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Published: April 28th 2013
As we pulled up in the boat we had high hopes of this place being a tropical island retreat but it can’t really be described as that, which is a shame because it does have the potential to be up there. On first glance it is stunning with clear turquoise waters as you pull into the beach but you can’t help but notice the huge cruisy party boats moored just off shore and wonder if this isn’t quite the quiet hidden gem that people say it is. With that all said the island is very nice but there are a few things we couldn’t quite figure out as the development here seems to be heading in a very random direction.
First is that the main and probably prettiest swimming beach is the one you pull up to at Jungutbatu village. This is the beach with beautiful white sand and turquoise water lapping up to it but you can’t really enjoy it because the whole length is taken up with 100’s of moored boats. We couldn’t understand why they don’t keep at least some of the water free so people can swim in the calm water and sit on the beach.
There are of course other beaches around the island, not many though and most of the others have massive (and we mean MASSIVE!) waves crashing onto them all day which means that most people cannot swim, they really are quite dangerous at times to the point that even Dale wouldn’t go in. We were told that this island has become a lot busier in the past few years and the development of resorts all around is clear to see, with this in mind we cannot think where all the new people are going to go during the day as there just isn’t enough room on the few accessible beaches. Maybe people like sitting by a pool all day, something we’ve never really understood. Why travel thousands of miles to sit by a pool when you could do that much closer to home.
The other thing that seemed a bit strange about Jungubatu is the walkway that seems to have been half built along the beach. There is a good opportunity here to create a nice boulevard (similar to the one in Sanur) along the length of the beach with restaurants & resorts opening out onto the beach. What has
been constructed instead is an ugly wall which runs about ¼ of the way along then stops. It starts up and stops again in various places further down but you have to keep skipping onto and off the beach to walk the whole way. We never have any objections to walking along a beach but remember there are boats moored the whole way along so every other step you have to jump the mooring rope, add to this avoiding the rubbish and it doesn’t make for a very pleasant experience. Maybe it’s something in the pipeline we just don’t know but if it’s not then they have really missed a trick.
This place is a huge draw for diving above all else, something we didn’t actually realise until we arrived! We stayed Secret Garden Bungalows (75,000Rph), which is a small place attached to a dive resort, it also has a yoga shack which seemed to be the only place on the island to do this and was pretty popular. The big thing to do here is to dive & snorkel with the resident Manta Rays and in the right season the Mola Mola (Sun Fish). We enquired about a
snorkelling trip but felt very much that as neither of us were diving we were ignored so gave up asking and didn’t bother in the end. To be honest we have snorkelled with Mantas before and it would be very difficult for any other trip we did to live up to our previous experiences so we weren’t too put out.
The highlight of the Secret Garden was that twice a week they have talks by the Aquatic Alliance
, this is a group of researchers who are working in the area on the resident marine life. The talks were both educational and interesting and we learnt lots of things we didn’t know, not only about the Mantas but all the other weird and wonderful sealife in this area... we can now tell you how coral gets it colour and how to sex a Manta Ray! Dale was gutted to find out that the previous week Dr. Andrea Marshall, the world leader on Manta Ray research was staying right here after attending a summit in Bangkok. We’d both watched a programme about her research a few years back where she discovered that there were 2 species of Manta Rays and we were
delighted to be told in one of the talks that she has now discovered that there are actually 3… you heard it here first!
The island is supposed to have no vehicles but some little mini trucks seem to have crept in which transport people around, we opted to rent a bike for our stay there and enjoyed the freedom of being able to visit each beach in turn under our own steam. It’s very easy to get around the island, there is only one road and it takes an hour or two. Most of the beaches are on the West side and we liked Dream beach the best, even though we couldn’t swim we loved to watch the huge waves crash into the shore, even better were the cliffs just round the corner where 10 – 20m waves would roll into the cliffs creating a wall of spray.
