The Nusa Islands – a dinosaur comes to life!

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Bali is the Jewel in Indonesia’s crown and tourism makes up eighty percent of its economy. In 2017, Trip Advisor named Bali as the world’s top destination in its traveller’s choice award. It is part of the famous coral triangle, which is an area with the highest biodiversity of marine species. For comparison, seven times as many as in the entire Caribbean. Bali receives a bad reputation for its loud and boisterous party scene at the beach town of Kuta, believe us, there is much more to this gorgeous island paradise. First on our hit list were the Nusa Islands, a group of three rugged islands a forty minute boat ride from Sanur. Miz had done some research and we were ready to explore. We arrived at Nusa Lembongan, as we have come to expect in South East Asia, the clear turquoise waters and lush jungle catch the eye straight away. This island also has rugged, rocky cliffs and huge waves crashing along the coast. Lembongan is great for surfing and has attracted a steady stream of travellers since the 70’s.

It’s a small island which has a great collection of homestays and local warungs (small restaurants) serving tasty food. We had booked a homestay called Dimi House which was fantastic. The owner and his wife made us feel so welcome and we loved every second. Dimi House was a small, family run guesthouse which only has six rooms and has a lovely, intimate feel. For only 200 Rupiah (£10) per night, we had a lovely double room with a shower room, air conditioning and a terrace. There was also a pool and included a great breakfast. It was amazing value for money and amongst our favourite places we had stayed in so far.

The island has good sealed roads and you can hire a scooter for 70 Rupiah (£3.50) for the whole day and easily visit its dramatic coastline. It’s full of towering cliff faces, crashing waves, mangroves and small coves and beaches. The island is connected to its sister island, Nusa Ceningan by a yellow bridge and the channel which separates them is the most stunning shade of blue I’ve ever seen.

The tidal currents around both islands can be treacherous and over the last few years, several people have been dragged out to sea and drowned. I wouldn’t recommend these islands for swimming and only a couple of beaches are safe to take a dip in. If you’re a surfer, I believe it can be great, we spent some time watching the surfers out at sea. Both islands have a good choice of homestays and warungs. For dramatic sunsets, cross the yellow bridge and check out one of the great bars offering happy hour deals and great seafood.

After three nights on Nusa Lembongan, we headed over to Nusa Penida with a local fisherman. Penida is huge, isolated and rugged with very little infrastructure. Its majestically beautiful and has landscapes that will simply take your breath away. We stayed at Ramwan homestay which had only been open for three months. The owner was extremely kind as we communicated with a mixture of broken English and sign language. The motorbike we hired from him was an absolute death trap and belonged on a scrap heap. The tyres were worn, speedometer, petrol gage and dash board were shattered and the brakes grinded as we took on the dirt track roads of Nusa Penida. It was hair raising stuff and took ultimate concentration. It must have been even worse for Miz on the back. We felt every single bump and pothole along the way and I promised myself I would never moan about the state of the roads around Oxton back at home ever again! The reward for these back breaking journeys was the natural beauty of the island which has remained the same for millions of years; unspoilt, dramatic, untouched. It reminded us of a scene from Jurassic Park. We stopped at Broken Breach and Angel’s Billabong and swam in the crystal, clear waters. At Crystal Bay beach, we walked across a jungle trail which offered views far out onto the horizon and ended at a remote beach with not a soul to be seen.

The highlight of our trip around Nusa Penida had to be Kelingking beach and its huge cliff which had Miz in tears, the rock formations were spectacular and one resembles a huge dinosaur. Miz loves dinosaurs and this one was no exception (hence the tears!). We had left it pretty late in the day as the sun was going down and we had a two hour drive ahead of us. BIG mistake, the jouney home was lethal as we twisted and turned our way back in the darkness.

In the morning, we took a snorkelling trip with a local boatman. After drinking two strong coffees and eating lots of fruit for breakfast, I instantly felt sea sick on the rough seas. We spent thirty minutes swimming with huge manta rays in the really deep waters around Manta Point. The rays are such graceful creatures as they cruised around the open waters. The rest of the day was a write off for me as the boat rolled on the waves, sea sickness had me in its grasp as I hung my head over the side of the boat. Miz was enjoying every minute taking in the colourful corals and abundance of tropical fish, and even some Buddha statues underwater. I simply couldn’t function for the rest of the day and to rub salt into my wounds we ran out of petrol on the way home and we had to walk with a plastic bottle to get some more! Penida had been great, its undeveloped, rustic beauty had left us wanting more as we lefts the Nusa’s behind and headed back across to Bali.

The underwater Buddha statues were pretty special.

We would highly recommend adding the Nusa Islands to your Indonesian itinerary. Don’t expect a luxury 5* resort style holiday, but simple, lovely homestays offering local knowledge, tasty home cooked meals and a million smiles.

Hope you enjoyed it! Share with us in the comments any of your own paradise island highlights!

Love Mizark X