Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
I am rarely inspired to go to a destination by photos on social media. Nusa Penida was an exception. There was a time when many people I followed on Instagram posted photos of places in Nusa Penida which I found beautiful, and some reminded me of Greek beaches, especially Zakynthos which I failed to visit. So on my way home from Sumba Island, I detoured to Nusa Penida, a small island south of Bali.
After a 45-minute ride with Caspla fast boat from Sanur beach, I arrived at Sampalan port, on the north coast of Nusa Penida. A few other fast boat operators at Sanur Beach include the Sea Horse, Idola, Mola Mola and Maruti. You can also opt to depart from Padang Bai, Kusamba and Benoa. The boats arrive in several different ports on Nusa Penida other than Sampalan, including Buyuk and Toyapakeh. If you already book an accommodation, you could choose which boat to take that’s closest to it.
Even though the nusa (means island) had gained popularity, it was still a lot less crowded than Seminyak or Ubud. It was relatively quiet, with forests between villages. At night it was almost pitch dark due to lack of street lights.
Street navigation became a challenge because there was almost no signage. Phone signal was like magic, sometimes you see it sometimes you don’t. Luckily, there has been a growing number of locals that became a tour guide and driver. It helps visitors like me to go around the island. Once you arrive at the island, you could ask the locals or the hotel staff for a guide or where to rent a motorbike.
“Now we’re heading to Molenteng on the east coast,” said Daffa, my tour guide, upon picking me up at Nusa Penida Beach hotel in Kutampi area. The one-hour motorcycle ride was a heads up of what the whole island was like; hilly, with partly asphalted streets and partly still dirt and rocks.
Molenteng is also called Pulau Seribu, which means One Thousand islands, because of the many islets scattered by the shore. From the parking lot, I followed Daffa to the edge of the cliff, and then hiked down a steep and rocky path with many turns. He walked fast in his flip flops while I, wearing hiking shoes, was left quite far behind. I didn’t think it was wise of him to walk in front of me in a distance where sometimes he couldn’t see me. What if I tripped? He wouldn’t be able to help me.
Finally I arrived at the most famous part of the cliff, the narrow protruding edge with a small shrine on it. Across it I could see smaller cliffs poking out of the emerald blue water. For security reasons a bamboo fence is now installed along the hiking path to the shrine cliff. It reduces the aesthetics, but safety comes first. Selfie takers can go wild these days, I heard somebody had fallen from the cliff accidentally.
I could see Atuh beach far down the cliff, white and beautiful. I think you could hike down there through another path, but I decided to just enjoy the beauty from atop. I know my hiking ability limit.
Suana village is actually not a very popular tourist spot in Nusa Penida, but it caught my attention on the way back to the hotel. Plus, I like my sushi wrapped in seaweed, so I wanted to see the origin of it.
Wooden pegs marked the area where they planted the seaweed. That piercing hot noon, a few farmers were picking their harvest and put them in bamboo baskets that were placed on floating black tires. They didn’t seem to care about my presence but were very friendly when I asked some stuff about the seaweed farm. One of them even gave me a pinch of seaweed to boil and consume later.
Seaweed farm in Nusa Penida and in neighboring islands (including Nusa Lembongan) is not in a good state. Then uncertain rainfall gives less time to dry it naturally with the sun heat. The more buildings erected on the coastline (mainly hotels) leaves less space to plant and dry the seaweed. In that case, I guess staying at hotel that’s not on the beachfront would be a wise choice because (indirectly) supports more space for seaweed production.
Crystal Bay in the west coast of Nusa Penida is known for the sunset view and a snorkeling spot with crystal clear water. I didn’t get to prove it though, because it was cloudy and I wasn’t in the mood to get myself wet. But it was a popular spot. Maybe because it was relatively easy to access, it’s got soft sand and comfortable for sitting hours and hours.
When I got there just an hour before sunset, many visitors were swimming, playing with sand and sunbathing (or what’s left of it). I went straight to rent a bean bag* and sketched the view.
If you know what other good locations in Nusa Penida to watch sunset, do let me know in the Comment below.
*Bean bag rental: IDR50,000 for domestic tourists and IDR70,000 for international tourists (2017).
A small peninsular rock cliff in the shape of a sleeping dinosaur was my first destination on the next day. It’s located in Karang Dewa on the west coast. People call it Kelinking, which means the pinky finger – imagine holding up a pinky and the rest of your fingers folded. Honestly, it could also be an index or middle finger, if you ask me. But anyway, this is one of the most instagramed spots in Nusa Penida and the one that reminded me of Zakynthos.
This giant pinky can be seen from either Kelinking cliff or Paluang, which is a lot less crowded. Each offers a different angle. There are sparkling white beaches on both sides of it, named Kelingking beach and Paluang beach (obvious why). Most visitors, like me, are happy just seeing the beach from up the cliff, while more courageous ones would hike down through the dinosaur’s back. Just like at Molenteng, fences are now installed along the hiking path.
North from the Kelingking is Pasih Uug, which means Broken Beach. It’s called broken because it has a big hole in the circular coral wall, where the sea water goes through and forms a lagoon-like pool with a rippling water. Obviously, it became a popular photo op spot. While sitting and enjoying the view, all I saw was domestic and Asian visitors taking selfies or pictures of one another, and a few Caucasians sitting quietly facing the ocean.
Then Daffa guided me through a bushy path to another popular spot, Angel’s Billabong. I don’t know why it’s called Angel and Daffa couldn’t explain it either, but I know that you need a good thick-enough footwear to walk on the sharp corals to get to the edge of water blow, its main attraction.
When the sea is calm, people could swim in the billabong. If not, don’t even try. There had been a casualty when a visitor (or maybe two) was standing too close to the water blow and got pulled into the raging ocean.
Then it was time for me to catch the boat to go back to Sanur. Two days in Nusa Penida was not quite enough for me to really get to know the island. But it doesn’t take a long time to see why Nusa Penida became a popular destination on Instagram. And for the more adventurous souls, it offers so many challenging terrains to explore.
I wish to go back again because I believe there’s still a lot more of Nusa Penida than the popular sites. But at the meantime, let’s just enjoy the views again via these pictures..