Even many regular Bali-lovers haven’t heard of Nusa Lembongan, but this tiny island off Bali had been recommended by some friends as a great destination with children so we booked ourselves in before Christmas. We were looking for relaxation, easy and slow pace of life, good food and time to read – and we got just that.
We booked 5 nights in a 3-bed house via AirBnB, which worked great for us. The transfers from Denpasar airport were arranged by our host, Carla, so the journey was all pretty smooth. After landing we stopped to pay for our fare (you can use dollars) and were then taken to the boat. The fast boat (Rocky fast boats) is big and we had seats indoors. The ride was a bit rough, please sit at the back for less effect if you are sensitive like I am! It was fun to leave our shoes in a box and step into the water to get on and off the boat.
I recommend wearing shorts for the travel bit if you don’t want your long skirt or loose trousers to smell of and feel like sea water for the rest of your stay in. Sea water (desalinated) is pretty much what you get on the island, so if you are planning to wash clothes, you will probably have to go to a launderette. I didn’t bother but it’s good to know, especially with small children.
Our house had a sheltered roof top where had our breakfast – banana pancakes and fresh fruits, made by Wayan and Made. These two young men worked at the villa and helped us with pretty much everything, they were absolute stars. The terrace was a good place to read and play on a rainy afternoon and it had a great view of the private pool below and the mountains of Bali. I loved that we were located on a hill, I felt like I could breathe in all the air I wanted, and it felt peaceful everyday to look out towards Bali, the sea, the mountains partly hidden behind storm clouds.
We had no idea on the whereabouts of the house before we got there, but it turned out to be all good! Our transport of choice around the island was a golf buggy. It is the most expensive way to get around – you can hire bikes too and enjoy free rides from various resorts – but we found we were more independent this way. Plan to have enough cash with you for the length of your stay, as there is only one cash machine on the island and it doesn’t get replenished every day. We did see another one being built so hopefully soon there will be two! We got to know our way around pretty quickly (read: we got quite lost the first time and learnt from that) and ended up hanging around on three beaches: Dream Beach, Sunset Beach and Mushroom Beach.
To be fair, everything is pretty close, it is not a big island. The sea was super rough and there was no way we would swim, let alone let little people venture out. So we organised ourselves around finding places for the kids to swim and play in pools, and where we could enjoy local food and coffee. We would then return home for a snooze/read in the afternoon and come back out for more yummy food, walks on the beach and sunsets spots. There are many snorkeling and diving opportunities which we didn’t explore this time. But if you want to, there are many operators that will take you to swim with the majestic Manta rays.
Our top spot for dinner and spectacular sunset but equally a tranquil place to lunch was Sandy Bay. The food is delicious and they have the cocktails to go with the view. We also loved the beef rendang and the romantic setting of Hai bar & grill on Mushroom Beach.
We went to see the impressive and loud crashes of waves at Devil’s Tear. Word of advice, wait for the trucks of tourists to depart and you can admire the uncluttered view, take in all the noise and feel – and get some cool shots in between waves. Cafe Pandan, nearby, had a pool for the kids to splash about, a great view on the ocean and some delicious local coffee.
We enjoyed The Deck, overlooking the beach where you first arrive by boat. We were lucky to have a full moon shining over, and lighting up all the boats nearby. They only serve pizza, fish and chips and snack food, so it makes a great spot for sundowners, sharing some nibbles before a meal. We did a little exploring of the mangroves – you can easily hire a guide and their little boat. We loved waiting for the rain to stop at Tiger Lillys café, the food is delicious. You will find many options there for the healthiest breakfasts and brunches before or after your yoga.
Although there is still a long way to go, we noticed a real effort on the island to recycle and reduce plastic and waste in general.We applaud the initiative of Bali Eco Deli that is leading schemes to clean up the island. It has its own organic garden, watering system and everything is fresh. Also it has a big sign that says “no to palm oil” – that made me happy. Do go and have a delicious coffee or more, to support them and their cause.
Other possible activities are walk around the sea front, learn some Balinese cuisine, get massages, and do some yoga. Everything is there for you to relax and let go of your worries. The gardens and wooden doors are a delight to the senses. There’s a fair bit of construction going on for new resorts, and on our way to the mangroves we were taken aback by the poverty that is not really in your face when you first arrive and the state of the beaches not cleaned up for the tourists. To go into the mangroves, you will pay a small token that goes back into the community.
We loved the slow pace of island life, the tranquil feel of the place and its vibrancy. I would return happily, very happily.