|NUSA PENIDA, NUSA LEMBONGAN & NUSA CENINGAN
Nusa Penida group of islands consists of three islands; the large Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan. The islands are under the administration of the Klungkung district in Bali. The best way to travel here is by public boat from Sanur to Lembongan. You can also sail from Padangbai directly to Nusa Penida, which will bring you to Sampalan on the north coast. There are also regular cruise boats leaving from Benoa Harbour.
Nusa Penida is an island located 28 km east of Benoa/Sanur, adjoining the smaller sister islands Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan. In the Indian Ocean on the far side of Nusa Penida lies the Wallace Line, a trench 1.3 km deep that separates Western Indonesia from the different flora, fauna and wildlife of Australasia. At the island of Nusa Penida the ocean currents coming North cause strong up-swellings of cold water, bringing with it large fish such as sharks, mantas, trevally and especially a rather rare animal to see, the Oceanic Sunfish, or Mola Mola.
Map of Nusa Penida
Nusa Penida is a relatively poor district, the lack of fresh water makes the growing of rice impossible, and the layer of soil is quite thin. The southern tip of the largest island is dominated by high cliffs with a flat, dry plateau at the top. Originally Nusa Penida was used as a prison for convicts by the Gelgel dynasty
Like Bali most of the population are Hindus, but the culture is quite different with local variations of dance and music, architecture and crafts. The language is an old form of Balinese not used anywhere else. According to a legend Nusa Penida is home to a mythical and infamous figure, Jero Gede Macaling, who frequently sends his invisible helpers to the southeast part of Bali to spread drought, famine, rats and pestilence.
Macaling is only spoken of with a low voice, and then often mentioned with the honorable title Beliau. In return for certain rituals Macaling is believed to protect the people. Pura Dalem Penataran Ped is one of the few temples dedicated to this figure.
Nusa Penida has old fashioned villages with their own version of weaving, dance and building. The population speak an older version of Balinese that is not spoken on the mainland. Centuries ago Nusa Penida was a penal colony.
Nusa Penida, has few tourist facilities, but you will find simple accommodation there. The two most important villages are Sampalan and Toyapakeh. From Toyapakeh there is a boat leaving to and from Nusa Lembongan. You can travel around the island with a bemo or a motorbike, but the roads are quite rough. The scenery can be very interesting, in the highland you will have a beautiful view of Bali.
Nusa Penida covers a wide area of diving locations such as Penida Bay, Batu Lumbung (Manta Point), Batu Meling, Batu Abah, Toyapakeh and Malibu Point. The flow through the Lombok Strait is, overall, south-tending, although the strength and direction of the tidal streams are influenced by the monsoon seasons.
Crystal Bay, situated in the Penida Strait running between Nusa Penida and Nusa Ceningan, is one of the few places in the world where the awesome mola mola can be sighted. One can be reasonably sure of a sighting during the season if two or three days of diving are allowed. And for sure, diving with the Sunfish is an experience that you will never forget. The mola mola can reach a length of 3 metres and a weight of over 2,000 kg. They are usually found in deep and cold oceanic waters but occasionally they come inshore, in Bali between July and September.
Nusa Penida Dive Locations
Nusa Lembongan, a small island between Bali and Nusa Penida in the Badung Strait, is the perfect holiday hideaway with few visitors and pristine un-spoilt beaches. A low, protected island about 11 km southeast of mainland Bali, measuring only four by three km and ringed with mangrove swamps, and palms and white sandy beaches. Inland the terrain is scrubby and very dry, with volcanic stonewalls and processional avenues crisscrossing the small cactus-covered hills. Overlooking Sanghiang Bay with its clear blue waters, the Nusa Lembongan Resort offers a panoramic view of eastern Bali and the majestic silhouette of Mount Agung. Known for its great surf, the excellent crystal-clear waters also make it a perfect place for snorkeling and diving. It's still a basic place, but interesting, and there are some lovely places to stay.
The island is small enough to explore on foot, offering pristine beaches and coves, majestic views of Mount Agung, unique Balinese architecture, and the friendliness of a simple country folk. With a lack of arable land and a severe shortage of tourist attractions, the island's economy is limited to its underwater wealth-seaweed. A secondary occupation is catering to visiting surfers. Between Nusa Lembongan and the adjacent of Nusa Ceningan Island, the population is only 60,000.
