Nusa Lembongan

Nusa Lembongan is a small island off the southeast coast of the main island of Bali. Fast becoming one of Bali's most popular attractions, this island is a world away from the hassle and hectic pace of South Bali. Neither hawkers nor traffic mar the magnificent scenery; this is a fine place to just put your feet up and relax. Main activities include surfing, diving and snorkeling. The water is some of the clearest you will find anywhere, and a vivid aqua blue in colour.

Understand

Touches of Robinson Crusoe at Dream Beach

Nusa Lembongan is approximately 8 square km in size, and is one of three neighbouring islands, the others being much larger Nusa Penida and tiny Nusa Ceningan (also covered by this article). The three islands are separated from Bali by the Badung Strait. Some visitors may find Nusa Lembongan a little slow after the pace of South Bali.

Many areas around the island are good for diving and snorkeling, with abundant marine life and healthly coral. Surfing can get a bit crowded, but the waves are good. There are several white sand beaches away from the main centres which are virtually never crowded. There is a flourishing and well established seaweed farming industry here, and many visitors find it interesting to learn about this.

Southeast Nusa Lembongan with the hills of Nusa Penida in the background

Orientation

Two main beach areas have traditionally attracted visitors.

Jungut Batu in the northwest is the bigger of the two, and has myriad hotels and cheap eateries. This is the area which traditionally attracted backpackers and surfers to the island. The white sand beach here is pleasant enough but nothing to get too excited about, and it is a little narrow in places. In more recent times, the hillside to the south of Jungut Batu known as the Bukit (the hill) has been developed and has attracted some higher level hotels and private villas. The views from the Bukit are perhaps second to none on Nusa Lembongan. Sunsets are best viewed along the main Jungut Batu beachfront.

Mushroom Bay to the southwest of Jungut Batu is a quaint, attractive and sheltered bay. It is an especially nice spot after 3PM when the day trippers have returned to Bali, and it has a great white sandy beach, along with some cozy little water-side restaurants.

Further south, the lesser known beaches either side of the Devil's Tear outcrop, known as Dream Beach and Sunset Beach (or Sandy Bay), are increasingly drawing more visitors. The coastal landscape in this part of the island is mostly low-lying limestone cliffs, and there are some dramatic cave formations.

The north end of the island is fringed by an important mangrove forest, and the eastern side of the island is separated from neighbouring Nusa Ceningan by a shallow estuarine channel.

The main population centre of the island is Lembongan Village in the southern interior, and it is here that you will find the homes of many traditional island families.

Climate

The climate of Nusa Lembongan is similar to neighbouring 'mainland' Bali, but it is noticeably drier here, particularly in the period of May to September. If there is a time to avoid, it would be the height of the rainy season in January and February.

Culture

The local Lembonganese are Hindu and visitors will notice little or no difference from the prevailing culture on the Bali mainland.

Talk

Balinese is the most common language of communication between local residents, with Bahasa Indonesia a distant second. The Balinese spoken here is a distinct dialect, and sharp-eared linguists would certainly notice this. English is widely understood and spoken, often with an Australian accent!

Get in

Map of Nusa Lembongan

The only realistic way (although you can charter a helicopter ) to reach Nusa Lembongan from Bali is by boat. There are several options according to budget and speed. Most of the scheduled fast boat services leave from Sanur Beach at the end of Jalan Hangtuah, and usually involve getting your feet wet at boarding. The exact departure and arrival point on this beach depends on the tide. Other services run from Benoa Harbour, and there are local public boat services to and from Padang Bai and Kusamba in East Bali, but these are not recommended for reasons of safety and comfort. You can go directly to the fast boat office of your choice (usually located near the departure point) to book. The only places to check live seat availability and get immediate confirmed e-tickets online are Gilibookings.com or the cheaper Gilitickets.com. Otherwise you can go direct to one of the fast boat company websites to make reservation inquiries which usually takes 24hrs to get confirmation. On Bali, there are also plenty of local agents selling tickets that you can purchase when there, or you may be able to book with staff from your hotel.

From Sanur Beach

From Benoa Harbour

From Nusa Penida

Neighbouring Nusa Penida is seldom visited, and almost always from Nusa Lembongan. It is though relatively straightforward to get between the islands.

From the Gili Islands and Lombok

BlueWater Express, ☎+62 361 895111 or +6281 338 418 988. Fast boat to Gili Trawangan Islands and Lombok with Free Pick Up Transports. BlueWater Express has 2 operated boat with 30 seats capacity each. Return price is Rp. 1.380.000 for adults and Rp. 1.180.000 for child under 12 years old, infants price is free. BlueWater departs from Serangan at 08:00 AM and 10AM, from Padang Bai at 11:15AM.

