Still part of Bali, Nusa Lembongan provides a satellite oasis from the busy world of Bali. Just a stones throw from the mainland, the island is only 8 square kilometres, which leads way to a small town Caribbean vibe. With beautifully undeveloped parts of the island, it is a good place to just explore and find your own nook or quiet cove. There is a good blend of Australian influence and Indonesian culture on the island, giving a great range of options to eat and play.
WHAT TO DO
Snorkel with Manta Rays
Nusa Lembongan offers some of the best and most accessible snorkeling in Bali. With a whole bay named after the manta, ‘Manta Point’, it is a mecca for those that want to catch an up close glimpse of the majestic creatures. The rich plankton waters attract the manta’s all year round, but the best time to get in the water is between November and May as the waters will be calmer, allowing for clearer and easier conditions. The experience is magical, but try to get in the water off peak to avoid being part of a 40 strong ‘manta chase’ snorkelling group.
SUP at the mangroves
The mangroves are a serene setting for an early morning paddle. Being on the Lombok strait, the west island waters can be subject to some serious currents and swell. Swing round the North of the island and the water is calmer and the prices are significantly cheaper ($15 AUD for 2 hours).
There are 3 main surf spots on Lembongan;
- Playgrounds: a lazy little wave, widely renowned as a beginners spot to surf at mid tide on the push. There is a longish left and a smushy right with a current that will tire beginners fairly quickly. Paddle out from Coconuts Beach which you can walk to round the headland from the main beach. There are boats that will ferry you back if the paddle back looks a bit long.
- Lacerations: This wave breaks further north from Playgrounds on the west coast. It gets bigger than Playgrounds but breaks on a shallower reef. The wave is a nice bowly right, which will barrel on bigger swells. It is a longer paddle out, and again you can take a boat without much hassle if you can’t face it!
- Shipwrecks: a right-hander further up the west coast and even further out. Most people take a boat out, but it’s possible to paddle, though be careful you don’t upset the locals by trudging through the seaweed beds. Find the Buddha outside Michelin star French restaurant Indiana Kenanga and paddle from there… Best surfed on the mid pushing tide, the high tide brings a strong current with the extra water, this is a wave for experienced surfers. It is a hollow right hander that rarely gets crowded.
The diving is on par with that of the Gili Islands. With a dramatic sites across the 3 islands that make up the Pulau Penida (Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Ceningang and Nusa Penida) to include lush Crystal Bay, Blue Corner – famous for the Mola Mola Sunfish that can be found July – October, The Wall – a dramatic drop off zone, self explanatory Manta Point and the Mangroves among many gives great choice and diversity allowing you to dive for a week without having to visit the same site twice! With so many diving companies on the island, you can pick and choose daily which sites you want to visit as and when, just check their schedules and sign up the day before you plan to go.
There is one company on the island offering Free Diving, or Spear Fishing if you want to take it that step further. An unbelievable experience, you can opt for the introduction day that guarantees 10m depth and a breath hold of 2 minutes for 75 Euros, or the 3 day AIDA course that will get you down to 16m for 240 Euros. If you have the time and the money, this is an unforgettable and unique skill that I cannot recommend enough. Book with Chris at One Breath upon arrival right by the ferry landing point.
The only place to get your yogi fix is The Yoga Shack http://www.yogashacklembongan.com/. Literally a hut to fit 10-12 per class, there are twice daily classes Monday – Saturday at 8am and 4pm for Hatha flow, Vinyasa flow and Yin Yang. Get involved with a Yin class to really stretch out those joints, it’s about as good as any massage out there.
WHERE TO EAT
Maria’s Boemboe Warung
THE BEST PLACE TO EAT. Hands down. With prices around the $2 AUD, you can’t go wrong. Try to order almost everything on the menu, which even includes a couple of western goodies – they even bake their own bread for the burgers – and you’ll discover the absolute winner is the mise fish grill for $3 AUD featuring freshly grilled prawns, tuna steak and calamari polished off by both the banana fritters and the chocolate mousse. Do not leave without trying the chocolate mousse. NB: The food here is s-l-o-w so do not arrive hungry!
Halfway along the Northern road to the Mangrove, find this gem on the waterfront with rock bottom prices and really tasty basics on the menu. Away from the seaweed drying zones, you get to enjoy both smelling and tasting your food at once! Go for anything from the seafood section of the menu and you won’t be disappointed.
Find Jenny’s on the adjacent island, Nusa Ceningan (Che-nin-gang) near the ‘jump spots’. With a salt water infinity pool and a garden overlooking the Ceningan wave, this is a perfect afternoon hangout, with a happily priced and tasty menu. Star choice on the menu is the Ikan Peces, marinated snapper steamed with vegetables in a banana leaf served with rice, and the fresh juices aren’t bad either.
Bali Eco Deli
Find the best coffee on the island here. You can even get an iced latte – heaven! With great cakes and smoothies to boot. A top spot for breakfast or a mid afternoon snack. Don’t look past the chocolate and walnut banana bread. The Deli is also pioneering a recycling movement on the island for the larger businesses. Double gold star.