Photo: Resort views.

Introduction

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On the eastern shores of Bali’s southern bauble, south of Kuta and Ngurah Rai International Airport is the island’s very own Shangri-La: Nusa Dua. To the north of this lost horizon, virtually giving Bali the middle finger, sits the once sleepy fishing village of Tanjung Benoa now Bali’s watersport central.


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Sometimes this entire eastern coastal region is referred to as Nusa Dua, but it more specifically applies to the gated tourist enclave, named for the two island-like headlands, Nusa Gede and Nusa Dharma—Nusa Dua means “two islands”. The history of Nusa Dua dates to the early 1970s when it was conceptualised and built by the Indonesian government-owned Bali Tourism Development Corporation (BTDC). The idea was to insulate the local communities from the vagaries of foreign tourists and to insulate the foreign tourists from the vagaries of the local communities.

Nowhere else in Bali like it. Photo taken in or around Nusa Dua and Tanjung Benoa, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Nowhere else in Bali like it. Photo: Sally Arnold

In many ways they were successful: Nusa Dua’s lawns are manicured, the footpaths lack random holes, the roads are smooth and have curbing and guttering. Grandiose resorts overlook (imported) sandy beaches that are as free of roving merchants and hustlers as they are of natural shade. There’s not a warung in sight and every bill comes with at least two pluses attached. All in all, the only thing remotely Indonesian about the whole place is the gouging local transport cartel.

In Nusa Dua you may not find the “real Bali”, but you’ll certainly find the Bali of the tourist brochures, and for many, especially families, looking for an all-encompassing beach holiday and upmarket travellers with the means, that is just what the doctor ordered. Indeed some lovely hotels lie within the “reserve” and many international five-star brands are represented. Just bear in mind that there are fabulous hotels across Bali and many have done just fine intermingling with the local communities.

High tide or low tide, still pretty. Photo taken in or around Nusa Dua and Tanjung Benoa, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

High tide or low tide, still pretty. Photo: Sally Arnold

Within Nusa Dua, expect to receive premium service and amenities—at a premium price. If you do opt for a luxury hotel in Nusa Dua, try to make the effort to “jump the fence” now and then to see what some of the rest of Bali has to offer. Even a trip up to the northern reaches of Tanjung Benoa will give you at least some contact with normality and the island’s rich culture.

The peninsula of Tanjung Benoa extends another four kilometres north from Nusa Dua stretching up towards Serangan Island and Sanur, what was once a long thin sandbar offers protection to the remaining mangroves and waters of Benoa Harbour. This strip in not bereft of fancy-pants resorts or tourist facilities, in fact it literally buzzes with wartersport activities, but if coming from Nusa Dua, this is your most accessible part of “local Bali” with warungs and other local businesses, bravely unvetted by BTDC. It’s far from the most interesting region of Bali, but the northernmost tip, with its village vibe, makes for an interesting wander.

For when the surf is up. Photo taken in or around Nusa Dua and Tanjung Benoa, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

For when the surf is up. Photo: Sally Arnold

The golden beaches and warm, calm, swimmable sea is what most attracts travellers to this part of Bali, and while the northern end of Tanjung Benoa Beach is given over to jetskiing, parasailing, banana boating et al. the southern section is raked and preened, at least in front of the resorts (we still saw a bit of rubbish about). The same goes for the strip along Nusa Dua, but unless you have signed over your first born, you are not privy to the sun lounges and facilities provided by the hotels.

The mini bay between the Nusa Dua islands was in the process of having a new retaining wall built at the time of research in June 2018, and here at low tide, the sea recedes exposing rock pools along the shallow shelf and you can walk out as far as the island headlands, fun for a potter to explore the critters within—wear reef shoes and watch the turning tide. South of Nusa Gede, the larger of the two headlands (gede = big), the golden sands extend another two-and-a-half kilometres to Pura Geger and the beach of the same name. This beach, Mengiat Beach, is sometimes simply called Nusa Dua Beach as although it has its own resorts, it’s the main area many of the hotels in Tanjung Benoa ship day-trippers to for a dose of sea and sand undisturbed by revving jet skis. The two Nusas are worth a look if you tire of just lazing about, both with small temples, though watch the lecherous priest at Pura Nusa Dharma—he may ask you for a kiss!

