Little-known island gem off Bali
AUSSIES have long enjoyed a trip to Bali due to its proximity to Australia, friendly locals, cheap Bintangs and the low cost living. In fact, there's not an Australian I know who hasn't themselves been to Bali or doesn't know someone who has. It's like a birthright down under to travel to the renowned Indonesian hot spot.
But in recent years we seem to have taken our love of the very popular and well known Kuta area too far. In 2017 around 1.18 million Australians hopped on flights to spend up their annual leave bank and indulge in a place that can get even hotter than our own backyard. At any given time of year, Kuta and surrounding areas are literally filled to the brim with Australians. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, I am one. But the last thing you want on your relaxing escape is to bump into hundreds of drunk, Aussie revellers trashing up a town that was once much cleaner, less packed and culturally unscathed.
If the thought of intoxicated tourists, store vendors constantly bombarding you with unnecessary items that you'll likely never use and filthy, scooter-filled streets bursting at the seams is everything you DON'T want from a trip to Indonesia then this place is for you.
Nusa Lembongan is a lesser-known oasis that is truly one of the most picturesque and culturally endearing places I have ever travelled to.
The opposite of all things crowded, touristy and loud. A quaint, yet beautiful Island that I'd return to a million times if I could.
Upon scanning the net for cheap flights and somewhere with white sand and idyllic coastlines, I stumbled across Lembongan Island. Located southeast of Bali and accessible by a 30-minute speedboat ride from Sanur on the mainland, it's easy to get to and well worth the tiny amount of extra travel time.
Lembongan is one of a three-part island group known as the Nusa Penida district. At around 8km in size and with a population of just 5000 people, the island is rarely crowded, never overwhelming and always stunning.
This paradise has it all. From white, sandy beaches, coastal cliff lines to make your heart skip a beat and more than enough to keep you entertained for the duration of your stay. The Nusa Penida Island group is definitely one for the travel bucketlist.
THE 'EXPERIENCE' WITHOUT THE MAYHEM:
Aussies love the cheapness, the warmth and the idea of walking around in thongs and singlets all day long. Which I assume is why so many flock to Bali. Lembongan offers all this without the grit and the grime and with beaches that aren't spotted with ridiculous amounts of pollution. The much smaller population coupled with the fact that many tourists don't yet know of this postcard-worthy destination means the beaches are clean and the roads are not crammed with thousands of vehicles.
Getting around on a scooter in Bali has become something many tourists partake in, but that has led to far too many accidents resulting in injury, insurance claims and even death of Australian travellers. The fact that Lembongan Island has no cars and only scooters on its roads makes it much safer and easier to get around by scooter if you so wish to. There are a few tourist-carrying trucks that take people to their hotels from the ferry but you rarely see them on the calm roads of the island. A traffic jam in Lembongan consists of a rogue chook running onto the road and stubbornly refusing to move, forcing you to go around. The entire vibe and flow of Lembongan is the antithesis of Kuta. Slow paced, relaxed, friendly and pristine.
INDONESIAN CULTURE UNTAINTED BY TEEMS OF TOURISTS:
If you're a lover of local markets, Lembongan has everything you need. There are a couple of small supermarkets with everything from bottled water to Panadol on offer as well as street markets with locally made goods. Straw bags, hats, singlets and sarongs are just some of the things you can pick up. While the shop vendors are encouraging and obviously want you to make a purchase from their stores, there is no real sense of pressure that you would feel in Kuta.
On the mainland, while the vast-majority of locals are very friendly and willing to help, you get a sense that the influx of tourism and streets being littered with foreigners has somewhat tainted the local lifestyle there. There is a certain necessity of the store vendors relentlessly hounding tourists for money, it's their job. But you can't help that think that the amount of non-locals has fuelled the intensity and necessity to get sales.
You also get a real sense of religious and cultural value here. You will almost certainly hear the locals praying on the island at least three times a day. Loudspeakers are stuck to the outside of the many, small temples scattered around and locals stop what they're doing to partake in their religious rituals proudly. It gives you a sense that you are a visitor in their world as opposed to a tourist encroaching on their culture.
There's something quite magical about waking to the smell of incense and the sound of an island praying to what/who they believe in. The culture is well-preserved here and we haven't yet trashed this place such as we have Kuta.
UNTOUCHED COASTLINES WORTHY OF AN INSTAGRAM POST OR 10:
If you're a little bit of an Insta-fiend looking to make your friends and colleagues incredibly jealous of your tropical trip, this one is for you. The coastlines and cliff-faces of the island are truly awe-inspiring and sure to generate a lot of envy.
As I mentioned earlier, Lembongan is part of a three-piece island group: Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Penida. And one of the best parts about staying on Lembongan is that a tiny, yellow suspension bridge connects it to Ceningan, an even smaller island that is arguably more pristine than even Lembongan. Ceningan boasts some of the clearest and most aqua-blue water in the world. With just a few small hotels and restaurants it contains the perfect ingredients for a blissful vacation.
Both Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida offer incredible viewing spots for a killer and very photo-worthy sunset. With several cliff faces topped with a vendor or two, some coconuts and bintangs for sale and the view of a lifetime, what more could you want.
It's only a stone's throw from the Bali that everyone seems to know and love but it's well worth a trip. You'll have a calmer, more relaxing and memorable trip in Nusa Lembongan without the absolute chaos you'll find in Kuta.