Ocean Star Express (see above), ☎+62 82 34022 8744. Daily speed Boat service from Sanur Harbor to Lembongan Island and directly to Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, Gili Air and Lombok. Ocean Star Express is a 4 (outboard) engined Fastboat with a transfer time of 1.5 hr+ in fair weather. Includes pickup & drop off at hotel. Rp 550,000 each adult and children under 12 Rp 398,000. Daily from Sanur 9AM to Lembongan Island 10:30AM to the Gili islands & Lombok.

Scoot Cruises (see above) operate a daily service from Gili Trawangan and Lombok to Nusa Lembongan. The boat leaves Gili Trawangan at 12:45PM, picking up at Teluk Kode on Lombok at 1:15PM, and arrives in Lembongan around 4PM. The service in the opposite direction departs Lembongan daily at 10:30AM arriving in Gili Trawangan at 12:45PM and Teluk Kode at 1:15PM. Fares are Rp 600,000 each way for adults and Rp 450,000 for children under 11.

Get around

The cliffs of southwest Nusa Lembongan make for excellent walking

By foot

Nusa Lembongan is a nice place to walk, with coastal paths linking nearly all the guest houses, hotels and restaurants. Most walks will take less than two hours. The less developed southwestern area of the island has some spectacular coast paths which provide easy walking, great views back to Bali, and spectacular sunsets. You can cross by foot to the small neighbouring island of Nusa Ceningan via a scenic suspension bridge.

From the end of the beach at Jungut Batu it is a 35 min walk along the coast to Mushroom Bay.

By bicycle

Bicycles can be rented at some hotels and guest-houses. Some of the roads are quite well surfaced, but be prepared for some very degraded surfaces in places and there are some steep hills. Note a significant road resurfacing project is going on throughout the island in October 2015, which is improving matters. This is a great way to see the island at your own pace. Expect to pay about Rp 20,000-40,000 per day.

By motorbike

Motorbikes are also widely available for rent, but may be unnecessary given the short distances involved — the island is only about 4 km end-to-end. Expect to pay Rp 50,000-100,000 per day, depending on how busy it is. Local boys are more than happy to transport you on the back of their motorbike for a fee.

By truck

There are virtually no cars on Nusa Lembongan, and any business or local resident wishing to bring one to the island needs special permission from the village elders. This will only be granted in exceptional circumstances. Local 4-wheeled transport is available though in the form of basic pick-up trucks which most hotels and restaurants use. These are useful for transport to and from the boat transfer point when you are likely to have heavy bags, but are otherwise not really necessary.

By boat

Local boatmen are willing to take you by boat from Jungut Batu to Mushroom Bay. One way should cost about Rp 30,000. A return trip can be negotiated down to Rp 50,000.

See

Crashing waves at Devil's Tear

The attractions here are mostly natural. The beaches and other coastal landscapes are obviously a key draw, as are the sunsets. There are a limited number of man-made attractions, most notably temples and the rickety suspension bridge.

Beaches

Other

Nusa Lembongan is famous for spectacular sunsets
A road in Jungut Batu

Nusa Ceningan

Nusa Ceningan is the tiny island between Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida, which is easily reached via the suspension bridge on foot or by bicycle/motorbike. There is a notable surf break off Nusa Ceningan which attracts some surfers away from the more crowded breaks on Nusa Lembongan. Otherwise the island offers some scenic roads and paths, and the westward views back over Nusa Lembongan to Bali are impressive. Viewing the sunset over Bali from the central Ceningan ridge is very much worth the effort. The estuarine channel between Lembongan and Ceningan is home to many seaweed farms.

Very few visitors choose to stay on Nusa Ceningan, but a small bungalow complex opened in 2009, another in 2010, and more accommodation options are in the pipeline.

Do

Activities are very much water-based, with surfing and scuba diving being especially notable.

Surfing

Nusa Lembongan was first opened up as a tourist destination by surfers, and it has long been an established part of the Bali surf circuit.

There are three main breaks, all off the top half of the west coast, with another less well known just to the southwest off Nusa Ceningan. Playgrounds, Lacerations and Shipwrecks are all close offshore and reached via an energetic paddle from the beach, or in a more leisurely fashion, by a local boat (perahu) which can be chartered from the nearest beach.

