Somewhere between Bali & Lombok
I’ve been wasting some time (I don’t really consider it a waste, but the writing process was on pause) to enhance my blog, like creating a logo based on one of my former drawings, “commissioned” by the guesthouse Aurélie and I worked at in Sapporo (I haven’t been paid, fortunately, regarding to the quality of it — I didn’t translate the article yet, but for whoever is interested in seeing the pictures I still linked the article), modified on the application Photoshop Express. I also used that software for the banners (fonts included).
Which means that I should better hurry, I’m in Thailand, I’m still four countries behind. Why do I keep being off topic?
Right after Ubud, Aurélie we start our journeys through the islands between Bali & Lombok: Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan, belonging to Bali ; Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air are some Lombok islands (now you know why the category is called Bali & Lombok while we never set foot on Lombok itself).
To get anywhere, you can buy your ticket directly at an agency, often asking at your accommodation, they’ll point you in the right direction (but mind the scams, compare with some other places).
Otherwise, if you prefer to have everything ready before going to Bali and avoid any hassle, you can book your trip on Bookaway.
Nusa Penida & Nusa Lembongan
First, how to get there?
As we are travelling from Bali, we book at Kusamba, a harbour town where we take a 30-minutes boat.
Within few minutes, here we come on Nusa Penida for four days, which are barely enough if you truly want to enjoy the island. We choose as a starting base somewhere almost in the middle to freely explore by scooter this quite small island. If my first scooter experience was overall pretty positive back in Ubud, I can surely declare that I’ve been from “novice” to “expert” on this island alone. The tracks are in very bad conditions, if there’s a track at all.
Indeed, once we even have to turn around at the Broken Beach, where you can guess that not only the beach is broken… The road is made of big rocks and is full of traffic. As we fear for the life of our scooter, we decide to give up.
However, beaches are absolutely amazing on Penida, but they don’t come without a price: you often have to hike after driving on these chaotic roads to reach the pristine crystal blue and white sand beaches. Yet, it also adds another charm, being lost between cliffs.
The best example is Atuh Beach, which beauty leaves me speechless. As I said, the way down, and up, is not for the faint-hearted though, where the steps looks like a trekking track.
Moreover, to go there, for an unknown reason still to this day, we get lost. We have to park our scooter on a wasteland because the road starts to be too hazardous. We walk under a extreme heat (extreme enough to get blister-like sunburnt), without water. Fortunately, there we see a very local shop in a small dark room aside a house. While we ask for water, the kid of the house is playing with my shorts, so I decide to touch her head as an affectionate sign. Immediately, I remember what Aurélie told me few days earlier: “oh listen what I’m reading: ‘touching a child’s head is considered impolite’ or also ‘never point at anything with your left-hand: indeed the left hand is the filthy one’”. Double combo for me, apparently. Well, fortunately, they are polite enough not to tell me anything, even if I am sure that this kid has now the right for a shower.
We also visit the most famous beaches around, probably the ones you saw online if you’ve ever checked about Bali: Crystal Bay, Kelingking Beach & Diamond Beach.
At Crystal Bay, we endure again the parking scam, just like in Ubud. When we arrive to park our scooter, someone hands us a ticket, which looks unofficial. At the same time, two other scooters arrive, but as the guy is busy with us, no one asks them to pay… Therefore, I’m asking why should we pay if those guys don’t? The amount asked is not expensive, that’s not my point, I am pretty bothered by the fact that we have to pay for everything in Indonesia. Because I asked this, the guy goes to see one of the people who arrived, who is a local, while staring at us. As he starts to get really annoyed, I decide to stop being stubborn here, I don’t really want to know to which extent this story can worsen.
Anyway, we do some snorkelling there, pretty nice but definitely not amazing, there are also a lot of tourists. Later on, we decide to go explore through the cliff to the other side and find another beach. Maybe we should have done that earlier.
Then, onto Kelingking Beach, where the way to get there is not the easiest either. Also heaps of tourists everywhere. I gotta admit that it’s a great place but, being now an “instagram spot”, the crowd is a bit too much to my taste. It is possible to go down, where the waves are apparently pretty big, but for the same reason, we don’t hike down. After a fresh banana shake, we head to our last beach destination.
Another beach that is famous but we do not have enough time to visit is Suwehan Beach.
But above all, we book a tour (which is very unusual for us) for a half-day snorkelling boat trip. Or should I say two since we also do it from Nusa Lembongan even if, to be honest, I would not have thought that the places would have been almost exactly the same.
The first stop is Manta Point, where, if you read correctly, mantas like to swim. We are warned that they cannot guarantee we will see some. Yet, for the two times I do the tour, I have the great pleasure to observe these majestic beings. To depict the scene, imagine a rough sea of a deep blue. A lot of boats are gathered on the same spot, therefore, plenty of fins battling around to whoever can get closer to the rays, while being washed away by the waves. Meanwhile, the instructors screaming to their crew (us) where the rays are, so when you try to come back to the boat to get a rest, you feel like you do not want to miss anything out, so you jump again, pretty exhausted but also really excited (also quite funny when I am thinking about it now, it felt like being at the army).
