Nusa Lembongan is a small, rugged and scenic island just a 30-minute speedboat ride east from Sanur, Bali. Nusa Lembongan, or Lembongan is a tranquil, friendly island, dotted with Losmens, friendly locals, colourful coral and great surf.
The trip across the Lombok Strait isn’t for everyone; it’s a body of water, kilometers deep in places, rife and fast with eddies and currents visibly swirling, where reports of tourists and divers going missing seem to be a regular occurrence. Just recently, several Japanese divers lost for three days, were discovered clambering for life on a rocky outcrop minus one of their companions.
It’s an unruly body of water that defines much of what happens on the island. The shallow reefs contrast with the imposing geological megalith of Mt Agung. Mt Agung, an active and beautiful volcano that sits serenely across the bay, has clouds hugging the peak giving an impression that Agung has something to do most days, such as explode. On this day, thankfully they are just clouds.
As you saunter along the main beach you immediately notice three distinct flotsams of people bobbing about on the waves; these are the impressive coral bottomed surf breaks of Shipwrecks, Lacerations and Playgrounds.
The surfing in Lembongan has wide appeal; Shipwrecks, equal to any right hand reefs throughout Indonesia, was still home to the ship wreck when I first visited in 1997, alas no more.
Lacerations, as the name suggests has a rather sharp coral bottom, a tube that is beautiful and breaks as if they were programmed. Playgrounds, which is more gentle but still a fantastic wave, has a mix of everyone from Irish boogie boarders, turtles, talented locals as well as the occasional random snorkeler.
All three areas are world class on their day; sometimes crowded but generally the vibe is easy and friendly.
There is a conspicuous absence of the maddening crowds and peddlers found in Kuta or Legian, and only palm-fringed Losmens and bright white sand remain. With a permanent population of 5,000, the main villages of Jungut Batu and Mushroom Bay are still diverse, but hint at what a change this island will undergo.
Accommodation comes in many varieties – if you’re surfing all day then all that is required is a fan and a plate of Nasi Goreng. Both losmens (small, basic rooms) and five-star resorts scatter the island so there is something for every budget.
There’s still a local feel to the place, and one day while we were looking for the best way to get out to the reefs, we stumbled into a friendly guide, Manu. He had borrowed $3000 from his uncle to purchase a seaworthy Jukung (a type of catamaran) and ran his own tours in and around Lembongan. Just eight square kilometres, Manu was able to show us every corner of the island through a local’s eye; spectacular coral coves, gentle snorkelling drifts and tropical fish playgrounds. While not all that secret we felt pretty special.
According to travel website, Tripadvisor, Nusa Lembongan is the second favourite island in Asia. Cliché’s aside, the Bintang tastes that much better in Indonesia and even nicer in Lembongan and a Nasi Goreng can’t be matched when made by a local.
When you’re not on your board, while away the hours beneath a colourful umbrella, or wander the beachfront path stopping to try your language skills on the locals.
This place is a wonderland!