Nusa Lembongan (and Ceningan and Penida), Bali, Indonesia
The islands Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Penida sit together in a small group, 20km to the South East of Bali.
– Nusa Lembongan is closest to Bali and is the most developed. It has some nice sandy beaches and a few spots with excellent corals and fishlife.
– Nusa Ceningan is a thin sliver of land further South East – its waters are shallow and are used for farming seaweed. There doesn’t seem to be much of interest to snorkellers there.
– Massive Nusa Penida is furthest from Bali and dwarfs the other two islands. It has the least tourist development. Most of the coastline is vertical cliffs, giving no access to the sea. The South West coast is a favourite spot with divers looking for Manta Rays and Mola mola (Oceanic Sunfish).
There is some nice snorkelling to be found in the islands, but not much of it is accessible from the beach. Underwater currents are strong and the better corals are located far from shore. There is breaking surf over sharp reef in a lot of places, with surfers (and their pointy footwear) making the most of it. All of this is not conducive to safe off-the-beach snorkelling. If you are a hardcore type, it is possible to swim to some decent snorkelling spots at Nusa Lembongan, but for most people, the only option is to take a boat trip. If you have decided to swim to the reef, you can add boats to the list of hazards you’ll have to contend with.
Sleeps: There is lots of mid to high end accommodation on Nusa Lembongan and a handful of cheap places. There is also accommodation on the other islands, but much less of it.
Transport: There are regular fast and slow ferries from Bali. There are a few operators doing expensive (100 USD) all-inclusive day trips from Bali. There are fast ferries from the Gili Islands in North West Lombok.
Conditions: I visited for a week at the end of June – the start of the high (dry) season. Skies varied between clear and overcast. Underwater visibility wasn’t great – varying day to day from 3-6 metres. There was usually breaking waves at the recognised surf ‘breaks’.
Sightings of interesting fish included one Turtle and one Eagle Ray. I didn’t see any Mantas or Mola mola.
This article is mainly about off-the-beach snorkelling on the island of Nusa Lembongan. I also took a half-day boat trip which went to Nusa Penida.
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Nusa Lembongan’s main village, Jungut Batu, is on the West coast, towards the North end of the island. There are plenty of bungalow resorts, restaurants and dive shops there. Generally, the cheaper accommodation is at the North end.
Nusa Lembongan is almost past it’s ‘hippy backpacker’ stage and most of the so-called ‘cheap’ accommodation has a swimming pool and costs upwards of 200 000 IDR (@2016). Jungut Batu has a narrow ‘main road’ set back 100m from the beach – there, hardcore cheapskates can find several homestays which aren’t mentioned in the travel guides. These have slightly lower rates, but you’d still be struggling to get anything under 150 000 IDR in season.
Further South are a few bays with higher-end accommodation. Technically, you could walk to these, but you wouldn’t want to do it with heavy bags – the coastal paths are scrambly; and the inland main road route goes up a very steep hill. There are plenty of ojeks (motorbike taxis) and bemos (minibuses) meeting the ferries at the South end of Jungut Batu beach.
Most boats arrive on Jungut Batu beach, but a few arrive at Mushroom Bay, 2km to the South West, which is more upmarket.
There is already quite a lot of general information about Nusa Lembongan out there on public sources like wiktravel, so I won’t repeat it all.
My maps of the snorkelling areas are down the page. For surface maps (including the names/locations of hotels), there are 8 alternative maps linked at the end of this article.
I also found a good little travel-guide magazine/booklet. The publisher seems to be defunct now, so I have reproduced its useful ‘orientation’ stuff at the end of this report – see the long section in italics at the bottom of this page.
There is a very good range of reef fish at Nusa Lembongan. In addition to all your commoners, there are also many other species that you might only expect to see at more Easterly longitudes. There is a collection of fishpics at “Area 3”, below.
Nusa Lembongan (actually, Nusa Penida) is famous for divers seeing Manta rays and the unusual Mola mola (oceanic sunfish). Much is made of this – the islands have officially adopted the Mola mola as their official ‘brand-image’. This is good for business, but realistically, snorkellers are very unlikely to see any Mola mola – their usual habitat is 30+ metres down. Manta rays also prefer deeper waters, although there is a spot where they sometimes come to cruise in 6-8 metres of water.
Elsewhere in the ‘big-fish’ department – in a week of snorkelling I saw one Turtle and one Eagle Ray.
No Sharks, no Mantas, no Mola molas.
Backreef: In the North and North West of Nusa Lembongan, there is a very wide, shallow back-reef. The interesting drop-off is 200-300 metres away from shore. The shallow backreef are a mix of sand and grass and are generally boring for snorkeling. The sandy shallows were historically used for seaweed farming, (local farmers tie nylon cord between pairs of poles stuck in the seabed and wait for seaweed to grow on it); but a lot of the seaweed farming has finished now, as tourism is more profitable.
Dropoff: Where the reef drops down to deeper waters, there is often extensive, diverse coral growth, with some of it in excellent condition. This is by far the best area for snorkelling if you can get to it.
The North and West coasts get regular batterings from rough seas. Coral on the shallower part of the drop-off has suffered the effects and is in worse condition than the deeper stuff.
In the major surfzones, the coral is very scabby. The surf and and surfers’ body parts have taken their toll on the corals there and they are non-starters for snorkelling.
In the Southern half of Nusa Lembongan’s West coast, the coastline is more rocky and the ‘cliffs’ continue underwater. There aren’t many places with access to the sea. There are a few beaches there, but they are quite developed and have a lot of boat traffic coming and going.
The East coast is all mangrove forest and there is no access to the sea from the land.
Currents are a concern. They are generally tidal – running parallel to the coastline. However, at a couple of spots, I found some kind of mega-rip currents which ran perpendicular to the coast (from the shallows out to the deeper waters). Rip currents are not uncommon in areas with surf – the waves bring large volumes of water in towards the land and it has to get out again, so it finds a deep part of the seabed and flows back out as a narrow ‘river’ of fast moving water. The tip for getting out of a rip-current is to swim at right-angles to it, so you get clear of the fast moving ‘river’ part and into the calmer water at each side. But in Nusa Lembongan/Ceningan, I found a couple of places where the ‘river’ was hundreds of meters wide, so you can’t reach the edge of it, or swim against it to get back to the beach. This is pretty dangerous and is something to look out for. At least there are plenty of boats around if you need to wave one down to take you home!
