Oct 07 2012
When you head out to see the stunning cliffs of Bali’s Nusa Penida, it can take a moment to realise that not only are you staring across to sheer massive walls of rock that soar to hundreds of metres high, but you’re actually standing on those cliffs yourself. You know, about a metre from the edge and with nothing between you and a deathly plunge into the deep blue sea.
It’s a petrifying, exhilarating realisation. I went to two locations to see the cliffs by motorbike with a driver. The first was to see Guyangan waterfall, which shoots out quite close to the bottom of the cliffs on the island’s southwest coast. There’s about a two-metre length of wire fence you can stand at with some security as you look down to see the water; scramble any further along though and it’s just you, the grass, and the ocean below. Stairs scale the 200-metre-high cliff face but your correspondent regrets to inform you she didn’t want to go down them.
Some of the fresh spring water that shoots out of the cliff face is pumped back up past the start of the stairs to some kind of water station (it seems too small to be a treatment plant) which supplies water to parts of the island. There’s a small, nondescript tap; turn it on and it’s a much easier way to enjoy the delicious water than by clambering down those stairs. Someone should get the Fiji Water branding people onto Nusa Penida water.
Ironically enough, despite the gushing-at-the-end-of-dry-season waterfall, the island has very limited water supplies. Its scraggy, desolate geography is heightened after months of no rain, and on our visit this past week it felt as if the whole island would explode into flame if a still-smouldering cigarette butt was thrown into the brush.
You get a sense of this at the top of the cliffs surrounding Manta Point, a popular diving location for swimming with manta rays. If you don’t like diving or are a little bit cautious of Nusa Penida’s infamous currents, here’s a little tip: head to the cliffs instead. From here, if the conditions are right, you can do a spot of aerial manta spotting.
During our mid-morning visit, alas, the swell was huge, and conditions weren’t right for the graceful beasts to come into the bay. My driver did think he saw a single small manta, but I didn’t, and I certainly wasn’t going to lean out any further to be sure.
Even without seeing the mantas, just savouring this location as a viewpoint is reason enough to scooter along the bone-jarring road to get here — we came via the highest point of the island, where nine wind turbines help supply some of the island’s electricity grid.
It costs about 70,000 rupiah per day to rent your own motorbike, but we’d recommend hiring one with a driver (around 120,000 rupiah for driver and bike) as signposting is scarce on Nusa Penida and it’s really, searingly hot. You’ll probably have a much better time if you’re with someone who knows exactly where to go — and where it’s safest to scramble along those cliff faces.
We reached Nusa Penida by chartering a boat from Nusa Lembongan for 100,000 rupiah for the 10-minute ride; we got to Nusa Lembongan using a Scoot scheduled boat which took 25 minutes from Sanur. We stayed at Mutiara Nusa, which has gone downhill a bit but there are other places to choose from, particularly in Sampalan. If you’re heading to Penida in 2013 keep an ear out to hear whether a new French-run operation on the road to Crystal Bay has opened; we saw it half completed and it looks lovely.
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