Indonesia: Beyond Bali

Deccan Chronicle.  | Sarah Thomas

Lifestyle, Viral and Trending

While Bali may have become one of the favourite destinations for Indian travellers, there’s a whole world of beauty to behold beyond it.

Nusa Ceningan

When one speaks of Indonesia, it immediately brings to mind gorgeous pictures of the island of Bali, walking through lush rice terraces and experiencing its pristine beaches. Not many know of the several other islands that dot the country, equally beautiful or maybe even more so. My travel through Indonesia could quite literally be described as a fun island-hopping adventure. What began as a trip to visit Indonesia in 20 days, turned out to be a voyage of discovery of the beautiful islands, experiencing each one’s distinct culture and beauty.

My journey began in Bali and by the end of it I had assumed that I had seen most of what Indonesia had to offer but I was taken aback when I moved to my next destination, Nusa Penida, a hilly island separated from Bali by the Badung Strait. One fun fact worth mentioning and something I got wrong through the trip, was the planning of travel time. Most Vlogs on social media speak of the one-hour ferry ride to get to the island and I had planned it accordingly. But what many miss out on are the very important details. When planning a trip to the island of Nusa Penida, or any other island in Indonesia, make sure you account for the travel time between your room to the harbour. Bali being infamous for its traffic, you most certainly will take about an hour or so even for a 10-kilometre drive. Once you get to the harbour, it will take an hour for you to board the ferry and move out from the harbour itself. First, I had to go almost waist-deep into the water and get on to a fast boat, which transported people in batches to the ferry stationed a short distance away. While some were lucky to be in the first few batches that were being taken to the ferry, I was among the last few standing waist-deep in water, with a bag on my head, just as every other traveller waiting to get on the ferry. Once my turn arrived, the journey to Nusa Penida began. True to the vlogs, the ferry ride was about one hour, but by the time I got to my room, I had spent five hours travelling. While it seems like an awful lot of time, it sure was an awful lot of fun too.

Nusa Penida welcomed me with the deepest blue waters. The little island was full of tourists as most people do quick day trips and leave in the last ferry at about four pm. But I had decided to stay for three days and take in all the picturesque sights the island had to offer. I quickly grabbed some local lunch and headed to my first destination, Kelingking Beach, definitely a crowd favourite and everyone’s first stop in Nusa Penida. From the top, this cliff jutting into what appears to be the sky has a distinct shape, almost like a dinosaur. The trek downwards to the beach is not for the faint hearted. There are railings on either side of the steep pathway for both those going upwards and downwards. Not many opt to go down but I did and after what seemed like an eternity, I got down to the most beautiful beach I have ever seen, perhaps in my entire life! If you don’t think you can make it back up, you can skip the hike and just visit the viewpoint. You will get the most beautiful shots. I am told that the sunsets from this point are heavenly but I did not get the opportunity to visit the place at the right time for that.

From here, I travelled to the nearest beach, famous for its distinct shape. This Broken Beach is an incredible cove on the island. The roads to it are almost non-existent and riding through them was a task in itself. But, once I got to Broken Beach, the spectacle was worth all the trouble. The arch has formed over many years. There are two beautiful viewpoints close by from here. You can walk up to Angel’s Billabong and stop at the Manta Ray viewpoint, from where you can see huge manta rays from up above. I headed on to Angel’s Billabong to find a distinct rock formation giving way to the sea to create a pool. While swimming here was permitted earlier, it is restricted now as two tourists lost their lives swimming during the high tide.

A few photos later I walked up and quite frankly loved the view from a little higher up. The tide was high and the waves 40 to 50 feet high crashed on the rocks. It makes you adore creation and all the beauty around us. My day began with the sun at its peak and ended in the cold of dawn with my summer wear making it hard to travel on the rickety roads. To top it all, the roads had no street lights and it got quite scary with not a soul in sight. Once I got back to my room safe and sound I decided to dine in.

The next day was all about visiting dive points and snorkelling at spots where you could see the coral reefs. Atuh Beach took an hour by bike, followed by a 15-minute hike down. The place is crowded and with the number of people being large, it can take longer. The climb back up takes about half an hour. The view as you hike down is beautiful and scary for those afraid of heights. As I reached the beach, I was greeted with turquoise water and mountainous pinnacles. You can swim here, as the tide is mostly low due to the reefs. I ended the day at Diamond Beach, where the waves were strong and I sat against the rock that formed the background and took in the beauty of the sea.

The next day was my last in Nusa Penida and I decided to skip the rush of getting to places, chill at a beach and drive through the narrow roads to experience the island’s culture and food. The caretaker of the villa I was staying at strongly recommended visiting Goa Giri Putri Cave Temple, one of Nusa Penida’s many beautiful cave temples. Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to visit due to the paucity of time. The island requires a good week to explore and I missed out on several different places, one better than the other. But my trip was just 20 days long and I had to head to my next destination – Nusa Lembongan – the second of the three Nusa islands, the last being Nusa Ceningan, famous for its cliff-jumping points.

Nusa Lembongan is a laidback island with several rock pools and beautiful beaches, which by now you would know to be the recurring sight in Indonesia. I spent the day visiting the rock pools and took a boat to enjoy travelling through the mangroves. Many of the restaurants have sea-side swings that go over the water, which are a complete delight to be on. My one-day trip to Lembongan came to an end as I boarded the ferry to Gilli Islands, the three little islands that are starkly different from each other, renowned for their different take-aways. The journey to these islands is a story for another day.

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