It’s Indonesia… and it’s Nusa Lembongan!
Lembongan you say? Never heard of it... where is it? It’s only a 30 minute speed boat ride away from Bali – so now have I piqued your interest?
Jungutbatu – the beach in the north
We were here to visit a friend who was working in the northern village of Jungutbatu, so that’s where we chose to stay. We originally only booked a couple of nights, however we discovered early on that Lembongan ticked all our boxes and gave us everything we wanted (and more) from an island, so we ended up staying for over a week! Immediately we changed our mindset from backpackers to people who were on a holiday, this place just made us feel that way.
One Monday evening, we stumbled across a cool bar/restaurant called Lemongrass which happened to have two guitarists playing Live music between 7-10pm, well, this was the place for us then! We also saw posters advertising live music at other venues but never had a chance to check them out. For the few hours we were at Lemongrass, we really enjoyed ourselves as it was such a lovely setting, the food was delicious and reasonably priced. We sipped Arak cocktails, the local drink, which cost Rp 42,000 and shouted out music requests to the musicians who played anything from Bob Marley (we were here on Bob’s birthday) to Ed Sheeran.
We couldn’t believe it when we found the Jungutbatu Theatre Restaurant – yes, an open air cinema on an island as small as this, awesome! It’s such a cosy atmosphere and we ordered bottled Bintang, the local Indonesian beer and carrot cake with ice cream whilst watching the 7.30pm movie from a large bamboo chair/bed (we could have sat in a bean bag but, as we provided the movie on a USB, we thought we would opt for the VIP seats at the back). We didn’t have to pay an entrance fee because we just ordered drinks and food from their menu which was brought to you during the movie.
On a couple of occasions, we ended up sharing shots of Arak with our neighbours from the homestay. You just never know who you will meet and end up spending time with sometimes when you are travelling… they would break out the guitar and get us all to badly sing Western songs (I’m sure they only wanted us to sing so they could laugh at how out of tune we were!)
Day trip around the island
One of our favourite days was when we hired a scooter to explore the island. We had so much fun feeling the breeze on our faces and loved the sense of freedom it gave us. If you are a nervous driver/passenger, you will be pleased to know that there are no crazy people around and the majority of the roads are lovely and smooth! We hired scooters from our Homestay at a cost of Rp 50,000 for 24 hours but in truth, they can be hired anywhere.
We rode up a gentle hill to a lookout point over the stunning Jungutbatu which clearly showed the azure waters and white sand beach. This is also one of the main drop off points for speed boats from Bali so it also has a few good places to eat and drink.
* unfortunately happy hour did not come with a smile! They may advertise that non-guests of this resort can use the infinity pool for free during happy hour but they clearly do not like it. We received bad service and a sharp attitude without the usual Indonesian smile! It’s a real shame as the unhappy and unfriendly staff let this beautiful place down!
Mangrove Forests are on the North and East side of Lembongan, so the four of us hired a boat with two guides for 30 minutes (cost was Rp 200,000) to take us around. It was lovely, relaxing and the water crystal clear so it was fascinating looking at the root formations under the surface. In truth, 30 minutes wasn’t enough time but the two guides did work hard punting us!
Diving and snorkelling
Lembongan is an excellent place to see Manta Rays, unfortunately for us the swells were too large for the time of year when we visited so we were unable to dive or snorkel with them – looks like we have yet another reason to return!
Sy booked a 2-dive package through Blue Corner and said that although there was a ripping current, the abundance of pristine coral, crystal clear water and huge fish shoals made the diving very special. If you like your macro life, strangely there isn’t a lot here given the range of healthy soft and hard corals but the size of the marine life made up for it.
Say no to plastic
Bali and its surrounding islands has a real problem with plastic water bottles so wherever possible, try and refill your bottle instead of buying a new one. We found two places on the island that do this for half the cost of buying a new one, Blue Corner beach bar and Bali Eco Deli. Plastic straws are also a problem so try not to use one (for example if you are given a bottle of coke with a straw, just drink from the bottle or ask for a glass). If you are offered a plastic bag for any shopping you buy, think before you accept it and ask yourself if you really need it, for instance if you don’t have far to walk and carry it in your hands then do so, or if you have a handbag with you, pop your items in there.
How to get to Lembongan
Lembongan can be reached from Bali, Lombok and the Gili Islands. From the port of Sanur in Bali, there are many different boat companies, some are more expensive than others and some do multi-tickets where you can also visit the other neighbouring islands. There are both private and public companies (which are cheaper) plus slow boat (1.5 hours) and speed boat (30-40 mins) options. We caught a speedboat with a public company called Dreamboat 2 and our ticket cost Rp 175,000 each which included a Bemo transfer to our Homestay.
Where to stay
There are boutique and beach resorts plus private villas all over the island, have a look at Trip Advisor for one that suits your style and budget.
If you are on a budget, there are a range of Homestays all over the island. We stayed about 400 yards away from Blue Corner for two nights at Swara Homestay 2 (cost was Rp 300,000 for the room for both nights) then six nights at Pandan Wangi which was only another 50 metres away, both we found via Booking.com. Both were quiet and comfortable but more importantly as a backpacker – cheap and private!
- The official currency is Indonesian Rupiah’s (£1 = 16,000 Rp)
- There is currently only one ATM on the island so take plenty of cash (we did hear a rumour that a second one had just opened at a new dive resort). On a Sunday when we visited, they had run out of money but when we returned Monday afternoon, funds had been replenished.
- Free Wi-Fi is available in most Homestays, bars and cafes.
- Their official language is Bahasa Indonesia which is similar to Malaysian Borneo and throughout Indonesia in general.
- If you can use just a couple of Indonesian words, this will give you big smile in return, even if you simply use “Pagi” (morning) and “Terima Kasih” (thank you), it will be hugely appreciated.
- A 30 day visa is given at the time of arrival in Indonesia (not for all countries, check with your embassy) but if you want to stay longer, you can obtain a 60 day visa in advance at consulates and embassies.
Have you visited Lembongan, if so, what did you think of it and what did you do? Will you consider it now?
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