There are just two villages on Nusa Lembongan, the large, spread out administrative center of Lembongan Village, and Jungut Batu village. Surfers and backpackers hang out in the latter, about 150 per month, for an average stay of three to five days. The only other visitors are European, Japanese, and Australian day-trippers on excursion boats. Jungut Batu offers the island's best accommodations and water sport opportunities. There's motorcycle traffic between the two villages and it's easy to get a lift. Both villages are heavily involved in the cultivation of seaweed. Before government-supported commercial seafood production in 1980, the people of the island lived on maize, cassava, tuber, beans, and peanuts. Today most everyone is involved in one way or another with cultivation of "sea vegetables," and the air is permeated with its smell.
Visit the seaweed gardens at low tide; they look like gigantic underwater botanical gardens. Two kinds are grown, the small red pinusan and the large green kotoni. Almost the entire crop is exported to Hong Kong for use in the cosmetics and food processing industries. After harvesting, gatherers leave a floating offering of rice and flowers that gently drifts away on the outgoing tide.
Life on Nusa Lembongan is very relaxing, with cool breezes, little traffic, no big hotels, no pollution, no stress, no photocopy machines, and hardly any telephones. Best of all, there are almost no pedagang acung (pushy vendors) and few thieves. Jungut Batu's charming "tree house" bungalow-style accommodations with outdoors open-air 'mandi', rickety wooden furniture, sand floor restaurants and offices are reminiscent of Kuta Beach 20 years ago. Crops are meager, and the only fruit available is melon. All other food must be imported from the market in Denpasar or from the neighboring island of Nusa Penida.
Most of the visitors stay on the northwest coast of the island, which is a good place for surfing, swimming and diving.
Map of Nusa Lembongan & Nusa Ceningan
From Lembongan Island you can cross a small bridge to the neighboring Nusa Ceningan. While there might not be a great number of octopi under the sea around Ceningan Island, there is an awful lot of garden. Or more specifically, seaweed farms. Seaweed is the mainstay of the population of Ceningan and it can be seen everywhere, spread colorfully on tarpaulins, drying in the sun.
Ceningan is tucked behind the bigger, touristy island of Lembongan on Bali’s east coast. Life here is hot and relaxed. The seaweed farmers get up early to go out to sea, and rest in the heat of the early afternoon. Later, as the day cools, they go out again, and their boats can be seen crowding around their plantations, like a floating marketplace.
Ceningan’s residents have had to fight for this life however. A few years ago the local government proposed to sell the island to resort developers. Only unwavering local opposition stopped the plan, a win for both the community and the environment.
Ceningan is small and at certain times of the year, quite dry. Water supply is becoming an issue. Yet Ceningan is extremely pretty. Exploring the island, from the coral reef on the eastern tip to the cave of nesting swallows on the western, with lots of stops for chats with friendly locals in between, makes for a wonderful day.
Note that all trips to Ceningan require at least one overnight stay due to the ferry schedules. The boat trip takes one hour from Sanur, and is a pleasant and scenic ride with the locals. Don’t wear long trousers, as you’ll have to wade on and off the boat!
Accommodation in Ceningan is a homestay with a local family - Pak and Ibu Sita and the collection of family members, cats and chickens that come and go. You will have your own basic but comfortable room with a single bed, and share the family bathroom. The Sitas’ house overlooks the strait to Lembongan Island.
The Pura Ulun Danu of Nusa Ceningan is dedicated to Dewi Batari Ulun Danu, goddess of the lakes and rivers. This temple is situated on the western part of Nusa Ceningan, one of the three sister islands that are located just off the coast of South-East Bali. This Ulun Danu temple is also known as 'the Temple of the Cave', as it is built on a hill top which covers a holy cave, the Goa Raja or "King's Cave".
Placed on a concrete platform in this temple is a small ship, flanked by the statues of Dewa Baruna, god of the seas, and Dewi Ayu Mas Segara, goddess of the Southern Seas - in Java commonly known as Lörö Kidul.