After the busy streets and beaches around Kuta and Seminyak, we were in need of a bit less bustle and a bit more lazing, and the island of Nusa Lembongan was the perfect place to put our feet up. As you get off the boat it feels like you’ve stepped back in time. The island has no cars – and more amazingly for Bali not that many motorbikes – no hawkers, no ATMs and has only just got a reliable (ish) electricity supply. Without much to do other than spend time either in, on or next to the sea or sitting in a beachfront bar reading and watching the world go by, you’re guaranteed to come away feeling relaxed.
About 12 miles off the coast of southern Bali, Nusa Lembongan is the one of a group of three Southeastern Islands, along with larger Nusa Pedita and tiny Nusa Ceningan. You can get there by boat from Sanur or Benoa on the Bali mainland by boat, varying from speedboats to the slow public ferry. We took the Scoot speedboat from Sanur, wading out from the beach and climbing onto a tiny boat for the 35-minute journey across the Badung Strait.
The water was clear turquoise and the views stunning, which help distract me from the huge waves that suddenly cropped up as we crossed the edge of the Strait. “Oh it’s always rough here, but doesn’t last long,” reassured the guy next to me, on the way for his sixth visit to the island, which seemed like a good sign. “I love it. It’s like Bali 10 years ago – ultra-friendly and laid-back.”
The boat pulled up onto the shore in Jungut Batu, dodging traditional local fishing boats and the cruisers shuttling visitors around the island, and we spilled out onto creamy-white sand. Jungut Batu is the most developed resort on Nusa Lembongan, but that still makes it pretty low-key and relaxed. A narrow path runs along the beachfront here, lined with simple restaurants, guesthouses and a couple of small shops.
Other than tourism, the island’s biggest industry is growing seaweed, and you can see the seaweed in beds in the bay at low tide and laid out to dry in stacks along the coast. And up on the hillside to the south is an area known as the Bukit, or hill, covered with guesthouses and villas making the most of the amazing views across to Bali and the Jungut Batu volcano. We found our room, high up on the hill, and settled in with a beer on the terrace, finding it hard to drag ourselves away from the view.
When doing nothing gets too much, the island’s biggest attractions are out on or under the water. Nusa Lembongan’s seas are famous for being among the clearest in Bali, and you can see manta rays, sea turtles and sharks. You can snorkel from the beach or take a boat trip further out, with a couple of pontoons moored off the coast which are used as the base for diving and snorkelling trips.
There are also some famous surf breaks around the island. They’re best between April and October and you really need to be an intermediate or advanced surfer, so as my surfing is terrible at best I had to make do with another afternoon by the pool on a sun lounger. If you’re on a budget and staying off the beach, a lot of the hotels on the Bukit will let you use their pools if you buy food and drinks from them.
Away from Jungut Batu, the island’s most popular beach is sheltered Mushroom Bay with its wide strip of sand. It does attract day trippers from Bali though so you might be sharing your spot of paradise with a fair few other people. A bit further afield are the quieter, lesser-known beaches of Dream Beach and Sandy Bay. You can get out there by boat, on foot or by bike (though the maps we picked up were a bit vague to say the least), or catch a lift with one of the pick-up trucks from the hotels and restaurants out there.
We stumbled across the Beach Club on Sandy Bay, a bar and restaurant with a pool on the beachfront and lots of comfy sun loungers. Like everywhere else on Nusa Lembongan it’s a hard place drag yourself away, and as long as low-key lazing sounds like your thing, you might well find that too.