Boats, boats, boats. Apart from the currents, boats are the biggest safety concern for the off-the-beach-snorkellers:
Big Boats: Being Bali, tourism has to exist on an industrial scale. Bali tour companies offer hundred dollar daytrips aboard 600-seater, 45 metre catamaran speedboats.
Banana Boats: The tour company consumers want their money’s worth, so the trips include all your main essentials like Banana boat rides (being towed behind a speedboat while sitting on an inflatable boat shaped like a banana); Bagel boat rides (being towed behind a speedboat while sitting on an inflatable boat shaped like a bagel); Flying-Fish boat rides (being towed behind a speedboat while sitting on an inflatable boat shaped like a bookend, which “flies” up out of the water); Abraham Lincoln boat rides (being towed behind a speedboat while sitting on an inflatable boat shaped like Abraham Lincoln). Alright, I made that last one up, but it’s only a matter of time before they need to invent a new-shaped boat. The towing speedboat drivers aren’t too choosy about where they drive and they are usually looking backwards at their bouncing passengers rather than forwards at the unsuspecting snorkellers they are about to drive over, so beware of those. The same goes for parascending speedboats. Worst case – if you find yourself in the path of a speedboat, your best defence is to dive down a couple of metres and wait for it (and its banana) to pass overhead.
The ‘industrial’ sized boats are too big to moor on the island, so the big tour companies each have their own huge, floating platforms off-shore:
Passengers disembark onto the floating platforms and can either stay on the platform enjoying the waterslides, diving boards, deckchairs, etc.; or can be ferried in shuttleboats to the tour companies’ onshore resorts. More boats.
Ferries: There are about ten speedboat passenger ferries arriving and leaving each day. Most of these use Jungut Batu beach (Area 3). A few use Mushroom bay (Area 6).
Smallish boats: There are a few local captains offering half day round-the-island trips on thirty-seater boats. The wheelhouse is at the back of the boat, so they probably can’t see what is directly in front of them.
Small boats: Most of the boats in the water are 6-seater outriggers with a local captain taking folks on pay-per-hour private trips.
Boats, boats, boats. And naturally, they all want to go the same place you want to go – where the best coral is. It only takes a bit of swell and you are invisible to them, so be careful if you decide to swim out to the remote, popular ‘boat territory’ spots. Especially, watch out for those speedboats towing banana boats around.
There is less boat traffic about before 9am and after 3pm, outside of daytripper hours.
For other, general safety stuff, see my safety page.
Nusa Lembongan Area 1 – The North Coast
Nusa Lembongan’s North Coast has a sandy beach running all along it, but this beach has less tourist development than the others, because the seabed here is shallow and grassy and unappealing to swimmers. There is some fantastic coral at the North East end (200m out to sea, past the grassy shallows) but it is difficult to reach it without a boat. Casual snorkellers should rent a boat. Hardcore off-the-beach snorkellers could walk/swim to it, but expect to do some work and to take your chances with the boats when you get there.
The walk there:
You want to be at the other (East) end of the beach anyway, so get ready to start walking. Actually, before you start – try to figure-out just how rough are the seas on the other side of the drop-off. You will likely to see some breaking waves where the deep water meets the reef (about 150 metres away from the shore). If the sea on the far side of the breakers is choppy and there aren’t many boats out there, it is likely that the underwater visibility is bad and you might want to delay your trip until tomorrow.
If it all looks calm, get ready for a long walk. It is a little over 1km from Jungut Batu village to the North coast and the same distance again to get to the East end of it, where the best coral is. You can walk along the beach, or on a decent tarmac road set back 20m from it.
If you are using the road, at the junction marked “$” on the map, you will find an old guy at the side of the road collecting an ‘entrance fee’ for the mangrove-y section of the island. You have to pay 3000 IDR to go East or South from there. If you don’t have any money with you, walk down to the beach where he won’t see you. You can pay him tomorrow.
The other obstacle is a 30 metre wide clump of mangrove trees halfway along the beach (level with point 1e on the map). It juts-out a long way out into the sea, so skip back 20m to the road and go round the back.
There is also an outfit along here that rents out kayaks “?Lembongan Water Sports”.
This area is known as Mangrove Point. I’m not sure what the name of the resort is. There is a “Warung Paradise” (Paradise Restaurant) marked on all the maps, but no resort.
I assume that you can rent the kayak and boat to take you out to the drop-off, 200m out to sea. If you are don’t want to use a boat, you will have to wade through a long stretch of ankle-deep grassy shallows.
It is always better for you and the environment if you can swim instead of walk – get horizontal as soon as possible. Even though sea grass looks boring and plentiful, it still houses delicate lifeforms like this teeny-tiny egg ribbon:
Unfortunately, the water is veeeery shallow for the first 70 metres – too shallow to swim in. The best you can do is to try and come here at high tides, when it will be a little deeper.
(By the way, mouseover over any picture of a fish to see its species name in the bottom-left corner of your browser).
Continuing out to sea, you will start to see the reef, proper. Depending on weather conditions, there might be breaking waves across the top of the shallow corals. ‘Waves plus shallow coral’ are a bad combination for snorkellers and it might be difficult getting over the corals to reach the drop-off. Again, try to visit at higher tides, when you will have more clearance over the top of the corals.
By the way, the L in L1b is for Lembongan (as opposed to Ceningan or Penida) and isn’t shown on the map.
As you continue further away from the beach, the coral condition improves:
At this point, we are still on the land side of the drop-off, looking at the reeftop in 1-2 metres of water. You are sheltered from boat traffic here, as most boats stay on the deep-water side of the drop-off.
I’m not sure what the view to the East is like. It is probably not wise to go East from here as there are no exit points from the water (the coastline is dense mangrove forest). One day, I decided to give it a try anyway, but the wind and swells had turned the water into a murky soup, so there was no point in exploring further:
East and West, the visibility was awful that day. You should probably try to gauge the size of the waves from the beach before you schlep all the way out to the drop-off just to swim in soup.
