Hi everyone! Sorry my life has been hectic so this post is about a month late. In addition I just arrived back at school in Saudi and my life is a bit of a disaster (late registration for classes, missing baggage, mandatory events, ect) but I finally have some downtime so I want to share my favorite part of Bali: Nusa Penida. I debated a bit whether I wanted to spill this secret because this island is truly paradise, and it was such a gem because it is relatively undiscovered from tourists. But it is really off the beaten path and currently not that easily accessible so I assume that it will stay quiet for a little longer. To get to Nusa Penida I had my taxi driver (same one that took me around Ubud and to the rice terraces and temple) and he picked me up from the vegan restaurant near my hostel where I had a delicious breakfast. We headed to Padang bai harbor which is a bit south east of Ubud. On our way we had a pretty incredible view of the active volcano, Mt Agung, which had steam bursting from the apex of it’s cone. A super cool sight to see (and I was in a safe distance do not worry). There wasn’t much traffic (thanks to the lull of tourists that the volcano has caused) so we were ahead of schedule and we stopped at Bat Cave Temple, also known as Goa Lawah. I wore a sarong and was literally the only tourist there. I felt a little strange photographing their ceremonies but they all seemed very welcoming and greeted me with nothing but smiles. Here are some pics of this temple.
I arrived to Pandang Bai quite early, but this is good because the ferry only leaves once per morning and the schedule is not set, so it can leave anywhere from 9-noon. I got there at around 9 and they told me it left at 10, so I paid my 16,000 rupiah (1.20 USD) and went into the ferry terminal. Just a heads up guys, this is definitely the path less traveled. You can book a ferry from Sanur to Nusa Penida on a fast boat, costing 220,000 per way, so i was definitely saving money by doing this, plus love me a little adventure ;). Anyways, unsurprisingly the ferry kept on getting more and more delayed until it was like 1 PM. But there was another group of travelers waiting so we sat together and chatted the whole time. They were from Germany and one of them was an underwater hockey player (I honestly had no idea that that was a sport) and he also did monofin racing (like a mermaid) so I enjoyed learning about these things. The ferry ride over took about 90 minutes and I fell asleep right away so didn’t really get to enjoy the ocean views. I had a hotel set for the first night near Crystal Bay, and a second “hotel” (treehouse) booked for the second night, but I didn’t have any set transportation. I had emailed a “visit Nusa Penida” website who advised me to rent a car and driver, which would cost like 800,000 or $60/day nooo thank you. So I was convinced that I would rent a motorscooter and explore the island. Yup I have zero experience driving a motorbike so guess how that went?? Hint: it didn’t. They wouldn’t rent it out to me once I asked him to show me how to ride it. Sooo I ended up getting a motorbike driver (Wayan) to drive me and my massive backpack around the island. At first I agreed that I would like him to take me to Crystal Bay the first day (where my hotel was) and then around Nusa Penida the next day, ending all the way across the island at my treehouse the following night. Man am I glad Wayan drove me around because the roads are not clearly marked at all, and they also are not maintained meaning he had to maneuver around huge ditches and up steep mountains. My first hotel, Crystal Bay Bungalow, was amazing. A great relief from sharing a room in a hostel. I had a beautiful room to myself, and the best aspect was its proximity to Crystal Bay, just a five minute walk.
Right after I checked in I grabbed my beach and snorkeling gear and headed to the bay. I didn’t know at all what kind of reefs to expect, because I read online that Bali unfortunately has a lot of dynamite fishing so the coral is pretty dead. But guys, Nusa Penida is the exception to this, seriously beautiful, bright, colorful coral. Even soft coral swaying in the current. I was so pleasantly surprised I wish I had an entire day dedicated to freediving and exploring. I did hear that during the morning tons of boats from the neighboring island, Nusa Lembongan visit which can lead to some unsafe conditions to shore snorkelers who run into the issue of not being seen by boats. So I was lucky to arrive in the afternoon and have a few hours to myself in the sea. Once the sun started to go down I felt it probably wasn’t super safe for me to be out there solo so I headed in shore and did some shelling during sunset (there were some beautiful shells there so I was pleased). After I returned to the hotel I took a shower (which was pretty freezing) and then ordered dinner (fried rice: a classic vegetarian Indonesian meal) which they told me they’d deliver to my room. I enjoyed my yummy meal outside on the porch, which was lovely, as I looked through my videos from snorkeling. There was also pretty good wifi for my first time so I was actually able to skype my fam.
