Every time I go somewhere, I leave with a list of other places that I hadn’t heard of before, that I need to come back and visit. I’ve learnt now not to plan holidays, but just plan the first day or two and then go where the wind and word of mouth (or in this case the Bintang) takes you, to make it more into a travelling and learning experience than just a break from the usual cycle of life.
I had heard a few things here and there about the Nusa Penida group of islands on previous trips to Bali : Indonesia, specifically Nusa Lembongan & Nusa Ceningan so this time round, as soon as I heard them mentioned again I just had to get on the boat the next day. For those of you who have been to the Gili Islands, Gili Trawangan especially; I imagine this place is how that place was 10 years ago. Stunning scenery, a little bit rough around the edges, not overcrowded but being visited by a few like-minded, low-maintenance travellers of all ages enjoying the serenity that islands like this offer.
We stayed on Nusa Lembongan; this is the ‘main island’ and has a few more options in terms of places to eat etc. but even though it definitely has a variety of places to eat and drink, it is a very sleepy island. Don’t come here expecting to party, however still sitting round a table at 3am with people you met at 6pm previously, drinking bintangs and doing tequila shots certainly isn’t out of the question if that’s your thing! We stayed at Lembongan Reef Bungalows; be warned that if you stay here, some of the rooms are literally 120 steps up a hill away, so if you’re not into walking up steep steps, ask for a room on a lower floor! The only room that was left on our arrival was of course the room at the very top of the hill. As we had booked last minute we didn’t have a huge choice in terms of where to stay so we accepted that we were going to be getting a pretty decent workout every day, at least it would burn off a couple of beverages…always looking on the bright side! The staff here are extremely friendly and helpful, even one night when the electricity went out (quite common on an island of this size!) they brought a fan up to our room, which was really lovely and gave us a laugh as without electricity the fan was useless but it was a nice gesture all the same! It wouldn’t be my first choice if we were to return but it was perfectly fine (clean, air con, warm shower) for IDR 600,000 per night.
Nusa Ceningan is just across the water and accessed by a ridiculously rickety bridge that doesn’t look capable of supporting any sort of weight but trusting the locals, other travellers and the one at at a time policy, we went over the bridge (live dangerously right?). There are no established roads per se on the island, just dirt tracks and rocky terrain. We rode around the island, which only took about 15 minutes, up into the hills and checked out some viewpoints and saw local people who lived on the island going about their days. There was almost a sense of intrusion us going through on the scooter, although everyone gave us a smile and a wave. This is definitely one of the less touristy and most untouched islands that I have been off Bali.
After coming back down from the viewpoints, we stumbled across Le Pirate Beach Club where we pulled in for a pit stop as a cool Bintang was well overdue.
We literally meant to pop in for maybe an hour or so, however about 6 hours later – we still found ourselves sat in the pool, slowly lobstering, drinking bintangs, eating food & talking to people from all around the world (adding a million other destinations to the hitlist). Some people backpacking, some on more luxurious holidays – but all there enjoying the place for exactly what it is – bliss.
Le Pirate is a little piece of paradise that caters for everyone, it’s pretty inexpensive to stay there but even if you’re after a more luxury holiday, I guarantee after spending the afternoon there you’ll want to stay in one of their few super simple yet trendy ‘beach boxes’ – we were pretty gutted we couldn’t get booked in and will definitely be going back.
What to do
We split our days between snorkelling trips & hiring scooters to explore the island. Both of these can be booked through any of the local guys hanging around the beach; they all have boats, go to the same places and offer the same prices. There really wasn’t any need to haggle unlike on mainland Bali, the guy who took us snorkeling was awesome and even hopped in the water with us, and had fun showing off catching fish with his hands, clearly he was a pro as we all then spent a good 5 minutes also trying to catch fish with our hands which was never going to happen so we were just effectively catching water. He was a really fun and friendly guy and despite not speaking a word of English was laughing and joking with us the whole trip, there was no rush to get back and we spent the day snorkelling around various spots, seeing a variety of vibrant coral and fish.
The same can be said for hiring scooters, the locals literally lend you their own, you don’t have to worry about where you park it or it getting stolen, they don’t require any passports or licences, just hand over the cashola and away you go…the island really is beautiful; we made our way up to Blue Lagoon and spent some time just soaking in the views; definitely a ‘WOW’ moment.
These Islands are the sort of place where any concept of time goes out of the window, no one is in a rush to do anything, you can just literally live the dream for a few days with nothing to think about apart from whether it’s too early to enjoy a beer in the infinity pool overlooking the seaweed farmers going about their day to day life!
Would I go back:
YES! You don’t get bored of places like this, it scratches that itch of wanting something in between a travelling experience and a relaxing holiday. I would definitely stay at Le Pirate; although not on the main island the vibe here would be hard to top.
How to get there:
Head to Sanur beach from anywhere in Bali and you’ll find many options of boats in terms of speed and budget. We used Scoot cruises, tickets cost IDR 500,000 return