Many travel to Bali without taking the time to visit the neighboring island of Nusa Lembongan. It’s a pity. As Lonely Planet once wrote: “Lembongan is the Bali you dream about but never find “. We visited the Indonesian gem and have written a travel guide with our best tips for the island.
Written by Mette / Photo by Martin
Translated from Danish
Nusa Lembongan is a small piece of authentic tropical paradise in Indonesia. This we realized when we visited the island in the summer of 2014. We experienced a series of unspoiled and blank bounty beaches. Azure blue waters with a highway of colorful fish, manta rays and the rare mola mola. And a sun that sets next to the largest volcano of Bali. What’s not to like?
A peacefull tropical island
As you set foot in the sand you immediately sense the relaxed atmosphere that prevails on the small island of only 8 square kilometers. Located half an hour by boat from the south coast of Bali. There are neither street vendors nor heavy traffic.
Here the locals live as they have done for years. 85% of the population is involved in seaweed farming. They even say it themselves. That they are more Balinese than people from the mainland, which is influenced by the great flow of tourists.
The Lembonganese are a very friendly people. They are always eager to help without expecting anything in return. If you are curious about how they live you simply just talk to the people you meet on your way. This way we were invited to ceremonies, cockfights, and seaweed farming along with many personal anecdotes. The good karma lives on Lembongan.
But the secret of Lembongan has undoubtedly already been released. When we visited the island in 2014 we encountered quite a few construction projects starting up. So, you probably have to go soon if you want to experience the true and undisturbed tropical paradise.
#1 – A Balinese Getaway
Nusa Lembongan in itself is a thing on the to-do list when you travel to Bali. The island paradise has that uniquely desired vibe. The relaxed, authentic, and exotic atmosphere that many travellers in vain seek for among the hordes of tourists on the far more overcrowded South Bali. The amount of cars is few and everything takes place at a tropical slow pace that forces you into a low gear.
#2 – Our favorite beaches on Lembongan
The most popular beaches are Mushroom Beach, Sunset Beach and Dream Beach. All of which are located on the west side of the island. They are smaller, but more beautiful and charming than the main beach at the town of Jungutbatu, where the boats come in and where you will find most of the shops, restaurants and hotels of the island.
The secret beach
One of the locals told us about a ‘secret’ beach that is not found on the map. It is nestled between Mushroom and Tamarind Beach and sits on the verge of steep cliffs with wild bushes and trees.
You can find it by driving towards Tamarind Beach. Just before reaching the beach, turn left onto a small road at Nanuk Bungalow. Drive as far as you can get up the paved road (a few hundred meters) and park the scooter at the end. Follow the small nature trail that faces the water. Here you climb down the slope and – voila!
#3 – Sunset with volcanic view
Of all the sunsets we’ve seen around the world the one on Lembongan is among our favorites. How often do you have the opportunity to enjoy the last rays of the sun dancing on a cone-shaped volcano that thrives majestically in the horizon?
You get the best view at Panorama Bar & Restaurant. Here you will also have breathtaking views over the water, the boats, the seaweed fields, and the city where the barbecue smoke and buzz of life rises from the local kitchens. Bring a few cold beers from the bar and go to the bench on the other side of the road. Get comfortable and enjoy the show.
#4 – The fields of seaweed
On the mainland of Bali one of the dominant employments is production of rice, whereas Lembongan primarily earn money by cultivating seaweed. This detail makes Lembongan very unique. The simple island-life follows the rhythm of the tide. When the water retreats the fields of seaweed pop up and the locals rush into the ankle-high water to harvest seaweed of the day. The seaweed is collected in large braided baskets, which the farmers carry on their heads while balancing to land to spread and dry the seaweed in the sun. Everywhere on the island you will see piles of seaweed. In all shades of the color green.
You will find the seaweed fields all around the island. But at Lembongan Village you will find some of the largest as the green seaweed has optimal growth conditions in the waters between Lembongan and the small neighboring island of Ceningan.
#5 – Scooter safari
Several tour guides write that you can walk around the island in one day. Alternatively rent a bike. And that’s probably correct. But if you only plan 1 or 2 days of exploring, we wouldn’t recommend doing it by foot or bicycle. The island consists of steep hillside and primitive roads that easily can make your excursion a big challenge on a hot day.
Instead rent a scooter, either through your hotel or in the city of Jungutbatu. It costs approx. 5-7 USD per day. This way you can also take a trip over the narrow suspension bridge at Lembongan Village and visit the small neighbor island of Nusa Ceningan. The bridge is only for scooters and in itself a really nice experience to cross.
#6 – Water sports
Need an adrenaline kick? Water sports are the biggest attraction at Nusa Lembongan. For example you can surf on the reef by the city of Jungutbatu, rent paddles at Mushroom Beach, or jump from the cliffs around the southwest tip of the island of Ceningan.
#7 – Snorkling and diving
The fact that seaweed farming is the primary source of income also means that the locals are not dependent on fishing. This is very good news for underwater enthusiasts. When you submerge your head in the azure waters there is an impressive plethora of colorful and exotic fish in the many vibrant reefs around the island.