Pretty colours as the sun goes down. Photo taken in or around Nusa Dua and Tanjung Benoa, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Pretty colours as the sun goes down. Photo: Sally Arnold

Nusa Gede is home to Nusa Dua’s Waterblow, a natural blowhole created by a gap in the craggy limestone sea ledge and when the tide is right, it is impressive to witness the power of nature, as water gushes metres into air, but if you venture there at low tide, there is little to see. When the seas are rough however, the area is closed off to tourists. A purpose built viewing platform minimises the risk of accidents though that doesn’t stop people climbing over for a selfie—please don’t be that person.

Occasionally in paradise, it rains, and though that may put a dampener on a beach day, there’s always a spa. All the resorts will have their in-house facility, which we are sure are lovely, but if you are after an excellent professional massage with all male practitioners (possible cheaper than at your hotel) head to the dancing fingers of Jari Menari in Tanjung Benoa. They also offer massage lessons every Thursday 09:00–15:30. Or if you are already feeing relaxed and are up for a learning something new, immerse yourself in Balinese culture and enrol in a cooking class at Bumbu Bali, one of the most highly regarded in Bali run by restaurateur Heinz von Holzen who has penned several cookbooks on the regions cuisine too. Some classes start early and include a market visit. If you don’t make it to a cooking class, make sure you eat in one of the Bumbu Bali restaurants.

At the aptly named Waterblow. Photo taken in or around Nusa Dua and Tanjung Benoa, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

At the aptly named Waterblow. Photo: Sally Arnold

You can always hit the mall: Bali Collection is an outdoor style shopping centre full of speciality shops and restaurants, or for other more cultural pursuits in the area, art lovers should not miss Museum Pasifika with its excellent collection of artworks from Asia and the Pacific.

As you are heading out of Nusa Dua, check out Puja Mandala—a small but noteworthy site where assembled cheek-by-jowl are the houses of worship of five of Indonesia’s major religions within a single compound: a mosque, a Hindu and a Buddhist temple and a Catholic and Protestant church—an embodiment of Indonesia’s philosophical foundation of Pancasila—all that’s missing from Indonesia’s “official religions” is a Confucian temple. Regardless of your beliefs (or lack thereof), it is heartening to see tolerance in action (even if it may seem contrived).

An elephant awaits at Puja Mandala. Photo taken in or around Nusa Dua and Tanjung Benoa, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

An elephant awaits at Puja Mandala. Photo: Sally Arnold

The complex is open to visitors, but access to individual houses of worship is dependent on respective prayer and ceremony times. There is not a lot to see, particularly when all doors are closed, however a quick passing stop makes for an interesting photo, though its difficult to capture all five in one shot. Puja Mandalaia is on Jalan Kuruksetra, Nusa Dua, around 400 metres west from the intersection of Jalan Pintas Siligita.

For a less seemingly manufactured example of multicultural and multi-faith Indonesia, head to the harbour at the northern point of Tanjung Benoa where you’ll find the gaudy Klenteng Caow Eng Bio, a Chinese temple dedicated to Hainanese Goddess Shui Wei Sheng Niang and Xiongdi Gong (108 Brothers), protectors of seafarers, along with a handful of Balinese Hindu temples, including the lovely Pura Dalem Ning with its triple gateways carved from white coral stone, and a modern mosque, Masjid Jami’ Mujahidin.

No shortage of bright colours at Klenteng Caow Eng Bio. Photo taken in or around Nusa Dua and Tanjung Benoa, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

No shortage of bright colours at Klenteng Caow Eng Bio. Photo: Sally Arnold

As far as somewhere to rest your head, if you don’t have a spare arm and a leg to sacrifice on top-notch digs, and the area still appeals (or you’ve been invited to a wedding in Nusa Dua), never fear, some good value budget to midrange accommodation can be found, predominantly off-beach in the backstreets of Tanjung Benoa. The same goes for eating, sure you can indulge for every meal, but some of the tastiest fare can be found in the most basic of establishments—don’t be scared! Or if the fear is too great, we’ll say it again—make sure you have meal at Bumbu Bali!

