Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Penida are three small islands just off Bali. These islands are well known for their incredible viewing spots of unreal landscapes. They’re the sort of places that just spark a sense of adventure and exploration. We decided to base ourselves on Nusa lembongan for four nights and explore all three islands with that as our base. I definitely think this was a good decision and would highly recommend the same set up for anyone planning a trip to the Nusa islands. Nusa Lembongan is really easy to get around on a scooter or via taxi if you’d prefer to give the bikes a skip. There are plenty of lovely warungs and restaurants in close proximity and you’re also able to directly explore Nusa Ceningan from here as the two islands are linked by a cute yellow bridge.
Nusa Penida is much more spread out and it takes a long time to get anywhere. The roads are also shocking with potholes worse than the Transkei, making scooter transport very tricky. You’d much rather be traveling this island in a car with a driver. For this reason Nusa Penida is much for conducive to a day trip where you hire a driver for the day to get you to all the sites you want to see. Enough of the practicalities, here’s what we did:
To get from Bali to Nusa Lembongan you’ll need to catch a 30 minute ferry. We went with Gili Getaway and once again I cannot recommend them enough. We arrived around midday and were greeted by a lovely, smiling and kind man, Wayun, at our accommodation Pantai Bungalow. Pantai Bungalow was located on Jalan Jungut Batu Beach which has so many lovely restaurants and displays the most incredible sunsets. We loved our accommodation and Wayan and his family were so incredibly helpful in helping us rent scooters, organise snorkeling trips and a day trip to Nusa Penida.
We unpacked, had a dip in the lovely pool and grabbed some lunch before renting scooters to get to Mushroom beach. We spent the afternoon swimming, suntanning, reading and did a spot of snorkeling. The vis wasn’t great at all but I did spot a snowflake moray which was pretty cool. A lovely relaxing first day on Nusa Lembongan.
The next day we scootered from place to place exploring Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan. The distances were short and the roads were very easy to drive. We managed to do way more than we’d anticipated in our first day. Our first stop was Dream Beach on Nusa Lembongan. The water was a lovely mottled collection of blues with big crashing waves. There wasn’t much chance of a swim but we spent some wonderful hours just relaxing on the beach and playing card games.
Next we went on the Devil’s Tears. This is a point with very rough seas and powerful waves. The waves rush under the rocks and pressure forces huge spurts of water to spray out of the rocks like blow holes.
It was quite magnificent but also quite scary. The ocean is incredibly powerful and unpredictable. Every now and then there would be a freak wave that crashed much closer than the others. I was half expecting someone to get swept out to sea but thankfully nobody did.
We watched for a while before deciding to head on over to lunch. We found a peaceful garden restaurant with yummy Indonesian food.
We then scootered on over to Nusa Ceningan. Arriving at the yellow bridge linking the two islands, we took some pictures and admired the brilliant blue water passing under the bridge. We drove along the bridge and on to Nusa Ceningan. Our first stop here was the Blue Lagoon.
We drove a short distance past some relaxed beaches bars and into the coconut palms. We arrived at what looked like an abandoned car park and followed the route Maps.me (best app EVER btw. So perfect for traveling without a sim card. It allows you to download maps within wifi and then use them without any data or internet connection later) had laid out for us. Taking some dusty steps, we approached a ridge and as we walked closer the most electric ice blue lagoon came into view.
It honestly took my breath away. A little bay filled with the surges of water from the powerful ocean. We walked along a side path around to another viewing sot and had the most stunning view of limestone cliffs hugging the sea coloured in a million different hues of blue.
The Blue Lagoon has definitely been my favourite unexpected surprise. I wasn’t anticipating much but was left in complete awe and wonder at the sight of it.
We then tried to find a secret beach but apparently it was meant to stay a secret to us. We then continued on to the strip of beach bars painted like the rainbow with all sorts of colourful umbrellas and beanbags. We found a good happy hour cocktail special and plonked ourselves at The Island for a few hours to swim, read, tan and relax to some Jack Johnson tunes.
We watched another beautiful sunset before going to Next Level Cafe for dinner. It was a jampacked day but we all felt so free and able to go wherever our hearts desired. A put first day exploring the Nusa islands.
