Exploring Indonesia: The Nusa Islands
The Nusa Islands are made up of 3 unique Islands, Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Penida. These Islands are still quite undiscovered despite being located around 30 minutes via a fast boat from Sanur on mainland Bali. The most developed of the 3 Islands is Nusa Lembongan.
Nusa Lembongan is full of cliffside homestays and boutique hotels but unlike the other Islands Nusa Lembongan also offers high end luxury resorts with swim up balconies and cocktail bars along the main stretch of beach in Jungut Batu. Nusa Lembongan is the most developed of the three Islands and is connected to the smallest of the 3 Islands, Nusa Ceningan, via the famous Yellow Bridge, making it super easy to visit both Islands hotspots during your stay. Nusa Lembongan is home to some Instagram favourites such as Devil’s Tear, Mushroom Bay and Dream Beach.
Cliffside hotels on Nusa Lembongan
Nusa Penida is by far the largest of the three islands and is very different to Nusa Lembongan. It feels vast and remote in comparison, with long meandering roads and properties hidden away in the mountains, far away from each other and very few larger villages. This islands does however have cars! In fact minivans, and lots of them. The roads here aren’t easy to ride, I saw so many tourists in accidents on this islands which explains why so few locals ride on mopeds. I encourage tourists to be extremely careful here and I recommend hiring a driver for the time you spend on the Island.
Having done lots of research into the accommodation options I found the hotels are extremely cheap and pretty much all boutique homestays. My main concern was how spread out everything is (including the accommodation from restaurants etc) and how I would work my way around the Island without a moped. , I decided instead do a day trip as I had heard how easy it was to find one from Nusa Lembongan. Not to say I don’t recommend staying there because this Island certainly has the most to see, it just wasn’t for me.
Tip: If you’re short of time, or like me you would prefer to stay on Lembongan, then you must book a day trip to visit. I wish I could give you a more solid recommendation but I simply walked around Mushroom Bay reading posters with whatsapp numbers advertising day trips. Eventually my boyfriend and I asked someone in a shop who called his friend to come and speak to us. We paid a small deposit and he gave us a receipt and agreed to pick us up from our hotel the following morning. We were slightly dubious but the taxi arrived and took us to a boat by the Yellow Bridge, transferring us to Nusa Penida where we were picked up by the nicest tour guide we’ve ever had. He spoke absolutely no English and just simply smiled all day. We picked 4 stops that we wanted to visit; Angel’s Billabong, Broken Beach, Kelingking Beach and Crystal Bay. Not only did our tour guide drive us to all of these stops, he insisted on carrying my phone and GoPro to take action shots as we explored. He was amazing! He’d be climbing tree’s and telling us where to stand just to get the best shots. He deserved to be running his own business. We thanked him and tipped him before he dropped us back to our boat. This trip cost us roughly £35 for the full 10 hour day, including boat transfers and a taxi back to our hotel at the end of the trip. Highly recommend finding something similar
Our tour guide ran ahead to catch us walking back from Broken Beach
The Nusa Islands are located just to the East of Bali, approximately 30 minutes from Sanur Beach or around an hour and a half from the Gili Islands. There are lots of different fast boats that you can book, I have used Eka Jaya and Scoot when hopping between Islands. If you already have accommodation booked on the Islands your hotel may be able to book this for you. The fast boats will also pick up/ drop off at your accommodations on either side if you need and it’s often included in the price of the boat transfer. Bargain!
The boats pulling in at Jungut Batu
The Nusa Islands have some of the cheapest accommodations that I’ve seen. You can book private rooms and bathrooms for around £7-10 per night which is incredible. Check hostelworld or booking.com
for some seriously cheap deals. This being said, if you do decide to book a homestay instead of a hotel you will probably need your own transport such as a moped because you may not be able to get around the Island as taxi’s are not readily available. Hotels often supply shuttles to and from the beaches.
Jason and I spent 5 nights in Nusa Lembongan and our first villa was at The Acala which was stunning. I booked a private villa with a private pool and a cabana over looking the whole island. It wasn’t too expensive but of course having this villa completely to ourselves was outside of a backpacker budget. We stayed here for 3 nights to relax and wind down with some time to ourselves.
View from the Villa’s garden
The property is located up in the hills and takes around 15mins by car to get to the restaurants and beaches. The hotel offers a shuttle to the main spots three times a day and additional shuttles at a small cost. When you book at any of the main restaurants on the Island in the evenings, the restaurant will send a taxi to come and pick you up from your hotel and drop you back for free which is crazy good! A little tip to the driver is obviously appreciated.
Private Villa at The Acala Hotel
We then moved to the other side of the island. Jungut Batu and stayed at the D’Nusa resort for 2 nights. Again a really lovely hotel and this time we could walk directly on to the beach. This was more of a resort and we were upgraded to a swim up balcony and huuuuge room, the biggest I’ve ever stayed in!