Whilst the breaks usually suit intermediate to experienced surfers given they all break over coral reefs, the aptly named Playgrounds is a little more forgiving and can be enjoyed by beginners and experts alike. All the surf breaks become extremely crowded during the dry season

Although surfable all year round, waves are best when winds are in the southeast quarter, normally from April to September/October.

There is a thriving surf scene in Jungut Batu. When compared to its tiny population, Nusa Lembongan has produced a remarkable number of international competition-quality surfers. Any keen surfer will certainly not be short of company here.

Scuba diving

Oceanic sunfish in the waters off Nusa Lembongan

Diving is of excellent quality in the crystal clear waters around the island. A number of reputable dive shops are present, and this is a notable teaching destination. Many hundreds of visitors have learned to dive here.

For more experienced divers, the most interesting sites are off neighbouring Nusa Penida. There are some challenging drift dives here, and dive operators will visit certain sites only when the sea conditions are safe. There are plenty of options for easier flat reef and wall dives as well. Marine highlights include large manta rays all year round, spectacular, massive oceanic sunfish (mola-mola) in season (July–October), white-tipped reef sharks, nurse sharks and the odd hammerhead. Whale sharks are far from regular, but the odd migrant is seen. Last but certainly not least, four species of sea turtle can be found here. All operators offer scheduled trips to the prime dive sites around all three islands.

Prices vary little from shop to shop. Course fees run from about US$60 for a half day Discover Scuba introduction, to US$395 for PADI Open Water certification. A fun dive will cost approximately US$35-45 including all equipment, with discounts offered for multiple dives. Dive shops have variable opening hours according to seasonal demand. Night dives are widely offered and offer a fantastic underwater experience.

Snorkelling

Healthy reef-life in clear waters off Nusa Lembongan

Non-divers should not feel left out, as good snorkeling is available close inshore at various spots around the island. Perhaps the two best areas are Mushroom Bay on the west coast, and the mangroves on the northern tip. Equipment can be hired from your hotel or on the beach, and depending on the quality of the gear, you should expect to pay Rp 20,000-50,000 for renting a mask, snorkel and set of fins.

If you fancy getting further offshore, dive shops may sell you a snorkeling space on a scheduled dive boat, subject to availability. Also, local boatmen are willing to take you by boat to various snorkeling spots. Depending on the number of snorkeling spots you want to visit, a boat trip can be arranged for about Rp 200,000-300,000 (including snorkeling gear). An enjoyable snorkelling spot reached by boat only is the west coast of neighbouring Nusa Penida, with Crystal Bay being especially rewarding. There is a strong current along this coast. The boatman will drop you off at the beginning of the current, and you can drift while snorkeling along the drop off wall with beautiful coral and loads of fish. The boatmen will follow you and pick you up at the end of the drift.

Other water sports

Families with children will not be short of options. The full gamut of typical resort-type, mechanised water sports are available, including wake-boarding and banana boats. Those who care a little about the environment may be keener to patronise the sea kayaking option. Your hotel will be able to assist with booking any of these activities. Alternatively, just head down to the beach at either Mushroom Bay or Jungut Batu, and figure it out for yourself. Costs start at about Rp 150,000 for a single banana boat ride.

Walking

This is an excellent island for walking and keen visitors should not hesitate to just head off and explore the myriad tracks that criss-cross the island.

Walking itinerary

The low cliffs in the south offer some splendid coastal walking routes. Perhaps the best of them starts at Dream Beach, from where you should take the obvious footpath north over the Devil's Tear outcrop, pausing to see some of the most dramatic wave formations anywhere around the island. The crashing plumes are sometimes huge here, so be prepared to get wet! Continue northwards to Sunset Beach and explore the cove. If you time your arrival for low tide, the cave at the eastern end of the beach may be accessible.

At the opposite end of the beach you will find The Beach Club. From here follow the footpath leading northwest up the hill always keeping the private villas to your left, until you again hit the cliff line. From here you will see right across the Badung Strait to Bali. Follow the cliff path northwards and then around to the east, all the time pausing to appreciate the dramatic coastal formations. Birdwatchers should lookout for flashes of turquoise and white, as spectacular sacred kingfishers are common in this area, and offshore it is worth keeping an eye out for huge frigatebirds. Keep following this path eastwards, and you will drop down into Mushroom Bay where the suggested walk ends and refreshments are available.

Spa facilities

Buy

Some hotels and scuba shops will accept credit cards, although many of them charge a fee of 3-5% for charges to a credit card.

There is now one MasterCard ATM here but it doesn't always have cash so visitors should bring enough cash with them. Money changing facilities are available at hotels, but the rate given is always unfavourable, so don't bring just cash, but rupiah. If you do run out of cash, a same day return ATM run to Sanur is possible. Alternatively, some hotels will do a cash advance on your credit card for a fee of 8%-10%.

