On Nusa Penida, Time is the Most Valuable Thing to Spend

Story By
Daron Stoker

Spend of few hours and tell people that you’ve visited Nusa Penida. Spend a few days and show people that you’ve experienced Nusa Penida

After taking the 40-minute boat ride from Bali’s Sanur Harbor and checking the map for where to go first, you could be forgiven for only just realizing that Nusa Penida is bigger than expected. This, as you grasp that a day’s sightseeing – more realistically 8 hours - allows for a mere scratching of the surface as you rush to see as much as you can of what the island has to offer.

Situated just off the south-east edge of Bali, there are no shopping malls or rows of bars and fast food conglomerates. Instead, you travel on coastal and inland roads dotted with entrepreneurial restaurants and cafes, hotels and homestays. Occasionally, you may find a small beach club, tempting you to forget that drive up the coast while at the same time trying its best to marry the island’s heritage with the current trend in Instagram-friendly food and photo ops. Yes, Nusa Penida is much more than a day-trip destination.

With something for every budget, better, then, to arrange accommodation and experience things at a more sedate pace. Take Kompyang Cottages, for example, where a collection of 8 detached and delightfully furnished Joglo-style rooms have been spread around wonderfully established gardens and a well-appointed swimming pool, and which is easily one of the island’s best kept secrets.  Breakfast can be served in your room, a ‘floating’ version is available in the pool at no extra cost, and the helpful and attentive staff seem to appear out of nowhere whenever they are needed.

Of course, the choice is yours as to how to see the island, perhaps by motorbike, or by cars that can be hired along with knowledgeable drivers. Choosing the second option also means that you will be in the hands of someone who can navigate the notoriously narrow roads. Recent infrastructure upgrades have seen significant amounts of asphalt laid down, making driving smoother than you may have expected. The problem is that the engineers and planners appear to have forgotten to take the width of the road into consideration. Can two cars pass side by side? Just about!

Once you begin to crisscross the island, the wildlife becomes as much of a spectacle as the locations you visit, especially when you consider Nusa Penida and her sister islands of Lembongan and Ceningan are bird sanctuaries that include the almost extinct Bali starling. If you prefer marine activities, diving and snorkeling trips allow you the chance to see turtles, manta rays, and even whale sharks among the myriad occupants.

Undoubtedly, though, it is the photogenic coastal locations that people want to see. One look at the dramatic cliffs that lead down to the sandy cove of Kelingking Beach and only the bravest of souls would try to climb down, or back up again. Yet, the view from the top, out across the headland that juts into the sea, is stunning enough on its own. Further up the west side of the island is the aptly named Broken Beach. Here the gradual erosion of the rocks has formed not only a bridge, but also the wonderfully named Angel’s Billabong, a naturally created pool between two cliffs in which you can swim or paddle when conditions are good. Continue northward and you reach Crystal Bay Beach, another hidden cove with a glorious stretch of sand that is perfect for sunbathing, and swimming in the waters of the Indian Ocean.

All of this, and we have yet to see the rest of the island. There are the magnificent cliffs of Diamond Beach in the east, or the natural pools of Tembeleng in the south that appear so alluring they couldn’t possibly exist in reality. This illustrates why a day trip is a frenetic experience, but a week would be a lot more relaxing.

Then, there are the sunsets. For some, tropical sunsets are magical or romantic while for others they inspire moments of inward reflection. Maybe you have just imagined time away from daily routine and the peace that arrives with twilight. Whether you have travelled Indonesia’s mystical islands or only know her from books or scenes in movies, the sunsets are impressive, to say the least.

So, close your eyes, then, and envision the warmth on your skin and sense the ever so slight temperature changes. Feel as the receding daylight is joined by a welcome, cooling breeze that has arrived across the thin stretch of water separating Nusa Penida from Ceningan.

As the fiery sun begins to tire at the end of his daily sojourn across the skies and relaxes into softer shades of orange and red, the eternal artist’s palette splashes vivid colours out across calm tides, and upwards into the ever-so-gradually darkening sky…

…this is a Nusa Penida.