Nusa Lembongan occupies a comfortable middle ground between well-trafficked Bali and relatively untouched Nusa Penida. It's not as pretty as either of the other two islands, but it has a banquet of good places to stay, a friendly bunch of locals and makes for a comfortable "time-out".
Lembongan is known for two things: seaweed and surf. Seaweed cultivation and harvesting is what keeps the bulk of the local population busy. It is farmed off many of the beaches (likewise on neighbouring Nusa Penida). Carrageenans are extracted from the seaweed, which are used for their gelling properties and as stabilising agents in cosmetics and foods.
Lembongan also has a number of very good surf breaks which attract a steady crowd of surfing enthusiasts, both to Lembongan as a destination in its own right, and as a substitute for Bali's more crowded waves.
Surfers and seeweeders aside, the island has a quaint village feel to it and there are some good (not great) beaches that haven't been given over to seaweed. There was once some good snorkelling over near the coral reef, but overcrowding and dodgy pontoons hosting large numbers of daytrippers from Bali have seen the reef suffer tremendously in recent years. If you have snorkelled some of Indonesia's better spots, Lembongan's reef is sadly no longer worth trying. You can also cycle around both Lembongan and neighbouring Nusa Ceningan.
Other popular activities include diving trips around Lembongan, and, more often than not, to Nusa Penida. You can also do fishing trips, parasailing and other typical watersports. Surf boards (of varying quality) can be hired. If you're offered any kind of watersport activity towards the mangrove area of the island, we'd strongly advise skipping it, at these activities have substantially contributed towards smashing the reef to piecesmthere
Part of the attraction of Lembongan is whiling away an afternoon, watching the seaweed undertakings and enjoying the sunset. Lembongan gets some great sunsets and can be especially photogenic.
It is well touristed and, unlike Penida, gets daytrippers by the veritable boatload, with Bounty and Island Explorer (among others) in Bali running offshore pontoons where their boats moor then disgorge hundreds of passengers to snorkel and visit the associated resorts on dry land -- sort of like a mini cruise industry. Avoid these operators.
By Stuart McDonald.
Last updated on 8th July, 2016.