The next day we had organised a local guy, Made, to take us out on his boat to snorkel with Manta Rays. This is one of those ‘must-do’ things while in this area as the Mantas are very prolific and tend to hang out in the same area: Manta Bay. I had my heart set on seeing some of these majestic creatures but at the same time was a little bit nervous about how I’d feel about a 5m wide manta flapping towards me. Our trip started well on Made’s little wooden boat, balanced on both sides with these protruding insect-like legs. We rounded the first corner and the waves got a little bigger as we plastered on our brave faces. Next the spray from the waves grew progressively worse until we couldn’t really see anything. When I did manage to wipe the water out of my eyes I got glances of massive swells on either side of our little boat. I’ve never felt so small and powerless in my life! We battled on through this scary sea for a while before arriving at Manta Bay. We were all as white as sheets and trying to figure out if this was normal and if the rest of the trip was going to be this scary. The swell was huge at Manta Bay and the steep cliff faces were very close. None of us felt confident jumping in that water. Made told us that because of the waves the Mantas were not surfacing. We moved swiftly on to the calmer waters of Crystal Bay. It was a very scary experience and we were all quite shaken. I was disappointed it hadn’t worked out with the Mantas but grateful to be on calmer waters.
We jumped in at Crystal Bay (just off Nusa Penida) and were treated to the most incredible visibility, beautiful array of tropical fish and such vibrant and colourful corals. We dived down and swam with the fishies. I felt absolutely in my element and so very happy!
We swam and snorkeled there for a lovely long time seeing unicorn fish, Moorish Idols, a yellow trumpet fish, a snowflake moray, so many different types of angel and butterfly fish, surgeon fish, sweet lips, triggerfish, rainbow coloured parrot fish and loads of bright blue damsel fish.
We felt much calmer having spent some time in the ocean and really really enjoyed ourselves despite the rocky start. Amy and I loved freediving down to see the creatures hiding beneath the corals and rocks. Such a treat!
We hopped back in the boat and continued on to Gamat Bay. This bay had the most prolific and vibrant corals. With all the negativity in the media about climate change and coral bleaching it was so heart warming to see such a lively and flourishing reef.
Here we saw a beautiful black spotted boxfish (purple with white dots all over) among plenty of other tropical fish.
We then carried on to Mangrove Point off Nusa Lembongan. Here we did a current drift dive. We jumped in the water and let the current carry us over the beautiful corals and fish. Our boat driver, Made, followed us as we drifted and picked us up at the end. We all really loved this and saw plenty of lovely underwater creatures. My highlight was seeing a few Clark’s anemone fish.
That concluded our snorkeling trip around Nusa Penida. It wasn’t what I’d anticipated without seeing the Manta Rays but I thoroughly enjoyed it anyway.
For our final full day we decided to do a day trip to Nusa Penida. Made took us on his boat across to Penida where we were met by Agus who would be our driver for the day. We wound around sharp bends along potholed roads, through banana, coconut and papaya plantations. The landscape on this island is much more rugged and the distances are much larger.
Our first stop was Angel’s Billabong. This is a valley of rock pools just set in from the sea. The ocean water flows over the rocks creating beautiful pools in shades of blue and green.
We then walked up to a point where we could look down at the ocean below. We were treated to a whole lot of majestic Manta Rays gliding past. They were so graceful as they ‘flapped’ their large wings. So we may not have swum with them but we still had a very special moment with them. Next a school of dolphins swam past. We were so not expecting that so that was a lovely surprise!
We walked on to Broken Beach. This is a beautiful archway that has been formed by the ocean crashing through a rocky outcrop. The mottled blues and whites of the water is just incredible!
We then drove on to Kelingking. This is definitely one of the things I’ve been looking forward to most on our trip to Bali. Photographs of the T-Rex shaped mountains flanked by blue ocean have been all over my Instagram for the past few years and I couldn’t wait to see it in real life!
We walked up to the edge and looked down at the breathtaking view below. The mighty T-Rex head taking a bite out of the sea, a mouthful of golden sand and turquoise water. So incredibly awe-inspiring. One of those view that just commands your attention and makes you stop and stare for a while. And we did exactly that, just looking and taking it all in.
Our final stop was Crystal Bay beach. It was very crowded by the time we got there and the sand was very dirty and black. We had a cool snorkel but then were all set to head on back to Nusa Lembongan.
It was an amazing way to end off our time exploring Nusa Lembongan, Ceningan and Penida. We thoroughly enjoyed the adventurous zest of this place and had such a wonderful happy time! It was definitely my favourite place of the trip (we are rounding up our last day of the holiday as I write this) and I would highly recommend anyone visiting Bali go check it out!