Livin’ the Life on Lembongan

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I’m still trying to finish writing about our month in Indonesia… and I haven’t even gotten to the best parts yet! Since it’s still well below zero here in Yellowknife, I’m loving letting my mind wander back to the beach.

lembongan dream beachNusa Lembongan might have been our favorite spot in Indonesia. Just off the southeastern coast of Bali, there are three islands: Nusa Lembonga, Nusa Cenigan, and Nusa Penida. These islands are quickly becoming a hotspot for travelers who seek what they thought they’d find in Bali but with smaller crowds: low key beaches, breezy bungalows, and prime spots for scuba diving.

After a short boat ride from Bali’s Sanur Beach, we landed on the beach of Lembongan’s Mushroom Bay. We hadn’t booked accommodations before arriving so our first hour on the island was a mad dash to find a hotel. After some chaos, we ended up on the island’s main beach at the Ketut Losmen Bungalows.

Most places to eat and stay, apart from Mushroom Bay and around Lembongan Village, are right off this main beach (Jungut Batu on this map). Because of this, it’s easiest to find rooms, meals, and adventure outfitters by walking along the water rather than navigating the inland roads by scooter.

The beachfront offers bungalows, restaurant bars, and countless scuba dive shops that cater to travelers, while the inner island is home to mostly locals, livestock, a few small restaurants, the local school, and the dump (yes, there’s lots of garbage in paradise).

We spent six days living on island time. Some days lasted forever, gently stirred by the warm salty breeze, but they all slipped away so quickly as the sun dropped into the ocean by 6:30 every night.

Lembongan is romantic. I don’t just mean that a lot of couples travel here, so love is in the air or some cliche like that, I mean it’s incredibly beautiful in the morning when light falls on flowering trees, with birds twittering and calling and the ocean shimmering just beyond the bungalows, and at night when the sun starts slipping into the west with lovely shadows falling from palm fronds and beached boats, the island becomes lit by the dreamy glow of sunset and then candle light.

On our way to wander up the beach for dinner one night, I plucked a plumeria blossom from the tree near our balcony and carried it with me, pressing the soft petals to my nose now and then to smell its thick sweetness.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJesse did his PADI dive certification course with Bali Diving Academy over five days in Lembongan. Since I’m already NAUI certified, I spent most of his instruction time at the pool reading and drinking coconut milkshakes, but I also got to do his first open water dive at Secret Manta with him and his instructor Maria.

It was incredible! Six huge manta rays graced our dive with their slow floating presence, and although they all eventually disappeared into the blue we found lots of colorful coral, anemones, and darting fish to swim with.

Beyond scuba diving and away from our bungalow, we explored the whole island by scooter over several days. Instead of doing a tedious day-by-day breakdown, I’ll let the pictures of what we found speak for themselves (and include links for more info if you’re planning your own trip to Lembongan).

Devil’s Tear

Dream Beach (AND BABY SEA TURTLES!!)

Mangrove Tour

Blue Lagoon – Nusa Cenigan

Secret Beach – Nusa Cenigan

Lembongan was the first place in Indonesia that we really settled into and got to know. We went beyond the main beaches and dive shops to explore the island’s forest roads and villages. A local showed us to his favorite viewpoint on Nusa Cenigan (and although he expected a tip, we ended up somewhere we wouldn’t have found without his help).

I loved the days we spent on this island. It was a chance to see Indonesia without all the gimmicks and with less souvenir hawking than Bali. We saw fishing boats, seaweed harvest and the marvelous colorful patches where it was laid to dry in the sun, a woman fanning the smoke away from fresh fish grilling on the beach, a boy flying his kite at dusk, manta rays and trigger fish swimming silently through the water… all amounting to: the quiet variety of each day with unpredictable tides and spectacular sunsets.

Unlike Kuta, Bali, you won’t find drunken youths stumbling up the beach or big parties going on. What you will find is serenity, and a seat to watch the tide roll in as the sky burns and softens into pink and lavender, then dusty blue, then deeper into onyx where planets and stars peek through the darkness.

Read an overview of our whole Indonesia trip here.

Do you have a favorite island? tell us about it below!

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