We did manage one snorkelling trip on our last day on the island. We had to be up early at 7am for high tide otherwise it’s very difficult to get out to the coral reef about 200m off the east side of the island. If you turn up at
one of the restaurants by the mangroves you’ll soon find someone who will take you out on a boat, drop you off and bring you back after about an hour. The snorkelling is so easy as it’s drifting all the way so no effort required! The only downside to this is that if you see something it’s very hard to stay there or go back to show the other person or take a closer look! We were so glad we’d made the effort as it was up there with some of the best we’ve done. There was lots of coral and it was all in almost pristine condition, along with this were huge shoals of fish and as they were fed a bit of bread by our boat guys we got to swim right through them all. We didn’t see anything very spectacular but the amount we saw more than made up for it and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there.
Dale also had another highlight (of sorts) during a lunch stop on the west side of the island. We started chatting to the young owner, William who was a local surfing pro who’d gone into competitions with some
of the top surfers in the world. He had photos of him with Rob Machado among others and it made Dale’s day as this is his surfing hero and is probably the closest he’ll ever get to him! Sophie was more delighted that William had a tiny puppy she could play with while Dale drooled over the photos!
Our journey back over to Bali wasn’t without it’s adventures. We’d opted to take the public boat (60,000Rph each), the boat itself was fine and we had plenty of room despite hearing all sorts of horror stories about how awful it would be. What was not fine however was that we were going back on the day which had some of the biggest swells that month and being on the boat in the middle of the ocean with 20m walls of water heading towards us was not something we’d (well Sophie!) would wish to repeat. It was a bit like being in a scene from the perfect storm.. except it wasn’t perfect and there was no storm! Just the day before we’d seen someone arrive at Secret Garden totally soaked.. this included all their bags.. and we found out that a
huge wave had crashed over the boat covering everyone and everything in it so we had waterproofed everything we owned as much as we could just in case. Thankfully we didn’t get a soaking but the journey was more than enough and we can only imagine how scary it must be for fishermen and the like out on the open seas with conditions far exceeding what we experienced. It was also pretty eventful just getting back into shore, the surfers in Sanur were clearly loving the huge film type waves but our boatman didn’t seem to feel the same and we were rocked this way and that as we pulled up to the sand.
Was Nusa Lembongan the Bali we’d been looking for but thought we’d never find? We did enjoy our time here, it’s hard not to enjoy a nice beach and good food but it didn’t quite have the local undeveloped vibe we’d been led to expect. We are pretty sure that if you search a bit harder, perhaps further afield from Kuta & Sanur then there are other beaches & islands which are more authentic. This is a nice island though and we would recommend it
to people who come on perhaps a 2 or 3 week holiday and use this as their beach time. There was some beautiful accommodation right on Dream Beach which was quite reasonable in this low season although sadly a bit out of our budget, with snorkelling, surfing and island exploring to do it would keep you amused for a week with no problem.
Our last few days in Bali were spent back at our favourite destination of Kuta. We’d opted for accommodation a bit out the way and the additional walk we had paid off as we got a good nights sleep for the 2 nights we were there. Out of sheer coincidence Nanna also booked into the same hotel as us, we knew we were going to meet up there but she’d booked a room before we got to make arrangements and we all thought that great minds must think alike when she messaged us from Number 8! This meant we got to enjoy her company for our remaining few days in Bali. We gave her a bit of a break from endless walking when she joined Dale for a surfing lesson but the waves weren’t ideal so
they didn’t last too long out there. We did do a bit of walking though in the form of shopping and Sophie was pleased to be able to have a girlfriend to accompany rather than Dale who’s patience over which item to choose only lasts so long!
So our time in Bali had once again come to an end and the question is did we leave promising that we’d never visit again as we did before…
Well not exactly... in fact not at all! This time we fell in love with the island and our only regret was that we didn’t have longer so we could explore more. We’d only touched the surface again and admittedly had re-visited some places we’d been to before but there was no way we could resist a revisit to Ubud! And if we came again this would certainly be the place we’d head to again.. and again.. we doubt that the charm would ever wear off this town and can only hope that it doesn’t come even more busy that we witnessed this time around.
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