And a good range of Reef fish:
I’m seeing Orange Spined Unicornfish, Lined Butterflyfish, Panda Butterflyfish, Lined Surgeonfish, Checkered Snapper, Oriental Sweetlips, Barred Parrotfish and Phantom Bannerfish.
The coral continues:
The best stuff is at the bottom of the drop-off, four or five metres deep. If the visibility is good, you can see it from the surface, no problem. If the visibility is bad, then there are also some OK corals on the shallower parts of the drop-off, which are easier to see.
Here, boats are a bit of a safety-problem. This spot is one of the top three places on the islands for snorkellable coral, so many small/medium sized boats come here and tie up on buoys to drop their snorkellers off:
The seas were choppy when I visited and it is difficult for a boat captain to see snorkellers through the peaks and troughs of the waves. It is hard to manoeuvre a small boat in lumpy seas, so give boats priority and try to stay out of their way.
The good news is that the boats drive slowly when they are near the reef drop-off, as they are picking-up/dropping-off their snorkellers. Fast moving boats generally stay further out in the blue and you have no reason to go there. (This is not necessarily true of the banana-boat speedboats, which go wherever they like).
Back out at the drop-off, the coral is decent almost as far as point L1d, (near the small wooded patch on the beach).
There are some shallow, sandy patches dotted along the top of the drop-off. The loose sand is easily stirred-up by waves and, around these, the underwater visibility plummets to zero until the seabed changes again:
At L1e, and directly level with the tree clump, the murk on the drop-off clears and we are back to decent coral and fish for a while:
L1f is a good place to start thinking about getting out of the water, or at least checking whether you can get out of the water. Around here, I encountered one of those weird ‘mega rip currents’. Normally, currents run parallel to the coast, but, here, there was a strong current flowing perpendicular (starting near the beach and flowing out towards the drop-off); and persisting for a very long strip of the beach (300m +):
This is not good. This kind of current tends to drag you out to sea.
Riding an East to West current along the North coast (L1c towards L1g) is generally a nice, relaxing way of seeing the North coast drop-off.
Sometimes the current on the West coast runs North to South, but sometimes it runs South to North. If you are unlucky enough to catch it going from South to North (and so have all three currents working against you), you could get dragged off the North West corner of the island and out to open sea:
At the North West corner is dive site “Blue Corner”. Divers say that this place is known for its down-currents, which suck divers down to worrying depths. I don’t know whether this would happen if you were snorkelling on the surface, but I don’t want to find out.
Apart from worries of adverse currents, if there is any swell, you will have to somehow get back across the breakers on the (sharp) reeftop to get back to the beach. The breakers tend to be worse at this end of the beach, especially if the tide is falling:
So all in all, when you reach point L1f, it would be wise to swim toward the shore to at least test whether you have a viable exit route, before making any decisions about where to go next.
As you approach L1h, you can see Mahagiri Resort’s colourful flags and the Lighthouse, far away on the beach. Underwater, there is some decent coral on the sloping substrate 3-4 metres deep, but I didn’t see a drop-off, as such:
There being lots of sand around, underwater visibility is less than good there.
If you push-on all the way to the North West corner of the reef at L1l, the reeftop near the drop-off is deep (7 metres); a long way from land (300 metres); and not very impressive. You also have problems with passing boats and, maybe with surface currents and down-currents. If you do get around the corner onto the West coast, you are not far from the first of the popular surf breaks, so you’ll have surf boards to contend with as well. What I’m saying is that this North West corner is not a good place to be swimming!
Area 2 – Jungut Batu Beach
Jungut Batu beach, located on the Northern half of Nusa Lembongan’s West coast, is the biggest beach on the island. Mostly, it is unglamorous; and a lot of it disappears underwater at high tide. But the Northern end of it is a good bet for sitting out – it is nice and wide and reasonably isolated, so you shouldn’t shock the locals too much – sitting there, overflowing out of your skimpy swimwear.
Underwater, Jungut Batu beach is not that special – it is essentially a huge sand-flat, 2-3 metres deep, stretching 400m out to sea, all along its 1.5km length.
Obviously, you don’t want to be snorkelling in the middle of the breaking waves and the breaking surfers. The waves and the blood don’t do much for the underwater visibility, either.
Currents here run parallel to the coast. They seem to be tidal. Sometimes there is no current at all. But when there is current, it can be very strong. Sometimes the current flows from South to North, sometimes from North to South. You don’t want to be at the North end of the beach when the current is flowing North or you might get washed off the end of the island, so be aware of what the currents are doing.
Underwater, the Southern half of Jungut Batu Beach has got more going for it than the Northern half.
Actually, the first place I got in in the water was halfway down Jungut Batu beach and within five minutes, I had met this cute little fella:
The most chilled-out Eagle Ray in Indonesia! He was quite happy to spend 20 minutes snuffling around the grassy bottom and posing for photos.
Not that Eagle Rays are typical of Jungut Batu bay, mind. I never saw him again.
Other interesting fishies seen around these parts include: Convict Tangs, Humpnose Surgeonfish, Humpback Surgeonfish, Bird Wrasse and Rockmover Wrasse.
On one day like this, I investigated the coral where the surf usually is, but it was in poor condition and not very interesting.
Area 3 – South Jungut Batu (the platforms)
Area 3, at the South end of Jungut Baru beach, has the best coral on the island. The area is notable for the huge floating platforms/pontoons moored there by the big tour companies.
There are two huge platforms (the Blue one belongs to ‘Bali Hai’ company and the Yellow one to ‘Bali Bounty Cruises’ company). Despite some advice to the contrary, there is no snorkelling underneath these big platforms – the water is too deep (8-10 metres) and the seabed is uninteresting. The best snorkelling is near four smaller platforms, closer to the beach:
For the best coral, you want to be heading to exactly where the “3” is on the map – about 15m North (right) of the first two small platforms. Here are a few different angles on it:
(Image (c) DigitalGlobe/Google)
All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions
It is a long swim out from the beach to get to the good coral – about 300m. Watch out for the currents – there is often (?at falling tides?) a strong current running North to South, sweeping you towards an unmarked ‘boat lane’ used by the big speedboat ferries. Bad news indeed. Also, watch out for the surfers on the surf-break just to the North. Unless you are a strong swimmer and wearing fins, it might be wise to invest a few dollars in a boat rental to get here.