Just so you know, it it our very first real snorkelling experience whether for Aurélie or myself. So, I feel a bit uneasy but the reward is inestimable. Watching the mantas literally flying under water with only the song of the sea as a background is wonderful.
The second place is much quieter, yet just as beautiful. Fish and colourful corals everywhere! Swimming in this open-air aquarium-like feeling is a true wonder. We can spot among others clown fish (think Nemo) and turtles! Unfortunately I am not knowledgeable enough to give a detailed list, but they surely are beautiful.
The next one is another atmosphere with bigger fish like tuna and an old rope that we have to hold on tight on as the current is strong.
Then, we enjoy another place with an underwater cliff, full of fish as well, where we spot one more turtle (it is always a pleasure to meet them).
Last but not least, the last spot of our second snorkelling trip is in a place where we only have to let ourselves go in the current, no effort required, only to observe. I spend 30 magical minutes just floating in this gorgeous scenery.
Unfortunately, as it is not the right season, we cannot see the famous Mola Mola, but know that Bali is a good place to see them (the season being between July and November).
Here you can find a short video I quickly made to try to share my emotions of this snorkelling experience:
Regarding Nusa Lembongan, as I said earlier, we enjoy a snorkelling experience. There’s not so much to do on this small island, except that magnificent Blue Hole place, where the blue of the water is so turquoise that it seems unreal.
Mainly, we drive around on a scooter. To be honest, if you are running out of time in Indonesia, you can skip this island.
We also explore a mangrove forest with Samuel and two of his friends.We arrived at the tip of the isle and found a guy that was okay to drive us around on his barque.
Onto the Gilis: Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno & Gili Air
There we are, our last destination in Indonesia: the Gilis islands. Famous to each have their own identity, we, like maybe 2/3 of the tourists, set our base in Gili Trawangan, known as Gili T, being the party island. Going in a shop barefoot or waking up and heading to Turtle Point to swim among turtles is pretty common here.
I summed up very briefly our time on these islands, as it is mostly what we are doing. Even if one surprise awaits us at our hostel: our Belgian friends, Pierre, Louis & Vivien! Altogether, we visit on a day trip the islands Gili Air, known to be “wilder” and Gili Meno, the smallest sister being the chill one.
We don’t do much at Gili Air, except buying bracelets for maybe an hour. I mean, there’s never much things to do in the Gilis, except relaxing, sunbathing, swimming, partying and enjoying the slow pace of life.
Aurélie and I prefer Gili Meno to Gili Air, which funnily enough we find wilder.
One major positive thing there is that they are so small that everything is reachable by foot. But especially positive is that car or any motorised vehicle is forbidden. What a nice thing not the hear engines, or smelling fuel.
However, it is an open door for the exploitation of horses for their carts for tourists. The horses are left for hours under an extreme heat and without water to carry tourists with often tons of suitcases etc. Am I going to surprise anyone if I advice you to please, do not participate in this business?
As an alternative, you can rent a bicycle, isn’t that nice too?
To keep going on the awareness raising for a little while, when visiting Gili Meno, we see a rehabilitation centre for turtles. It sounds like a good idea at first, even though we are a bit shocked in regards of the size of the basins. As we get interested in the project, we start to ask questions about how they get the turtles. Apparently, they go and take them in the wild, so that later tourists can pay to release them… Okay, now it sounds really different from a rescue. According to the owner of the place, who refused to answer any further question, it is necessary to take them out of the wild as they could get killed by tourists walking on the eggs. I know that animal centres needs an income and that eco-tourism is often a good option, but where is the line between necessity and profit? Therefore, I do not really know what to think about that…
There, we sleep in a cheap hostel for the first few days. We decide to book the cheapest room possible, in a “tent”. What could go wrong? The tent happens to be a balcony, so no proper walls, no window or anything, very mosquito friendly, just in front of the mosque. If, just like me, you didn’t know, Lombok is mainly muslim (the Gilis belongs to Lombok island). It also happens to be the ramadan. If I don’t sleep for the first three nights (before changing accomodation), I can say that I am the first one to make the most of the songs and music for the whole night. While I am happy to be immersed in a different culture, my body is not ready not to sleep at all. Too bad, because the free breakfast is amazing, with unlimited crepes! (Pierre, you still owe me some!)
To summarize, what should be on your bucket list there:
- Enjoy a sunset on the west of Gili T with a view on Mt Agung of Bali
- Go to the Irish bar with free concerts
- Do as much snorkelling as possible. Speaking of which, there is an interesting snorkelling spot with underwater statues in Gili Meno, if you are ready the fight another battle with finned-tourists.
Oh and, one last advice: do not buy your sunscreen there, it is really expensive, maybe like 20aud.
These islands are absolutely stunning, with a timeless feeling. Staying there feels like real vacations in paradise… A welcomed dolce far niente break.