The Rugged Beauty and Laidback Charm of Nusa Lembongan

I kicked off my flip-flops, waded into the warm Balinese water, and clumsily hoisted myself onto a rickety 20-foot boat.  The motor grumbled as we forged into the deep-blue ocean, the small vessel bobbing up and down on the ocean’s rounded swells.  The journey would take nearly two hours, but despite my slight nausea I could hardly contain my excitement for our next destination – the tranquil island of Nusa Lembongan.

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The secluded and beautiful Dream Beach.

Lembongan is one of three islands clustered just off the southeast corner of mainland Bali, Indonesia.  It might be a stone’s throw from Kuta – Bali’s infamously hedonistic beachside town – but it couldn’t be more different.  The Lonely Planet describes Lembongan as “the Bali many imagine but never find.”  And while I can’t completely agree with their idealized sentiment, it is true that this place is both naturally beautiful and surprisingly chilled-out.

Though it is an increasingly popular stop on the tourist trail, it remains less so than other areas of Bali and its notorious neighbors, the Gili Islands.  This island paradise measures a mere four kilometers long and is called home by only 7,000 people.  Massive waves make it a prime destination for surfers while the abundant marine life (including manta rays) lures a steady stream of divers and snorkelers.  However, it was the island’s rugged beauty and laidback atmosphere that attracted me.  I wanted to see firsthand all the raw beauty that was packed into such a tiny island.  I’d heard rumors of the massive waves that crash thunderously into the island’s sheer cliffs, and I’d seen photos of the tangled limbs that belong to the island’s expansive mangrove forest.  And, of course, Lembongan is supposedly home to some of Indonesia’s most unreal sunsets.  Let’s just say there was no doubt in my mind that this place was going to be off-the-charts gorgeous.

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Wisps of pink and purple decorate the sky during yet another gorgeous Lembongan sunset.
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Giant waves crash into the rugged cliffs that surround most of Nusa Lembongan.
A beautiful vista at every turn.
A beautiful vista at every turn.
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Waves constantly reshape the island’s craggy terrain.

However, I was also looking for a place to just kick back and relax.  From what I’d heard Lembongan is not only mellow but its residents are low key and genuinely friendly.  It’s a lazy place where the majority of the population earns its income from harvesting seaweed.  The industry is made apparent by the bizarre rectangular seaweed crops that sway in the shallow waters along the island’s shores.  It’s not uncommon to see locals strolling along the beach, picking up bunches of seaweed and placing them into hand-woven baskets.  Since tourism is not the main source of income for most islanders, there are shockingly few touts on Lembongan, another discrepancy from Ubud and Kuta, Bali’s main tourist hubs.

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Small patches of seaweed are exposed on the island’s beaches during low tide.
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A birds-eye view of Jungutbatu, the main town on Nusa Lembongan.

With its combination of raw beauty and effortless tranquility, Lembongan sounded like an ideal retreat.  My boyfriend, Aaron, and I planned to stay there for one week.  Our plan was simple:  take lots of walks, motorbike around the island as often as possible, and just take in the beauty.

As our boat motored closer to the island, toward the main town of Jungutbatu, the water transformed from the darkest of blues to a tie-dye of turquoise and yellow-green jade.  To our left, Gunung Agung (Bali’s enormous volcano) created an unreal backdrop to an already alluring island setting.  The scenery was jaw dropping.  We jumped off the boat and were greeted by two men from our hotel.  They handed Aaron the keys to a somewhat tattered motorbike and motioned for us to follow them.  The engine sputtered as I climbed onto the back of the bike.  And off we went – snaking up the windy roads, dodging potholes as best we could.  With the sun beaming on my shoulders and the wind whirling in my hair, I couldn’t help but smile.  This was the perfect introduction to this island paradise.

Stay tuned for more about my week-long adventure on Nusa Lembongan!

USEFUL INFO:

Boat to Nusa Lembongan:  I booked the Perama boat from Sanur to Lembongan for 115,000 rupiah.  However, I don’t recommend taking the Perama boat since it took nearly two hours.  Instead, book a fast boat which takes only 20-30 minutes and costs roughly the same amount.

Money:  There is an ATM on the island but it was out of commission during my visit.  Most restaurants and hotels don’t take credit cards, so bring a sufficient amount of cash!

Transport:  There are no taxis on Lembongan, so getting around can be difficult if you don’t have your own transportation.  If you’re in the mood for a little adventure, rent a motorbike when you arrive on the island.  (However, the roads are very rough in places so I wouldn’t recommend renting a bike if you’re not experienced.)

Are you planning a trip to Nusa Lembongan?  Feel free to ask me any questions about costs, where to stay…or anything for that matter!  I’m a wealth of knowledge!!

About Justine

Justine Lopez is a California native who always seems to take the unconventional route in life. She also suffers from a serious case of wanderlust. In 2013, she set out on a yearlong round-the-world journey and never looked back. Since then she's lived the expat life in both Jakarta and Phnom Penh. She's now living and working as a freelance writer in Beijing. As she meanders her way through Asia she's always seeking out great vegetarian food, budget travel deals and amazing new travel destinations.

11 thoughts on “The Rugged Beauty and Laidback Charm of Nusa Lembongan

  1. Thanks! Lembongan is a definite must if you’re heading to Bali. There are so may amazing bungalows to stay in that are perched right on the cliffs. And the views of the ocean are just unbeatable. When you stay on Lembongan, you’re pretty much living the dream. I could have stayed for a very, very long time 🙂

  2. Amazing pictures – I just stumbled upon your blog by chance, and I first thought, you’ve been to Hawaii. But no, it’s Indonesia. A place that I’ve not explored much. I’ll follow you and your travels to find out more. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

    1. Thanks! Nusa Lembongan is truly one of the most gorgeous little islands I’ve ever been to. Such an amazing coastline. Indonesia is just plain amazing and you should definitely add it to your “countries to travel to” list 🙂 I was there for two months and feel like I barely explored it at all. There is still so much to see and I’ll definitely be returning!

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