What you are looking for is an area 10 metres (North to South) by 30 metres (East to West) of lovely, diverse, mostly healthy corals, starting just a metre of two deep. The pictures probably speak for themselves:
Some of the small platforms are owned by the cruise companies who own the big platforms. Their big-spender customers are shuttled to the smaller platforms for snorkelling and seawalking. Yes, its a thing.
There are roped-off swimzones just to the North of the small platforms.
I’m not sure if the ropes are there to keep the tour companies’ customers inside or to keep outsiders out, but either way, the coral inside those roped-off areas isn’t great – it is much nicer outside, just to the North.
Area 3 also has plenty of reef fishes. Here are some of the species seen there:
The little fellas with the red faces and blue bellies are generally uncommon, but there are lots of them here in Nusa Lembongan:
They are from the family “Fairy-Wrasses”, but it is difficult to know exactly what species they are because the family has many similarly coloured variants and also because the colours change a lot over the fish’s lifecycle. I think that these are probably Cirrhilabrus aurantidorsalis, “Orangeback fairy wrasse”.
Other, non-piscine, species seen include a Moray Eel and a Squid:
For more info on wildlife, see my specieslist.
Area 3 currents and practicalities: At Area 3, underwater currents seemed to be mild at slack-water (=fully high tide or fully low tide). At other times, there can be a strong current. Many times, I found currents going North to South, but never from South to North. Someone suggested to me that the whole of Area 2 acted like a ‘basin’- collecting more and more water as the surf brings it over the top of the Western reefs. Then, when the surrounding tide falls, the basin empies-out from the North and South ends – giving strong Northbound currents at the North end of the bay and Southbound currents at this South end of the bay.
Being swept South out of Area 3 would be a problem during the daytime, as it would take you into the deep water channel used by the speedboat ferries to get to the beach. You don’t want to end up in the path of one of those. In the evening – when all the ferries have finished running – being swept South is not so much of a problem. Although you wouldn’t be able to swim across the current fast enough to make it back to Jungut Batu beach, you could choose to just drift on, past the cliffs to the South, steadily swimming towards shore and get out of the water 1km down the coast at Area 4 (Song Lambung Beach), then walk back to Jungut Batu along the easy cliff-top track.
The best time of day to visit Area 3 is in the evenings, after the daytrippers and ferries have left for Bali.
Area 4 – Song Lambung Beach
Several of the beaches in Lembongan have both an Indonesian name and an easy-to-use Western version. The bay/beach in Area 4 occasionally gets called Coconut Beach, but only very rarely – it is almost universally known by it’s Indonesian name, “Song Lambung”.
There is a surf break (named “playgrounds”) off this beach, but it is far away from the land. There is no need to go that far out when snorkelling.
Btw, if you are ever wanting to charter a small boat and you can’t find one, go to the little shelter halfway along the walking track between Jungut Batu (Area 3) and Song Lambung (Area 4). Boat taxi drivers hang around there waiting to be hired.
Walking South out of Song Lambung bay, there is a another clifftop track that leads to the next bay (Celagaimpak/Tamarind) (although the track is more scrambly and ill-defined than the earlier (Northerly) one). I didn’t try it.
Area 5 – Celagaimpak/Tamarind Bay
The next bay South West is another one with both an Indonesian and a Western name. It looks like there was a tussle over which name would win, and the compromise was that the beach at the East end of the bay is called Pantai Celagaimpak and the bay, in its entirety, is called Tamarind Bay.
You can reach it via that scrambly clifftop track from Song Lambung (Area 4) or by taking the (hilly, twisty) main road out of Jungut Batu.
Celagaimpak/Tamarind bay is the home of the big yellow platform and the 600 seater catamaran:
The operator, Bounty Bali Cruises, also has a resort in the bay. Those little yellow boats are shuttling people from the platform to the beach.
When I visited, there was a lot of boat traffic and some nasty waves breaking over the reeftop, so I couldn’t get into the shallower areas. Although I swam the whole length of the bay, I didn’t feel like I saw that much of it.
Further West, near L5c, the reeftop is very far from the beach. The waves breaking over it prevented access to the beachy side. But, again, there were some OK (if slightly monochrome) corals a few metres deep:
Heading along the bay, I took a brief diversion North East to see what was underneath the yellow platform, but the seabed disappeared off in the depths long before I got there, so I aborted the exercise. Safe to say that it is deeeep water under the yellow platform.
Continuing South is…
Area 6 – Tanjung Sang Hyang Beach / Mushroom Beach
The locals’ name for Area 6 is “Tanjung Sang Hyang Beach” (just “Tanjung Sang Hyang” is the cape to its South West). The Western name is Mushroom Beach (named after a species of coral found in the bay). I hear it is possible to get here by following a coastal track around from Tamarind Bay, but I was swimming and didn’t try it.
Coming into Mushroom bay itself, you can see a big rock in the middle of the bay.
If you are wanting to avoid the crowds, you should probably head up this way – it seemed like there was much less tourist development at this Eastern end of the bay, past the rock .
At L6c, level with the big rock in the middle of the bay, I found this nice spot of coral:
This was easily the best coral since Area 3 and it wins the prize for the ‘best-bit’ in Mushroom Bay. Again, this was about 100m away from the beach and on the outside of the breakers on the reeftop. I was already on the deepwater side of the breaking waves. I wouldn’t have been able to get to it from the beach.
At the West end of the bay…
…there is a ‘deep’ channel from L6e to L6f to allow the boats to get past the coral and into the shallow waters and the beach. You can use this as good route to get from the beach to the better corals on the deeper side of the the drop-off. If you don’t mind tussling with angry boat drivers about using “their” boat lane, that is!
