If you’re a keen island hopper, visiting Bali simply isn’t going to be enough once you spot those vast looming cliffs off the east coast in the distance. Now those actually belong to Nusa Penida, a rugged, desolate, stunning island in its own right; next door though is the slightly more easily accessible Nusa Lembongan. Jump on a speedboat from Sanur in Bali and 45 minutes later you can enjoy an island getaway-from-an-island-getaway. Here’s how we’d spend a two-day getaway on Nusa Lembongan.
We’d begin with a wander along Jungut Batu beach, the longest stretch of sand on the island. Much of the beach is devoted to seaweed farming, and this isn’t the island’s best swimming beach, but you’ll find plenty of hotels and restaurants, both up on the headland you’ll see to the right as you face the beach and along the sand as well. Nusa Lembongan has quite a few vantage points where really there should be a beach, but there isn’t — like on the backside of the island facing Nusa Ceningan, as in the photo below.
We love that Jungut Batu is a real working beach, so you’ll see a mixture of tourists, farmers, boat pilots, surfers and fisherpeople all going about their daily business. Either check in to your hotel here, or if you’re not staying here, soak up the vibe as you probably won’t return until you leave.
Surfers will want to go straight for it if the conditions are right: April to September are the best months for a swell, and there are three key breaks. When I asked a surfer friend if beginners could learn here he looked at me like I was stupid. “Well, two of the breaks are called Lacerations and Shipwreck — what do you think?”#8221; Dammit, time for another drink!
Or for some diving. Be warned that the currents around Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida can be very strong; we’d suggest choosing an operator via a personal recommendation from someone who has used them recently as things can change quickly and individual instructors are important.
If you’d like to settle in for a day’s more relaxed swimming, we’d head to Mushroom Bay, a 20-minute motorcycle away, or to Sandy Bay, where you can have a dip in the pool at the Beach Club Sandy Bay and eat the rather decent food at their restaurant. The beach here is more rock than sand, so be prepared for just a swim instead of getting salty.
When it comes to sunset, head on over to Mangrove Beach for a magnificent view of Bali’s Gunung Agung. Grab a beer and a chair at one of the warungs along here and just soak it all in. Again, this is an area with lots of seaweed cultivation, so it’s more for walking and beachcombing than swimming.
Either around sunset or the next morning just after sunrise — when the most birdlife is around — we’d go on a mangrove tour; check the tidal charts and make sure the time of day you’ve chosen coincides with higher tides, as the boat will be able to manoeuvre further then. You can ask the boat pilot to switch off the engine for a few minutes’ blissful silence.
Afterward, head out for a snorkelling trip. (You can use the same boat — negotiate for a package deal upfront). The snorkelling isn’t Menjangan Island, but it’s pretty decent.
We might spend the rest of the day pool or beachside if we’re feeling lazy, hiring a bike to go for a cycle, or popping over to neighbouring Nusa Ceningan (the third island in the trio here) for more exploring; if you’re feeling more adventurous still, try hiring a motorbike, chartering a boat and exploring Nusa Penida.
We travel with Scoot when we head to Nusa Lembongan; there are other operators but these guys have never had an incident/accident and seem to have a reasonably slick operation.
By Stuart McDonald
Last updated on 28th November, 2014.