Small shops are widespread, and they are geared towards basic visitor requirements, stocking sun-block, cheap knock-off boardshorts and hats, as well as the usual range of snacks, beer, soft drinks and cigarettes. Do not though expect anything too sophisticated. There is little in the way of souvenir type shopping on the island, and there is nothing of this nature which would not be better purchased on the Bali mainland.

Eat

Virtually any place you stay on Nusa Lembongan will have a cafe or restaurant attached to it, and the majority of these encourage non-staying guests to eat with them. These can be of hugely variable quality and any casual visitor could be forgiven for thinking the food on this island is terrible! Some of the better budget options can be found at Linda's Bungalows, Mainski, and Dream Beach Huts.

There are a few good local warungs to choose from, but by-and-large there have not been many decent independent restaurants on Nusa Lembongan. That is now changing at a pace though and the more notable exceptions to the old rule are listed below. Fish is naturally a great option.

Traditional jukung outrigger in the mangroves

Drink

As with restaurants, there are few independent drinking establishments. Most cafes and restaurants attached to hotels also double as bars. Nusa Lembongan is known as being very quiet for nightlife. A few beach parties are advertised around the island during high season, and there is sometimes a small monthly full moon party.

Sleep

This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget Under Rp 300,000
Mid-range Rp 300,000-1,000,000
Splurge Over Rp 1,000,000

There is a broad range of accommodation, with options to suit almost any budget. Most budget accommodations can be found at Jungut Batu, while more up market accommodation is further south, around Mushroom Bay, the Bukit and Dream Beach. Traditionally, budget guest houses aimed at young surfers and back-packers dominated, but that changed in recent years as more and more well-heeled visitors discovered the island. Some of the older budget options are very tired indeed, and visitors should bear that in mind when assessing where to stay.

Check-in and check-out times are something of a movable feast at most hotels. It is safe to assume a time of about 1PM for check-in and about 11AM for checkout, unless specifically stated otherwise.

There are no formal campsites on the island but travellers do sometimes pitch tents. A small donation to the local community is recommended.

Budget

There are myriad small, cheap back-packer places in the small lanes leading off the main road in Jungut Batu.

The aqua coloured waters of Mushroom Bay

Mid-range

Looking across the Badung Strait to Mount Agung

Splurge

Private villas

The following are all stand-alone, self-contained villas with private swimming pools.

Nusa Ceningan

Stay safe

This is a safe island and reports of crime, major or minor, are rare. Most common is the theft of items left in unlocked rooms, so as you would anywhere in the world, just be sensible.

Drugs are not especially widespread here, but you may be offered marijuana or mushrooms, and more rarely, harder drugs. Be aware that the former is highly illegal in Indonesia and penalties are harsh. The Indonesian legal position on mushrooms is unclear and to be totally safe, visitors should steer clear.

The biggest dangers to visitors are related to the sea. Swimming is not be taken lightly in any waters around Bali, and Nusa Lembongan is no exception. Mushroom Bay and the area around the mangroves in the north are largely safe for swimming, but still take care. Swimming at Dream Beach and Sunset Beach (in particular) should be avoided by all but the very strongest of swimmers, and even then with great caution. Surfing at all four breaks is challenging for beginners.

Stay healthy

There is a small medical clinic in Jungut Batu with an attendant doctor. This is a perfectly good facility for treating minor ailments, but visitors with anything approaching a serious problem should get back to Bali as quickly as possible. Opening hours are erratic and unpredictable. Ask at your hotel.

Like all of Bali, Nusa Lembongan is officially a malaria-free zone. Dengue fever is a potential problem. Unlike in mainland Bali, there are no recent cases of rabies.

Connect

Telephone

It is possible to make phone calls from Nusa Lembongan. Although a little pricey, public telephone offices (wartels) can be found at the Scoot boat office and at Bungalow No7.

Nusa Lembongan receives good 3G coverage by all the major Indonesian networks.

Internet

Most places to stay and some restaurants now have wireless internet capability for guests but it's often very slow.

There are a couple of basic, well signed public internet cafes at the southern end of the main coast road in Jungut Batu. Look for the signs and expect to pay about Rp 30,000 per hour. Service is sometimes very slow. Most of the internet cafes also have a download limit in addition to charging for time, so save your media streaming activities for Bali.

The national phone company, Telkomsel, provides a decent 3G connection, however it may default to GPRS.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, February 27, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.