Take a short speed-boat ride off the South-East coast of Bali, Sanur, and you might find yourself looking at Indonesia’s most popular tourist destination rewound thirty years: stunning beaches, lagoons and views at every corner without the five star mega-plexes to match – yet.
Enter Nusa Lembongan, the relatively uninhabited but certainly not undiscovered island that is clearly on the cusp of a tourist transition, with probably a few good years left before it becomes completely overrun. An amusing thought, given that like so many places around Bali, development sets a pace that local infrastructure cannot quite accommodate, with narrow, broken roads that wind around the islands’ parameter hardly capable of managing a rogue scooter, let alone a busload of suitcase brandishing tourists.
First impressions of the island say it all: after an air-conditioned bus service from my hotel in Ubud to the port in Sanur before being slapped with a name tag and ushered onto a gleaming speed-boat, we arrived at Nusa Lembongan thirty minutes later to have our suitcases dumped unceremoniously on the sand. Three open-backed trucks were waiting for us to be prodded into place like cattle, before bumping across the island to our hotel.
Don’t get me wrong – it is this unpolished atmosphere that is exactly what makes Nusa Lembongan’s charm; dusty dirt roads and winding beach tracks amongst pockets of tourism, and what tourism it is. An island with a vantage point at every curve, take your pick of cliff decks, infinity pools, private beaches and warungs set right on the sand as boats glide idly by. It’s the balance between the high end and local, still at the perfect blend of 30-70 that makes it such a good place to hang out.
And hang out we did, Andrew and I spending seven days scooting around the island’s many treasures, including an extensive array of warungs and bintang hot-spots, where a fresh fillet of tuna will set you back RP40,000, served steaming with a bowl of fresh pickled onion sambal and the obligatory mound of white rice. Eaten overlooking the beach, lagoon, cliffs, or mangroves, there wasn’t a view we stumbled upon that wasn’t instagram worthy and describable on Tripadvisor as the perfect “hidden find”.
One of the best things about the island that it’s not hard to spot where you should be exploring – just follow the signs on every corner: dream beach, mushroom bay, and sunset point, to name a few. Snorkelling, diving and surfing businesses are in abundance, as are free pools (with purchase of beer, naturally) all across the island, so no matter your guilty pleasure, Nusa Lembongan is sure to provide.