I had read that Mushroom Bay is a good place for snorkelling. I don’t really understand why – I guess they mean snorkelling from a boat and not snorkelling from the shore. For off-the-beach snorkellers, the breakers stop you getting out to the deeper reef and the boat traffic makes it difficult to see the shallows. Maybe it is OK at another time of year when the seas are flat.
Area 7 – The Western Headland
The Western end of Nusa Lembongan is mostly craggy rocks, constantly taking a pounding from the powerful waves rolling in from the ocean. A notable tourist spot is “Devil’s Tear”, where waves are funnelled up a conical channel to form a spurting geyser of salty water.
If you look on satellite pictures, you can see the waves change from a linear to a circular pattern where this happens.
Don’t get too close, or you might get wiped out by a big wave (like one fella in a YouTube video does!)
Area 8 – Dream Beach
Before arriving in Nusa Lembongan, I planned to try the snorkelling at Dream Beach (Area 8). I thought I might be able to start there and snorkel the few kilometres round the Western headland (Area 7) to arrive at Mushroom Beach (Area 6).
I walked all the way from Jungut Batu (2) to Dream Beach (8), but on arriving at Dream Beach, the three metre tall waves suggested that snorkelling here wasn’t the best idea in the world.
I saw a blog that said this strip between Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan is a good place for a drift-snorkel. Presumably on a calmer day and with boat cover.
The waters in Dream Beach’s bay were all churned up and there was no way of telling whether there were rocks under the surface, so this one was a total non-starter.
Well that’s it for Nusa Lembongan. Most of the East coast is Mangrove forest with no access to the sea.
I rented a motorbike and went for a spin around Nusa Ceningan one day. It is a fun thing to do and is a good way to test out your driving skills on the crappy roads there. From the surface, Nusa Ceningan didn’t look especially snorkel-friendly. I didn’t get in the water, but here are a few snaps of surface-life there.
You can famously drive to the island over a suspension bridge (edit: it collapsed in late 2016 when overloaded with people during a religious ceremony. I’m not sure of the current status of its rebuilding.. ):
Btw, this spot is also where you catch the public boat to Nusa Penida, early in the morning.
It doesn’t look like snorkelling terrain to me.
The circular road going round the island is closest to the coast on the North West side of the island. On the South East loop, I didn’t see any spurs going down the steep terrain to the coast. Some maps I subsequently found (linked at the bottom of this page), suggest that there are two – one leading to a beach and one leading to some cliffs.
That’s all I got on Ceningan.
I didn’t go to Nusa Penida, except on a half day boat trip (see below).
The South West Coast of Penida is famous as a place for divers to spot Manta Rays and Mola mola. Snorkellers can have a try, too, but you should set yourself realistic expectations – these beasties prefer the deeper waters. It is unlikely that you will see them while snorkelling.
Nusa Penida is generally undeveloped for tourism, but there are a few places to stay – for more info, see the ‘tourist booklet text’ I have pasted at the bottom of this page.
If you are planning to stay on Nusa Penida and snorkel from the beach, take note that there was a nasty “mega rip-current” at Crystal Bay when I visited. This was a strong current pulling you out from the beach to the drop-off. It ran along the whole length of the beach (so you couldn’t duck to the side to avoid it). I could barely fin back to the beach against the strong current. I guess it is unwise to swim from this beach unless you have boat-cover.
Currents are strong around Nusa Penida and the coastline is mostly high cliffs. Penida doesn’t seem suited to off-the-beach snorkelling, generally. You will probably have to charter a local boatman to get to the interesting spots.
Dive shops’ marketing departments have named various places off Nusa Penida’s South West coast as ‘manta-this’ ‘manta-that’ and ‘manta-the-other’. The main ones are marked on this map.
All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions
Manta Point (aka Batu Lumbung) in the far South seems to have the best strike-rate for finding Mantas at diver-depths.
For snorkellers, daytrip boats go to the shallower ‘Manta Bay’ (P9a) and folks have also reported sightings while snorkelling at ‘Secret Manta’.
No doubt the mantas move about from site to site and it is best to check local knowledge to find out where they are hanging out this week.
There are a gazillion 6-seater outrigger boats available for private-hire at all the touristy spots in Nusa Lembongan, (also in Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Penida). Boat captains will approach you. I think the going rate is about 200 000 IDR per hour.
For a cheaper alternative, there are a few boat captains offering set-route, half day snorkel trips on 30 seater boats for 150 000 IDR (price correct @2016), with tickets sold at all the travel agencies & resorts around town. I tried one of these.
It seems like the various operators are all pretty similar – about 4 hours to snorkel at four places around the islands. Mask, snorkel and fins are provided, but no food or water. Boats have canopies to provide shade from the sun, but also space to sit-out if you want to. It seems like the alternative operators are all named after the captain – Captain Sammy, Captain Steve, Captain Bob, etc.
It seemed that the captain on my trip couldn’t be arsed to come up with a name (he was “Captain blank”) and he was a similarly lax on some other points, too. The trip wasn’t horrendous, but we were promised 4 stops over four hours and only got 3 stops and 3 hours. At a couple of places, he anchored-up and expected us to swim back to the boat against strong currents when it would have been easy enough for him to motor over and collect us from the water. Other than that, the service was fine. I don’t know whether the other operators are any better. Here’s a run down of the trip and snorkel spots:
After a back-of-the-motorbike pickup from the ticket agency, we departed from the captain’s place on the North West side of Nusa Lembongan. On an unusually clear day, the volcanoes of Bali were visible on the horizon:
We motored down the West side of Nusa Lembongan and out to Manta Bay at Nusa Penida, (9a on the map).
Of course, Manta Bay is the ‘maybe we will see Manta’ section of the trip, but, realistically, the chances are probably less than 20 per cent, as Mantas generally prefer deeper waters. All (?/most) of the daytrip boats come to this spot, as it is relatively shallow and if there are Mantas here, at least the snorkellers will be able to see far enough to witness them.
There were no Mantas on the day that I visited (and apparently there hadn’t been any for the previous 8 days).
The seabed is a barren moonscape, 8 metres deep, so without Mantas, there isn’t much appeal. There were a few nervous Red-Toothed Triggerfish about:
… a species that I didn’t see anywhere else in my time on the islands.
