There can be no doubting the wondrous attractions of Indonesia. A unique archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, all of which exude their own sui generis. Peoples, with their cultures and religions, have shaped and molded Indonesia into what is now a magnet for the curious mind, the excitement seeker and the soul searcher.
For the lover of an island hoping holiday, Indonesia is like letting a child loose in a sweet shop. There is something different on every island, burnt into the soul and beating within the heart of each community. But there is one thing each visitor expects, their vision of a tropical paradise. That true vision of paradise is probably best found off the Southeast coast of the island of Bali. Lesser known and certainly overshadowed by its bigger neighbor is a perfect gem, Nusa Penida.
With a population of around 45,000, Nusa Penida exudes tranquility and serenity, coupled with excitement and explorative fascination. It does so without the glitz and neon to be seen on other islands, such as Bali. Nusa Penida relies on its natural attributes, of which it has plenty, to attract visitors that want a truly unadulterated tropical experience.
Seeing and Doing on Nusa Penida
The clear blue waters that envelope the island are an absolute haven for snorkelers and scuba divers. A reputation has grown around the island having some of the most fascinating dive sites in the world. Experienced divers, novices and absolute beginners are all well catered for. There are numerous certified dive schools offering tuition, guidance and equipment hire. Even the most reluctant of water babies succumb to the irresistible draw of the crystal waters and quickly learn to be at one with the deep.
Put on your flippers and try out snorkeling. To the West of the island, Crystal Bay is the perfect location for the snorkeler. The marine fauna off the beach has to be seen to be believed, and swimming amongst it is an experience that lives forever. Napoleon fish and Parrot fish dance and flit over the brightly coloured coral and turtles are happy to be visited by their human inquisitors. In the summer months it’s possible to sight the monster Mola Mola, growing up to 1,000 kilos, this harmless sea beast is a visionary treat never to be forgotten.
Manta Bay is very aptly named, experience swimming with the incredibly graceful manta rays. Shark spotting is to be had at Malibu Point. The Gray Reef, Reef white Tip and Silver Tip sharks are commonly seen in the waters at Malibu Point. At Penida Bay peculiar rock formations have made the location very popular. One massive, well known rock, is the ‘Resting Elephant’, look out for it, it’s incredible.
In the Northeast of the island there is an experience awaiting the visitor like no other to be had anywhere. Head for Angel’s Billabong. Your hotel may have an infinity pool, but Angel’s Billabong is one that nature has given the island. Sit in the pool with the water cascading down the rocks and flowing around you, and then crashing off the infinity edge as you look out to sea. Amazing!
Of course no one can visit such a beautiful island and ignore the beaches. The beaches on Nusa Penida are not only graced with soft white sand, but many of them are so quiet and secluded that you could be forgiven that it was created just for you as you laze in the shade of a baying palm. The best way to see these beaches is by taking a boat for a beach tour. At less than 2,000 Baht these tours are well worth the money and give you the opportunity to spot the perfect beach for your lazy day of peace and tranquility.
Visiting explorers should not forget the island’s interior. There is around 16 acres of rainforest that host a multitude of colourful flora and fauna. There are well signposted treks and trails to follow for a leisurely walk amongst the verdant forest. Keep a look out for the numerous species of lizard and the macaque monkeys.
Part of the island’s interior is given over to the Nusa Penida bird sanctuary. You maybe something of an ornithologist, or not, either way a walk through the sanctuary is a must. Passeriformes, apodiformes, piciformes, charadriiformes, pteroclidiformes and raptors, these may not be words that roll off the tongue for most, but you don’t have to be an ornithologist to appreciate the colour, grace and beauty of the many and varied birds within the sanctuary.
If you long for the glitzy neon of modern retail therapy, Nusa Penida is not for you. The island is a welcome escape from materialistic commercialism. Small local shops sell all the basic requirements of life and in the town of Sampalan there is a market selling all local produce. Around the market area of the town there are plenty of restaurants offering traditional fayre. Local produce predominates, with the bounty of the seas in prominence.
Staying on Nusa Penida
Finding accommodation on the island is not a problem for any visitor of any budget. At the lower end of the market there is the budget stay, a unique example being The Packer Box. Mid-range establishments like Singabu Bungalows offer great value for money. At the upper end, the 4-star Crystal Bay Villa & Residence is a typical example, with its à la carte restaurant which is open to non-residents.
Nusa Penida may be minor in size, but it has a giant stature like no other island of the archipelago. The island lives and breathes a uniquity which touches each and every visitor and instills memories that last a lifetime.