You may also like these photo galleries
JUMP ON A MOTORBIKE
Nusa Lembongan is one of three islands – the others are Nusa Penida and Nusa Ceningan – that make up the Nusa Penida district, part of the Lesser Sunda Islands just a 30-minute fast boat ride from Bali, Indonesia. There are many coastal paths so walking is easy, but hiring a motorbike is the best way to get around on these islands that were once dominated by seaweed farms and now welcome visitors drawn by wild coastal landscapes and turquoise waters. Head south to the Devil's Tears, where waves pound a horseshoe pool of rugged rocks causing massive sprays – but keep your distance. Or drive across the newly-rebuilt Yellow Bridge into Nusa Ceningan where you can marvel at the wild Secret Beach and Blue Lagoon; try cliff jumping off Mahana Point, or sit in the nearby bar and watch the daredevils in action. The suspension bridge has a special and sad significance for locals. In 2016 on the Balinese religious holiday of Nyepi Laut, it collapsed killing eight people. The new bridge has become a stunning landmark at night when it is lit by blue lights.
Catch a wave just as red skies sink into sparkling waters in the shadow of the mesmerising Mount Agung volcano, surely the most volcano-shaped volcano on the planet. While there may be better surf breaks elsewhere, Lembongan is right up there on the magic moments list. To get to Shipwrecks, Playgrounds, or the aptly named Lacerations breaks you need to paddle out or be dropped off at medium or high tide only. Many Balinese surf, and with growing awareness around the disposal of plastics, they are also keen to keep the water clean. Join the Lembongan Surf Team on their regular beach clean-ups, which usually include a bit of bar time. See lembongansurfteam.com and monkeyactivities.com
STAND UP FOR YOURSELF
If you are going to sail into the sunset, you might as well do it on a stand-up paddleboard. And Lembongan provides just the sort of special sunsets to write home about. Carve your way through rosy waters off Mushroom Beach, which is usually on the calmer side, or try the lagoon area between Jungut Batu beach and the reef breaks – just stay away from boat channels. For something different, try paddleboarding through a mangrove forest on the north side of the island. The water here is calmer, and you can immerse yourself in forest sounds as you glide through a series of channels. Guided trips are available so you can get the lowdown on the mangrove birdlife and animals and hear what might be making those unnerving splashes from the banks. See monkeyactivities.com
SWIM WITH MANTA RAYS
They swoop and dive like butterflies: these giant manta rays with vacuum mouths are anything but shy. At one point there are just the two of us in the water with five giant mantas dancing around us. We are careful to keep our distance but some of them are very curious and it's unclear exactly who is watching who. Initially it's unnerving to see these giant dark shapes glide towards us, but these stunning animals are harmless. We leave our resort early for the snorkelling site at Manta Point off Nusa Penida and we are the only ones there before we are joined half an hour later by other small boats. This coastline offers strange rocky outcrops with surging sprays and spouts. The waters can be choppy and the swirling currents strong. Trips are subject to conditions.
GO ON A CULTURAL WALK
This being Bali, talk of the spirits and the spiritual is everywhere. Many of the resorts on Nusa Lembongan, including Batu Karang, hold cultural talks, led by locals who are happy to explain how things work in a Balinese village. We are guided through Jungut Batu Village where we learn about the ceremonies that are part of daily life – including the constant making of fragrant and beautiful offerings. We hear about the festival of Nyepi Laut or the "Day of the Silent Ocean" when all three islands honour the ruler of the sea, Dewa Baruna, by spending the day at rest. That means no swimming, no boating, no surfing and no Wi-Fi. We also visit a market, temples and check out the village warning system (once a bell atop a tower, now a loudspeaker) and wave to schoolchildren. We also take in the complex burial and cremation systems and the changing family structures. Interesting fact: why do Balinese men grow their hair long while their wives are pregnant? So they will be less attractive to others. See batukaranglembongan.com
VISIT A WHISKY BAR
Don't let the Balinese barman in the kilt or the suit of armour at the door fool you – The Howff Whisky Bar on the waterfront at Batu Karang Resort is no gimmick. From the Flora McDonald's Fancy (dry gin, prosecco, chai spiced tea, elderflower and fresh lime) to the smoky Islay Boulevardier (Ardbeg 10-year-old whisky, Campari and Martini Rosso) to the tapas on tap (braised jackfruit gulai, seared foie gras, tuna tartar) this bar knows its stuff with its intriguing mix of east and west. Whether it's the laid-back vibe, the stunning location, the tall stories from the surfing Italian barman, or the effects of a couple of cocktails, Howff's is a convivial island haunt. Mixology classes can be organised through Batu Kerang Resort and Spa. See thehowfflembongan.com and batukaranglembongan.com