Here, there is a wide expanse of nice table corals covering a flat reef top, at a depth of 2 metres. These are probably the best corals that the average, ‘casual’ snorkeller will see in Nusa ‘Lembongan’:
The coral was all on a flat-bed of substrate. Personally, I preferred areas L1c and L3 and the more 3D character of the bommies and pinnacles there; but I’m just being picky – it is nice here.
The current was very strong at Crystal Bay and this was another spot (like L1g on North Lembongan) where the direction of flow was like a mega-rip current – running out in a wide strip from the beach towards the drop-off. It was very hard to fin against the current to get back to the boat/beach. It would have been nice if Captain Blank could have started up his engine and came over to pick up those people struggling against the current, but he was too busy smoking a cigarette and chatting with his buddies.
I have read that there is a nice drop-off at Crystal Bay. It must be a long way out from the beach. I would be cautious about trying to swim there unless you have an attentive boat driver with you, given the currents.
Next, we motored North East up the channel between Nusa Penida and Nusa Ceningan; then made our last stop at Mangrove Point on the North East corner of Nusa Lembongan (already covered as Areas L1b and L1c, at the start of this page).
But drifting with the current was too much like hard-work for our captain. Instead, he tied up to a mooring buoy and directed everyone into the shallow waters at L1b where there is no current (and worse coral):
That was it for the trip, there was no fourth stop. We motored back to where we had started in North West Lembongan and said our farewells.
– – – –
That’s about it for the islands. Here are some maps I found showing surface features, guesthouses and dive sites (all from around 2014):
1 – Decent all-round map of surface features on Lembongan and Ceningan
2 – North West Corner of (1) in higher resolution
3 – (South) West Corner of (1) in higher resolution
4 – Another map of Lembongan and Ceningan, in less detail
5 – Lembongan and Ceningan including temples and 58 hotels/resorts
6 – Quite detailed map of Nusa Penida surface features and dive sites
7 – Less detailed map of Nusa Penida
8 – One boat captains list of snorkelling and sea-fishing sites around Nusa Penida
(Note that these maps will open to fit the maximum height of your browser window – if you want to zoom in further, click on the centre of the map).
Tezza gives an account of topside stuff.
Below, I have pasted below some useful island-info that I found in a little tourist-booklet. It seems that the booklet was a free giveaway for visitors and was updated a couple of times a year; but it ground to a halt in 2014. The text is a bit “tourist-brochure” in tone, but it contains some useful information. It is their content, not mine.
Originally written October 2016 Last updated March 2017
Getting There and Back Again
Most departures are from Sanur Beach although Kusamba and Padang Bai are alternative departure points. To leave from Sanur head to the intersection of KFC and Dunkin Donuts on the Main Sanur street, and head down to the beach. The ticket offices are all located to the right.
If you have a bike, you can park in the grounds of the Inna Grand Bali Beach Hotel for a small fee for a day or two. There is a lane next to the parking that leads directly to the ticket offices.
Unless you are freelance, the hotel will arrange pickups to and from the airport and other areas in Bali and from the boat departure and arrival points. Make sure you are casually dressed as transport is basic and your pick up from the boats is a simple pickup truck with bench seats and awning. Don’t expect Silver Service.
GETTING TO NUSA LEMBONGAN
– Fast: if you want comfort and speed, goto Sanur beach and look for boats such as CB Fast Boat Sugriwa, Marlin, Tanis, Rocky or Scoot, The journey takes around 30-40 minutes. This is an adventure in itself, a rite of passage, smashing through the waves. The roar of three or four outboards (ed: conjure) up vision of the apocalypse horsemen.
There are many departure times so check our INFO section. Make sure you make a booking. Be warned that it’s a wet feet process so wear sandals and shorts and wrap cameras and special gear in plastic as mishaps happen, especially if there’s a small surge whilst clambering aboard. The boats are professionally run and the staff are quite protective of visitors.
Sedate: At a more sedate pace is the local juking boat. The trip takes 90 minutes and tickets can be bought at Sanur Beach. Ironically, return tickets can be bought on Lembongan at the speedboat association office.
The straits between Nusa Islands and the south part of Bali run deep. Swells build up making any journey wet and hard going on occasions.
GETTING TO NUSA CENINGAN
Nusa Ceningan is accessed by boat to Nusa Lembongan, traversing the island and then crossing the suspension bridge.
Alternatively a new service, the Ekajaya fast Boat takes you to the western end of the island from Sarangan, Benoa Harbour
GETTING TO NUSA PENIDA
There are several ways to access Nusa Penida. You can go direct from Sanur or Padangbai by fast boat, or you can do a stop-over at Nusa Lembongan and catch a local boat. There is also a slow boat, the ‘Celebrity” (sic) which takes you to Sampalan Beach from Kusamba.
– From Nusa Lembongan to Nusa Penida.
If you are already on Nusa Lembongan, head down to the suspension bridge that goes to Nusa Ceningan. Here you have two choices. You can clamber aboard a local boat (known as a jukung). Or you can hire a whole boat and go at convenience.
Both are cheap and extremely pleasant if not crowded. The journey to Toyopakeh is delightful as you travel in traditional juking past the fishermen and farmers and some wonderful early morning scenery. The trip is one of the best value on the island.
The jukungs depart daily close to the suspension bridge between Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan at 6 am. These usually take you to Toyapakeh.
There are direct boats from Sanur to Nusa Penida, but most people prefer to head to Nusa Lembongan, settle in overnight and then go down to the suspension bridge at dawn. If you have a bike, park it nearby and don’t worry. It’s a small island.
– Direct to Nusa Penida from Sanur
The fast boats are easily accessed from Sanur beach (Take the street from KFC) to Sanur beach and look for Caspla or Maruti, and Semaya One, which take you to Buyuk, a pretty beach about one kilometer from Sampalan. A new service, the Mola-Mola express has also just started operations between Sanur and Sampalan.
– Padangbai Ferry to Nusa Penida
Padangbai is located about one hour from Denpasar and is the departure point for vehicle ferries to Lombok and Nusa Penida. The ferry will drop you at Sampalan.