In addition, you can be lucky to meet sea turtles, manta rays, dolphins, and the rare mola mola, which has made Lembongan a popular destination among divers. You will find several good organizers in Jungutbatu and at Mushroom Beach.
We booked a snorkeling trip through our hotel to swim with manta rays. Unfortunately high waves made it too challenging to reach the place where the manta rays swim. Obviously we were very disappointed. So, do your best to plan around the weather by asking the local specialists.
#8 – Local cuisine and good restaurants
If you like local cuisine you should visit the little family-owned Nyoman’s Warung. It was recommended to us by locals. The restaurant is a bit secluded on the northern shore of the island and besides a breathtaking view of the south coast of Bali the food is cheap and served with a big smile.
Tired of noodles and grilled fish? We recommend the modern Hai Bar & Grill located on Mushroom Bay. The best and finest eatery is Indiana Kenanga Restaurant, which is part of the island’s most fancy hotel with the same name. And if you need a very good cup of coffee, then Two Towers is for you. It is located on top of the mountain at Jungutbatu.
#9 – Cock fight at the temple
The primitive and peaceful island life is accompanied all day long by chanting songs of prayer and cock-a-doodle-doo of roosters. Hinduism is an inseparable part of the local life. Religious culture is not only visible through the many temples and small sacrifices that lie everywhere, spreading the scent of incense. It’s also through a very special soundtrack.
No day goes without a ceremony for someone or something. Even the cockfights form a part of a religious ritual, where the blood of the birds is considered a sacrifice to calm the evil spirits. If you would like to experience a cockfight or a religious ceremony just ask the locals.
#10 – The towns of Lembongan
There are two small towns on the island. The main city of Jungutbatu, where most tourists arrive by boat and often stay, as well as the slightly smaller Lembongan Village, located by the largest seaweed fields of the island and primarily house the locals.
Both towns has narrow system of labyrinth streets which are exiting to discover. They are the best way to experience the local life. Kids are running the streets and playing hide-and-seek among the hanging laundry. Everywhere you will see the braided cages with champion roosters. In the small temples you can hear the prayer of the day. And everywhere in the streets an aromatic scent of incense is smoking. The shopping of the island is located in Jungutbatu. This is where most shops, restaurants and tour operators are located.
#11 – Devil’s tear
The pristine coast of Lembongan is a mixture of sandy beaches, densely populated mangrove, and raw cliffs. Between two of the island’s best beaches – Sunset Beach and Dream Beach – you’ll find the rock, which the locals have named “Tears of the Devil”.
Here the waves of the Indian Ocean chrashes against land with such force that the water sprays several meters into the air. It may be a slightly wet affair to stand close to the edge, but it is fascinating to look at the powerful phenomenon and feel the rush of a new wave erupting into the air like a geyser.
5 THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE DEPARTURE
#1 – Three small nusas
Nusa Lembongan is one of the 17.000 islands of Indonesia. On a map it is pinpointed as one of the three islands located 12 kilometers from the southeast coast of Bali. Nusa Penida is the largest, and Nusa Ceningan is the smallest. But of the three islands Lembongan is the one that is furthest in the development of a relaxing holiday paradise. The increased tourism flow of this island has assured a 24/7 supply of electricity.
#2 – The journey from Denmark to Lembongan
A return ticket to Ngurah Rai (International Airport of Bali) costs from 6-7000 DKR. From there you have a ½ hour drive to Sanur where boats several times a day sail directly to Lembongan.
The cheapest solution is to sail with the public boats that will ship you to the island for less than 15 USD in approx. 1-1½ hours. For almost twice the price you can take a speedboat that only takes 30 minutes. We sailed with the speedboat company Bali Brio which worked impeccably.
Please note that there is no port at Lembongan. So be prepared to jump in to the water on arrival and walk the remaining meters from the boat to beach.
#3 – Where to stay
At Lembongan you will find accommodations in all classes. Ranging from luxury villas to modest bungalows. Three that can be recommended are: Twin Island Villas where we stayed. All villas have their own pool and are located on a hillside by the beautiful canal between Lembongan and Ceningan.
If you want to live close to the city stay at Batu Karang Resort, which offers unique views over the seaweed fields of Jungutbatu and the Agung volcano of Bali. If you are more about beach life Hai Tide Beach Resort is for you. Here you are a few steps from the best and most popular beach of the island: Mushroom beach.
#4 – Credit card or cash
Since Lembongan only has one cash machine – which rarely worked back in 2014 – we recommend that you bring cash. However there are several places on the island where you can exchange money (primarily USD and AUD). The larger restaurants and hotels accept credit cards, but at a fee. Tips and taxes are usually included, but its good practice to add a little.
#5 – The Lembongan Traveler
Find more info about Nusa Lembongan on the official travel guide page “The Lembongan Traveler“. It’s also available as an app and has an inspirational Instagram profile, plus associated hashtag #thelembongantraveller.