Bali is the jewel in Indonesia’s crown, one of the world’s favorite holiday destinations and the island of the gods. The island is a tropical paradise where palm tree’s sway over powdery white beach sand and the water is aquamarine turquoise and crystal clear.
Pick up any glossy travel magazine or read about Bali on most blogs and the writer will hit you with so much hyperbole that your eyes are inclined to start bleeding after the first few paragraphs. But the sad truth is the days when Bali was a pristine paradise with emerald green rice terraces and unspoiled white beaches are fading.
Sadly Bali’s poor infrastructure and conspicuous lack of planning mean the tourist areas are struggling to keep up with the back breaking number of visitors that arrive every year.
The rice paddies have been brought up by European expats and they are now sprouting badly built villas. And the temples are eclipsed by trendy fashion retailers and stores selling luxury art-deco furniture.
This not to say Bali is dead as tourist destination or even that its days on top of the pile are coming to an end. But the island has transformed itself over the last few decades from a peaceful and laid-back retreat into a busy tourist Mecca.
The number of visitors continues to rise by approximately 15% every year and at least 165 planes land and depart from Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport every day.
Bali still has a lot to offer and there are obviously a large amount of tourists that like their dash of Balinese culture served with a Big Mac and fries. But there are also a growing number of tourists that pine for the real tropical paradise that Bali offered up twenty years ago.
Imagine a Bali where the water was aquamarine crystal clear and teeming with marine life. And where palm fronds swayed lightly over powdery white sand in timeless harmony with waves that lapped the shore.
Where majestic skies at sunset were gold, pink, purple and orange as the sun fell into the ocean. And where the locals still had the time to stop and chat and the temples hosted local cock fights when the ceremonies were over.
That Bali does exist and surprisingly it doesn’t even rate a mention on the Bali Tourism website. Nusa Lembongan and her little sister Nusa Ceningan have come of age and they are only a 25 minute boat ride from the coast of Bali.
These Island’s have all of old Bali’s beauty and charisma but they also have a combined population of approximately six thousand so the atmosphere instantly feels more laid back than on the mainland. And what a treat when you step off that boat and you see the water is crystal clear and the sand is clean and white like a tropical island should be.
There are no super nightclubs on Nusa Ceningan or Nusa Lembongan and at night it is quiet enough to hear the waves slapping the shore. But if you’re not into partying until the wee hours of the morning then you will find there is plenty to do on both Islands.
Lembongan Island and Ceningan Island have surf breaks, ancient temples, restaurants and bars. There is snorkeling, fishing, diving and sailing tours around both islands.
The beaches are stunning, the locals are charming and the sunsets are spectacular. Lembongan also has a splendid mangrove forest tour and Ceningan Island has a superb cliff edge walk and zip-line attraction.
The developers on Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan have done a wonderful job of balancing growing tourism with past tradition while maintaining the appeal that once made Bali special. But the reason you need to get there fast is this unique tranquility won’t last long.
There are only a few years left before developers and tourists alike realize just how extraordinary these islands are and they begin flocking to them in their droves.
How do I get to Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan?
Head to Sanur beach in Bali and hire a ride on the fast boat from one of the many touts, approximately 300,000 to 450,000 IDR return depending on your bargaining skills and the quality of the ride. The journey takes roughly 45 min again depending on the boat.
If you are heading over to Ceningan Island you should use a boat that takes you to Mushroom bay. Here you can hire a motorbike for the 10 min ride to channel between Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan the famous yellow suspension bridge that will take you across to Ceningan Island.
Take a right from the bridge and follow the signs then turn left up the concrete road just before you reach Secret Point.
The road up to the high limestone cliffs (and Zip-line) is at times difficult and steep but if you take it slowly the view at the top of the lime stones cliffs is spectacular.
Note if you are staying on Nusa Lembongan or Nusa Ceningan and you don’t ride scooters organize your hotel to pick you up from the beach on arrival.