Returning is simple with one exception. lf you went over to Nusa Penida on a local jukung from the suspension bridge, there is no guarantee that there is one returning. However, on Nusa Penida there is no end to private boat hire and you will be returned in style. And of course to get back to Bali, just check your local fast boat timetable.
Like a looming giant, visible from the shores of Sanur Beach, many mistakenly believe the large island to the east to be Nusa Lembongan. In fact there are three islands. The largest, by far is Nusa Penida to the rear and facing Lombok. The closest one to Bali is Nusa Lembongan and considerably smaller. And nestled in the estuarine channel between the two, is Nusa Ceningan, a small sea weed farming island connected to Nusa Lembongan by a suspension bridge and traversed by foot or motorbike.
Your boat from Sanur will drop you either at Jungut Batu Beach or Mushroom Bay. As you approach Jungut Batu, you will see to the south, a number of villas and hotels cascading down the bukit (hill) to Song Lambung Beach and Tamarind Beach, fronted by a boardwalk.
Behind the main beach. you can take the road to the north until it shrinks into a narrow spit of land bordering the Mangrove Forest lined by numerous warungs and boating businesses.
The road to the south of Jungut Batu takes you up over the hill where you can turn left to the far side of the island and reach the suspension bridge to Nusa Ceningan, or turn right, absorbing the wonderful views of Panorama Point before descending into Mushroom Bay, or the southern beaches of Sandy Bay: Sunset Beach and Dream Beach. Mushroom Bay is the alternative drop off point for fast boats, especially for day trippers, and is an attractive sheltered bay.
The main population centre is Lembongan Village in the interior to the south behind Jungut Batu Beach
This small island has a number of accommodation centres to the right of the bridge on the cliffs facing Bali. Further to the rear is Secret Beach facing Nusa Penida’s Crystal Bay.
lf you approach Nusa Penida direct from Sanur or Nusa Lembongan, you will most likely be dropped at Toyapakeh, a sleepy village facing Bali. From Toyopakeh, the road fans out along the coast to all the main population centres of Ped and Sampalan before swinging south east and getting progressively more remote as it circumnavigates the island.
The fast boats from Sanur will drop you at Sampalan Beach or nearby at, Buyuk, just one kilometer to the south, From here you can explore the lovely drive along the north and east. Sampalan also is the drop-off point if you are coming from Padang Bai.
If you choose to turn south from Toyopakeh, the road climbs up a hill towards Sakti and then heads to the right to Crystal Bay and Gamut beach, or continues up to Bukit Mundi, the islands highest point and on towards Batumadeg before reaching Penida’s fabled limestone escarpments.
You can explore the area and then continue on around the island.
You will get a little confused by names. Here are some hints:
– Song Lambung Beach is the local name for the small beach on the cliff side facing Jungut Beach. Visitors call it Coconut Beach.
-Tamarind Beach is often refers to the large beach before swinging around the point from Jungat Batu to Mushroom Beach. Locals refer to the eastern part as Celagaimpak Beach and the western end as Tamarind Beach.
– Mushroom Beach is referred to by locals as Tanjung Sang Yang Beach.
-The large flat promontory next to Mushroom beach (with Sendok villas nearby) is Sunset Point, or Sunset Cliffs.
-Part of Sunset Beach is referred to as Sandy Bay
-The large flat promontory separating Sunset Beach and Dream Beach is known as Devils Tear.
-The Eastern Point of Nusa Ceningan is Ceningan Point (ed: err, actually that’s the Western point). It is made up of Dream Point, Secret Point, and Mahana Point.
-Further to the south is Blue Lagoon, a lagoon with rocky cliff face containing Swallow house, (a cave erosin).
-Further east is Secret Beach (different to Secret Point) facing Nusa Penida and Crystal Bay
-Cliff jumping from the cliffs into the waters near Blue Lagoon is closed, But jumping is available at Mahana Point.
Exploring Nusa Penida – Waterfalls and Cliffs
There are several options for exploring Nusa Penida. One is the journey along the coast road between Toyopakeh and Sampalan, continuing onto the Temple cave. Another is to explore around Sakti and Crystal Bay. But here we describe the most difficult and exciting of the three, the exploration of the stunning Nusa Penida Cliffs and offshore formations:
If you are exploring by bike, chances are your guide book will refer to waterfalls. Bearing in mind this is a limestone island, rivers are therefore are nonexistent. So any ‘waterfall’ comes from the water collection that gushes out of the various cliff faces, particularly near the base on the shoreline. You may come across them as you explore the wonderful scenery of the south west coast.
Head south from Toyopakeh towards Bukit Mundi. and there you will see the island’s wind generators. You also get good views to Lombok and Bali. From Bukit Mundi,the road drops to Batumadeg. If you believe your travel guide book, you will be lead to understand there is an ‘impressive’ Subuluh waterfall. And if you ask the locals you will be directed to at least three locations. This is very confusing so, as a service, we risked life and limb to clarify this for you.
Sebuluh is a region. Near Batumadek, on the coast is the Seganing waterfall. This lies at the bottom of a hazardous heart thumping one hour climb down the cliff face with only saplings inserted into the cliff between you and certain death. When you get there, you find, yes, a small waterfall, and of course, a temple, where you can give thanks that you survived the trip down.
Perched high on the neighboring escarpment is another small temple, ”Pura Car”. It is well worth the journey, not only to look back in amazement that you survived the climb to Seganing, but also because of the spectacular coastal views.
At the base of Seganing are two pools to swim in. Local people discriminate between male and female bathing , and bathe in different pools so if they are present please respect their custom. This especially applies if you bathe in the sacred waters of Temeling Pools. Seganing, also known as ‘Banah’ by the locals, is sometimes referred to as ‘Old manta point’ by divers. There is a small beach nearby.
The second waterfall is further south. This is Peguyangan, and is more easily located by a large pumping station at the top and a set of blue steel stairs in varying conditions that take you down to a lovely fall and some pools. It is well worth the trip and gives excellent photo shots.