It is a 15-20minute walk from the main restaurants but you can either walk along the beach front until you find somewhere (there are lots of nice spots on the beach front or the road that runs adjacent just behind the hotels) or again you can book ahead and the restaurants will pick you up.
Nusa Lembongan is bigger than the Gili Islands so if you have been to the Gili’s and are expecting a similar kind of Island you will find they are very different. Nusa Lembongan is very hilly so a bicycle isn’t an option. Most people that stay on the island will hire a moped to get around but the roads can be quite rocky in places so if you’re like me and a little scared you will be able to get around on the islands buggy/truck style taxi’s.
-Scuba diving with Manta Rays
We dived with Blue Corner Dive in Jungut Batu which I must highlight as there is more than one Blue Corner on the Islands and they have very different reviews so please check all reviews so you are comfortable before booking. Prices do vary slightly on the Island however a rough idea would be 600.000IDR per dive which is equivalent to £33, $60AUD or $42US. Pretty cheap considering!
Diving with Manta Rays
My Experience: Wow, the absolute best thing I have ever done and my main reason for heading to the Nusa Islands. Manta Rays have always been on my bucket list and I had heard of a little spot just off of Nusa Penida called Manta Point that was meant to be amazing for diving. This was booked for the day we arrived in Nusa as we wanted to make sure we didn’t miss out. The boat from Lembongan took around 45mins-1 hour circling the Islands, showing us all the famous hot spots from a different perspective before finally reaching the dive site. We saw Manta’s almost straight away slowly coming in and out of the cleaning station one at a time. At the end of the dive I felt super sea sick from the choppy boat ride over and decided to skip the second dive at Crystal Bay. I was really disappointed that I’d come all this way and had felt ill the whole way through the dive so we did what we could to squeeze in a second dive the following day and wow are we glad we did. Yes the first dive we had seen 4-5 Manta Rays and my bucket list was ticked, but I am so glad we went back for more. We headed back early the next morning and as the waters were so choppy we were the first dive boat to arrive that day meaning complete freedom in the waters. Our diving instructor took our small group of 4 divers to a secluded spot where we were surrounded by about 20 Manta Rays chasing each other around us. I wish the pictures I took did it justice because I just cannot describe how close they came to us and how surrounded by them we were. It was by far the best dive I have ever done and by far my most recommended travel tip.
You may have heard of the famous Yellow Bridge that connects Nusa Lembongan to the smallest Island, Nusa Ceningan. This bridge connects you to a few hidden gems on Nusa Ceningan such as the Blue Lagoon and Secret Beach as well as plenty of foodie hotspots. Unfortunately we ran out of time to explore the Island this time around as we spent so much of our trip diving but I will definitely be back to visit and tell you a bit more.
Yellow Bridge connecting Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan
-Catch the sunrise from the top of the island
The sunrise view from The Acala which is at the very top of the Island was simply incredible. I got up every morning to see it whilst having breakfast. The view from an infinity pool like The Acala’s can not be beaten.
Sunrise at The Acala : Hotel Infinity pool
The Deck is a beautiful restaurant on the cliffside in Jungut Batu. The tables are situated around the resorts swimming pool and lit by surrounding lanterns. Our table was under a private cabana in the corner with views of the entire bay. What looked like an expensive restaurant in any other part of the world costs us under £20 for dinner and a cocktail each. Once we had finished the restaurant arranged our free shuttle back to our hotel whilst we waited in their bar below the restaurant. The bar offers slightly lighter meals and snacks for breakfast and lunch.
-Lunch at Hai Bar and Grill
Another beautiful restaurant, this one is sitting on the beach in Mushroom Bay. The bamboo style restaurant has an extensive menu with an Asian and Western mix, the cocktails here are also great! Once again this restaurant offers a free pick up service to and from your hotel to attract guests from all parts of the island. I would highly recommend it but make sure you book in advance as they do get booked up quickly.
Angel’s Billabong is a natural infinity pool created by the waves splashing over the cliffside in Nusa Penida. This natural pool pulls in all of the tourists so make sure you go nice and early! Angel’s Billabong is located around 50 minutes from the Harbour on Nusa Penida.
Broken Beach is a short walk from Angel’s Billabong. It is a natural bridge crossing the ocean and cornering off a small cove of beach. An instagram favourite!
Okay this was another highlight. I loved seeing T-Rex. The view was incredible but the trip down was a struggle. Take a look at the ‘steps’ in the photo below made from broken branches. Make sure you wear suitable foot wear for this. I also recommend checking the tide times if you plan to head down to the beach, the walk can take up to an hour to get down and remember it’s a long way back up. The tourists will be there early although most wont have time to go to the bottom.
The walk down to the beach
The famous T-rex
Crystal Bay is a very popular spot on Nusa Penida, it’s a lovely beach with beautiful coral which is great for diving or snorkelling. Surrounded by palm trees this beach is very relaxing. I’ve heard it’s also very popular spot to catch a glimpse of the Mola Mola which is also known as a Sunfish.
Hope you guys have an amazing time on The Nusa Islands