After leaving Yogyakarta, we were faced with a choice: we could take a gruelling trip to Mount Bromo involving multiple nine hour minibus drives but which would expand our horizons and show us an unforgettable travelling site. Or… we could fly to Bali early.
Monday morning, our flight landed in Denpasar, Bali. Craig had booked an all-inclusive transfer package to take us from the airport straight to our next destination: the pretty island of Nusa Lembongan (or just Lembongan, as we shall now call it). The transfer is also easy enough to make independently – a taxi/bus to Sanur beach where numerous boat companies are waiting to welcome you aboard for the short 30 minute ride across the choppy sea.
I am a traveller of extremes. I like big cities and I like tiny towns and villages; things in the middle rarely excite me. Lembongan – a tiny, car-free island dedicated primarily to surfing and diving, suited me just fine.
We jumped off the boat at Jungut Batu beach some way from the shore and limped over the stony sea bed to the beach (travellers tip: wear flip flops), which was lined with a few bars and restaurants, to our sweet homestay – Widya Homestay. After unpacking, we headed out to grab a £1.50 beer and to watch the sun set across the beach.
The next morning was an early start thanks to our friendly local rooster, who really got into his stride about 5am. Every. Morning.
No matter. We had impulse booked a snorkelling trip with a slightly-unhinged captain to try and dive with some manta rays so were having an early start anyway. Our first stop was a bay already crawling with boats, and my heart sank slightly. Without hesitation our captain headed the boat around the cape to a quieter bay, and told us to jump in, which we – rather gingerly – obeyed. We hovered nervously in the water, eyes peeled. And then, out of the silty gloom, a manta gradually emerged and swooped around us. It was heartstopping, in the most awesome way. We (respectfully) chased it as it glided around the bay, cavernous mouth opened as it ate the plankton.
Back on the boat, Captain Mad-but-Brilliant took us to the next bay where we dived in with more confidence. This time there were three mantas heading directly for us, as if they would swallow us whole before swerving at the last minute. Seemingly unperturbed by their rather excited guests, the three amigos circled us. As we tried to appreciate the magic of the moment (whilst simultaneously wondering if manta rays had been known to eat humans), a turtle appeared to complete the party. It was magical, and I’m only sorry we don’t have photos to show for it!
Our final stop was a bay without mantas, but teeming with unspoilt coral and fish so bright they looked like they should have their own power supply. It was, without doubt, the best snorkeling I have ever done. Go. Immediately. Take my (newly purchased) Go-Pro.
The next day, following our rooster wake-up, we hired a scooter to see the island. Mindful of my sister’s experience in Thailand (not good: slight loss of foot) I opted to passenger on Craig’s scooter.
We sped along (ok ok, pootled at 19mph) past the island’s seaweed farms and mangrove forests and back into the centre of the island. Nusa Lembongan has about three main roads, so even with my navigation we were ok. We headed through the island’s villages and over the single track rickety bridge to neighbouring Nusa Penida to explore the coast road.
We went for a sunbathe and a swim on the neighbouring beach before heading back to our relieved hosts; this time we really floored it and probably reached ooh, 25mph? We celebrated Craig’s newfound scootering abilities with more sunset beers and the best bit of bbq tuna I have ever had.
It is impossible not to relax on Nusa Lembongan; the pace of life is pretty slow but, given that I happen to love snorkelling, cheap sunset beers and the undeveloped feel of the place, it was pretty much my paradise. It is cheap to stay (at the moment – I fear this may change) and every day we were there we did something epic. I’m hopeful we can get back there again to do some scuba diving before we head home. Fingers crossed!