From Butamadeg, you can take the branch to the south to Butukandik. The tradition and the mythology of this area is remarkable. There is a temple with ”male’ and ‘female’ shrines, This temple also houses a prehistoric stone alter, testament to the antiquity of the islands. The altar has a (heavily eroded) woman supporting a stone throne on her head, two roosters standing on her shoulders. Nearby is the Holy Forest of Sahab.
The this is the third ‘waterfall’ and known as Temeling Natural Pools. One pool is for men and another is for woman, and again, a quaint little Balinese temple overseas the two pools.
Continuing on the road southwest from Batumadeg, you take the branch south east. Continue along the scenic drive, turning off to Bungkil leading to Manta Point where you may see lazy manta floating on the water. These majestic beasts can be difficult to spot but well worth the wait. There are multiple bays below and the area is frequented by divers keen to enjoy the mantas silhouetted against the clean sandy bottom. All along the coastline you can stand on spectacular (unfenced) promontories, in an exhilarating drop to the pounding surf below. Off shore karst rock formations and pinnacles eroded by the sea shoot skyward from the turquoise waters.
Returning to the ‘main road’, you can choose to return to your home base or continue on to Tanglad, the weaving centre of Nusa Penida.
Where to stay ?
Whereas Bali now takes its place alongside the great holiday resort centres of the world, with its bustling tourist throngs of the Kuta-Seminyak western beach belt, and high end enclaves of the Bukit, those yearning for the relaxed pace of small island lifestyle will find everything they want on the three Nusa Islands. Here is to be found the much cherished ambiance that only small island lifestyle can offer. With a fast 30 minute travel from mainland Bali and a full range of accommodation on offer, from luxury to basic, complete with all the cultural trappings of the original Bali and a unique blend of local influence capped off with unrivaled reef and water attractions, these islands are one of Bali’s best secret draw cards.
Choosing your digs:
Basically there are home stay/backpacker style accommodations for the budget traveler and surfer, dive resorts for the convenience of easy access to the water sports, lumbung and other styled bungalow resorts for moderate and family budgets and a range of hotel, villas and up market resorts scattered along the attractive beaches.
Tips & Tricks:
When you are making your choice here are a few tips.
– Not all the resorts have beach access especially “Cliff-based” resorts. Usually the compensation is spectacular views, reclusive locations and an infinity pool to soak in. If its sand and surf you are after, check first.
– Many of the beaches have seaweed beds so if this troubles you, enquire further.
– Many of the resorts are eco conscious. But most are not. If this is important, and we hope it is, then ask a few discrete questions about plastic use and waste disposal, towel changing and water conservation.
Unlike mainland Bali, you are unlikely to be troubled by endless beat music from the club next door or the perennial constructions that will mar your tranquility. So you need not work about noise.
As a rule of thumb, Jungut Batu still retains the surfing feel of yesteryear with abundant homestays, losmans and lower end hotels. Linda’s Bungalow is worth considering for the wallet conscious. And Secret Garden bungalows are worth thinking about also as the Aquatic Alliance, Yoga Shack and Big Fish Diving are all in the vicinity.
Jungut Batu is not only the haven for backpackers and surfers but to the north are a number of higher end villas and resorts including the luxury boutique hotel of Indiana Kenanga.
But many older surfers, now returnlng with families may choose a treat for the kids in the bungalow accommodation fashioned in the lumbung style (see article below), such as Sukanusa bungalows or Blue Corner Cottage.
Further to the east is Mushroom bay, the drop off point for many of the day trippers and offering such wonderful places as the Bali Hai Resort, a great spot for kids with its traditional lumbung huts. The bay has a cozy white sand beach and is most peaceful when the visitors drop off towards late afternoon. To the south past the spectacular crashes and blows of the surf on Sunset Cliffs and Devils Tear are the delightful beaches of Sandy Bay/ Sunset Beach and Dream Beach with a range of boutique accommodations. Stylish Komodo Garden and Nusa Lembongan Villas at Sandy Bay are well worth considering especially for a wedding venue. Or if you are after views, Sedok Jineng Villa set on a Sunset Cliffs maybe more to your taste. Further to the south at Dream Beach are the Dream Beach Bungalows with wonderful views of Ceningan Point, southern Bali, a beautiful sandy beach and a large grassy promontory nearby known as Devil’s Tear where you can watch the surf thundering against the cliffs.
Cross over the suspension bridge above the estuarine channel between Nusa Ceningan and Lembongan and swing to the right and you will eventually find a range of bungalow centres nestled strategically to get some of the best Bali sunsets. Only few have sandy beaches. Check out the Secret Point Huts at Ceningan Point close to the Secret Point surf break. Alternatively, for cliffside views, Twilight Huts Ceningan at Dream Point, or the Palms Resort may be more to your taste And while you are there, don’t forget a look at Secret Beach with Its eco friendly Travelly Resort, or try your hand at the cliff jumps at Mahana Polnt
Nusa Penida offers limited accommodation, but the best and most comfortable is probably is Ring Sameton at Ped with Octopus Diving nearby.
If you are just exploring for the day then, you may prefer to return to Nusa Lembongan in the evening. Alternatively, there are basic homestay at Toyapakeh but check that they don’t heat up in the late afternoon sun. There is nothing outside of the northern strip and you are limited to camping or leaning on the good will of the locals
This list might be helpful on Nusa Penida.
SAMPALAN: Bungalow Penda, the government rest house is in the east part of town, a ten minute walk from the Pasar Sampalan.
Made’s home stay has four rooms and is cleaner and friendlier or you may choose Nusa Garden Bungalows.
Mutiara Bungalows and various beach font homestays has been around for a while.
Penida Dive Resort is run by the only dive shop on the island, and provides basic accommodation with 8-10 rooms. cold water and basic amenities.
For something a little different and charming you may care to explore the surrounds of crystal bay and stay at Namaste located a short distance away.
For those using PED as a base, particularly as a center to explore the excellent diving and snorkeling and diving and visit the great temple of Jed you can stay at the Ring Sameton Inn.
Friends of National park. As an alternative, think about lending a helping hand and stay at the Friends of the National Park. The FNPF offers simple accommodation for volunteers.
July – Sept 2014
nusaparadise.net (defunkt @ 2016)
e: firstname.lastname@example.org (defunkt @ 2016)