If your guesthouse or hotel lacks a swimming pool (sadly, some do) or if the in-house pool is a little too small for a lap, Taman Bhagawan, a beautiful beachfront function venue at Tanjung Benoa (wedding ideas anyone?), opens their swimming pool to the public when they are not having functions for the price of a drink in their restaurant, Paon Doeloe—they even include a free towel (although this may be a limited offer). Alternatively, Ibis Styles Hotel offer a pool deal for 80,000 rupiah that includes a light meal or snack, a towel and a drink.

Not too shabby a pool at Taman Bhagawan. Photo taken in or around Nusa Dua and Tanjung Benoa, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Not too shabby a pool at Taman Bhagawan. Photo: Sally Arnold

Although a taxi mafia exists in these parts, you can still get about relatively cheaply if you take advantage of the numerous free shuttle and inexpensive bus services—and there’s always shanks’ pony—the promenade between Nusa Dua and Tanjung Benoa is a delightful meander.




Make a difference
Bali’s R.O.L.E. Foundation (River, Ocean, Lands and Ecology) is a waste management and skills training grassroots organisation working with local communities and has its headquarters in Nusa Dua. They operate some excellent projects including a zero waste to oceans programme to educate school kids as well as sustainable development projects focusing on small businesses that help the environment including recycling hotel soaps!
R.O.L.E. Foundation: 22 Jalan Siligita, Nusa Dua; T: (0819) 3311 3229; http://rolefoundation.org

We don’t just love the food at Bumbu Bali, we love the good work they do with the people working in the sulphur mines at Ijen in East Java by donating trolleys and clothing as well as sponsoring miner’s children through the local schools. Find out more here: https://www.ijenassistance.com.

Orientation
As you swing into Nusa Dua from Jalan Ngurah Rai Bypass, a left turn will take you along Jalan Pratama Raya through a mangrove forest. At the intersection a sharp turn to the north continues into Jalan Pratama, a single north-south running road with the bulk of the luxury hotels on its eastern (beach) side. A turn south at the intersection leads to the northern Nusa Dua gate, one of the enclave’s three manned gates where you will be subject to a security check. All resorts here are beachside with Bali Collection in the centre a short walk from the two Nusa Headlands and beaches. From the southern gate, outside of the enclave heading northwest along Jalan Pantai Mengait, the street is lined with restaurants and warungs.

ATMs are located in Bali Collection, Nusa Dua and the main road of Tanjung Benoa. Unlike many places in Bali, credit cards are widely accepted (although not in the small warungs—yet!). For medical assistance, BIMC Siloam Nusa Dua is located near Bali Collection.

Bali Collection: Komplek BTDC Nusa Dua; T: (0361) 771 662; (0361) 771 663; F: (0361) 771 664; http://bali-collection.com; Open Mo–Su: 10:00–23:00
BIMC Siloam Nusa Dua: Kawasan ITDC Blok D, Nusa Dua; T: (0361) 3000 911; F:(0361) 3001 150; http://bimcbali.com
Ibis Styles: 57A Jalan Pratama, Tanjung Benoa; T: (0361) 894 7788; https://www.accorhotels.com/gb/hotel-8449-ibis-styles-bali-benoa/index.shtml
Jari Menari: 88X Jalan Pratama, Tanjung Benoa; T: (0813) 3899 1999; (0361) 778 084; http://www.jarimenarinusadua.com; Open Mo–Su: 09:00–22:00
Paon Doeloe @ Taman Bhagawan: 70 Jalan Pratama, Tanjung Benoa; T: (0361) 776 555; F: (0361) 774666; http://www.tamanbhagawan.com/restaurant; Open Mo–Su: 11:00–19:00

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