to Lombok, paying altogether a large sum for the whole return journey. It was not surprising to find other travellers from the Gili’s at the airport with similar bad experience with Scoot.

    Based on our horrible experience and on all the other negative reviews on Tripadvisor, we do not recommend using Scoot Cruise, moreover, we call on a boycott of this company. Only a boycott by all of us will bring a strong message to this company, since our many (holiday) hours wasted on them did not result in anything.

  4. SBGon 25 Apr 2014 at 6:20 am

    Hi Agi,

    It is unfortunate that your experience turned out the way it did.

    I recommend that people never book (and pay) for Indonesian transport connections in advance. As Agi experienced, there are so many ways for things to go wrong and Indonesian tourism businesses are generally not good at providing refunds for cancelled services etc.

    It is much easier and usually cheaper if you just arrive at the transport hub (such as Sanur for boats to Lembongan) 30 minutes ahead of the scheduled departure time for your preferred service and buy a one way ticket, if the service is sold out there is usually always other options. Get one way tickets as it will give you much more flexibility in making the return trip (times, routes etc.) and will enable you to shop around to get the best deal.

    Best wishes

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