I probably shouldn’t have been surprised to learn that a flight from Brisbane to Bali took 6 hours, due to how vast Australia is, but I genuinely did think it would just be a quick hop up to Indonesia. Luckily the flight was fine. It was early so I kipped in Brisbane airport beforehand – it’s one of the best airports I’ve ever spent the night in, complete with comfy sofas and free Wi-Fi all night long. It was great.
This was my second time in Indonesia but my first time landing at Bali’s airport. It’s a nifty airport, a lovely blend of modernity and tradition. From there, I was heading to Sanur, a quiet laid-back town on the southeast coast. I’d chosen this purely because it was the easiest place from which to get a ferry to the nearby island of Nusa Lembongan. A taxi from the airport will cost 150,000 IDR+ (around £7.50) though I opted to take transport laid on by my guesthouse for 200,000 (around £10) because I hate taxis. I stayed at the fantastic Prasanthi Guesthouse, run by the wonderful Ketut who is such a friendly host. She is fantastic at arranging transport/answering queries and is just a super friendly person to chat to. The guesthouse was along a busy street with plenty of restaurants and bars a stone’s throw away. Despite this, Sanur managed to maintain a laidback feel. Kuta, this most certainly was not. The beach is a bit lacklustre, but there are plenty of great eateries and friendly faces. It’s certainly worth at least one night of your time before heading to the Nusa islands.
In terms of getting to Lembongan itself, there are more ferry companies than you’ll possibly need offering to take you there. Ketut was able to arrange on for me, D’Camel ferries, which included the return trip and pick-up/drop-off at both ends for 400,000 IDR (£20) which was perfect and hassle-free. For some bizarre reason, the driver picked me up really early and I had to sit twiddling my thumbs at the ferry ‘pier’ for nearly an hour and a half. I say ‘pier’ because you just hop on the ferry from the beach. I’d definitely wear swim shorts for boarding because when the tide is high, you’ll be at least waist deep. My cotton shorts suffered the consequences and spent the next three days drying out.
Lembongan is known for its big waves and you certainly get that impression on the boat ride over. It was stomch churningly rocky. The boat seemed to be flying at various points before crashing back into the water at painful speeds. Fortunately the crossing was only about 25 minutes but everyone looked a bit green afterwards. After disembarking in Lembongan it’s a bit chaotic, but you want to head to the right and up a street to a large building from where bemos will transport you to your accommodation. You should be given a label with your accommodation name on and each driver is assigned a particular place so I just spent my time thrusting my chest at people until they adopted me.
On Lembongan I stayed at the fantastic, recently opened Dhipa Vibes Hostel. Located just a 10 minute walk from Lembongan’s icoinic Devil’s Tears (see below) as well as a couple of idyllic beaches, it’s run by “Bob Marley” Dhipa who will do anything for you. His neighbouring warung serves up delicious food and, as of July 2018, he’s in the process of building a big TV/sofa area outside – what’s not to love?! He’s only got 7 beds so book early, but it’s definitely the place to be.
The nearby Devil’s Tears are a sight to behold and one of the perks of staying at Dhipa’s is that you can make multiple trips here in one day. The rugged clifftops are photogenic in and of themselves but if you add a sprinkling of huge (and I mean huge) crashing waves, you end up with a breathtaking spectacle. The waves seemed particularly intense on the first morning I visited, to the point that even standing on the edge of one of the clifftops to get a photo resulted in me getting absolutely soaked by what felt like a tsunami. The waves seemed more powerful in the morning time but it’s also definitely worth coming back at sunset. You can stand on the other side of the cliff and admire the crashing waves with the backdrop of the setting sun. Just to top it off, there’s a little shack of a bar there selling cold beers. Perfection.
Beyond that, Lembongan is probably best seen on a motorbike (though past experience made me forego this in favour of walking). The northern beach of Jungutbatu is the most popular and worth a look, particularly at its most northern point when it merges into Mangrove Beach. Next to Devil’s Tears, you can sample Sandy Bay (Sunset Beach) and Dream Beach, though the latter was practically underwater due to the gigantic waves when I visited. Also worth a jaunt is the neighbouring island of Nusa Ceningan, accessible via an unmissable yellow beach. Ceningan is much smaller but has some cool bars along its coast line, almost all with bean bags/swings/pools lining the beach. They make for great lunch spots.
Overall, Lembongan was great and I feel it’s just finding its feet as a slightly more mellow alternative to Bali. It was packed with tourists but was much more chilled out than what I’ve seen of Bali and is full of lesser-travelled trails and paths to explore. And those waves at Devil’s Tears are truly something to behold.