The next morning I packed up my belongings and met Wayan at 8 AM (he picked me and my bags up at the hotel) and we headed to our first destinations: Angel’s Billabong and Broken Beach. Now these stops weren’t really that far from my hotel, but with these crazy roads it took quite a while. The struggle was 100% worth it though. I left my bag on the scooter (that is how safe it was lol) Angel’s billabong is a beautiful tidepool that is crystal clear. It reminded me of Makapuu tidepools on Oahu but more of an infinity pool. Probs not advised to go swimming during rough swells, but I went swimming and it was lovely. it was relatively empty, maybe one or two other groups of tourists. Within a 10 minute walk over some rocks is broken beach, which I feel like is so underrated. Maybe one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever seen. I can’t really use words to do it justice so I will add in some photos so you can see for yourself how incredible it was. We even walked over the archway where I could see a famous dive spot known as “manta point” where I could literally see like five massive mantas from above which was super cool .
After having a little photoshoot (thank you to Wayun for getting all of the shots, much appreciated) we headed across the island to East side of Nusa Penida. The commute there was no joke, the mountains were steep and the roads were a bit treacherous, not to mention that it would have an occasional downpour where we would wait it out in a roadside shelter that the locals used. Fortunately he had a garbage bag in the compartment of his motor scooter so I shoved my huge backpack in there and didn’t have to worry too much about it getting wet (and I had all my electronics in a smaller backpack safe in some plastic bags). I didn’t mind waiting out the rain, it was really peaceful and not too cold under the little shelter/hut. Our next stop was one of my highlights for the trip, an amazing beach lookout and hike known as Kelingking. Guys wowowow was this amazing. The lookout itself offers some spectacular views, but I noticed a pristine beach with just one sole person swimming in the crystal clear waters below. I looked at Wayan and asked, how do I get down there? Of course, if I see a beautiful beach I just have to go visit it, and the trek to get there was a bit sketchy but for me, it was so worth it. Due to the past rain storm, the “trail” had been washed away. Not to mention that there was a sign at the top cautioning hikers that people had died and that it was forbidden to visit the beach below. Anyways, guys I am not an idiot I wouldn’t do it if I was going to die, but Wayan agreed to take me partway down the trail and then assess the safety of it. It was a bit slippery but there were handrails (crafted by bamboo and rope) almost the whole way down. The trail was a bunch of switchbacks, because it was a super steep trek down to the beach. Fortunately, bamboo was also set in place as “stairs” which really came in handy due to the muddy conditions. It definitely took time but slowly and surely we made our way down at the beach, after Wayan repeating “slowly, slowly” about a million times. It definitely is not a trail for an inexperienced hiker, but it was 100000% worth it for me. I can’t even explain the beauty for this majestic site. Kelingking is genuinely the top of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I have been to a countless number of islands and beaches but this place is so special. I think only photos and videos can do this place justice but just know that this isn’t just an average beach, this is a spectacular and amazing place that will make your jaw drop.
The trek down took like 45 minutes, but I was shocked on how many people stayed at the top of the lookout without venturing down. This was one of my highlights of my entire trip to Bali. Once I made it to the bottom, there was only about 3 people on the beach. The waves were pretty massive but I made it down to this picturesque beach, surrounded by massive sea cliffs and crystal clear turquoise water, so of course I was going to go for a swim. The conditions definitely weren’t the best but I made it past the waves without getting knocked down. The view in the water was breathtaking, looking up at the trail I had just navigated down. It was refreshing and just such a moment of pure joy and happiness. Frolicking in the waves, shouting out with such raw emotion due to the miracle of the moment. You might have heard the phrase that “nature is my religion”, for me this is very true. In nature I feel more connected with myself and I can worship mama earth for such amazing beauty that is here on our little planet. I was giddy and laughing and playing and just so stoked in the moment. It was so great, I hope you all can go find your happy place and have a similar experience. Whether it is in the mountains, sea, snow, city, just find joy and love and live in that moment. It is so healing to live life happy.
Sorry for those little words of wisdom, I got distracted. Anyways, moral of the story is that this beach was magic and I loved it. I don’t think it would be the same if there was mass tourism here though, so be warned that it is not an easy place to get to and personally the hotels I stayed at were pretty rustic with no hot water, and it was a bit hard to find foo (don’t worry I travel with ALL the snacks). The climb back up kind of sucked, but I went slow and focused on the view. Wayan, my guide, was blown away at my strength. Gotta hate when people assume women are weak when in reality I was waiting for him to catch up the whole time, HA. Sorry not saying I am super strong or anything but I love hiking and I am a capable person so I was doing just fine.
I was relieved when I finally got back to the top of the hike, and my shoes AND bag were still there. Remember I left all my luggage on the motorbike, and hiked with all my valuables such as my cameras, wallet, laptop, ect. We hopped back on the bike and our next destination was on the complete other side of the island. Nusa Penida has a ton of cool things to discover. Awesome hidden temples, waterfalls, springs, beaches. And if you know me you know that hiking and beaches are most definitely my jam so I requested that Wayan take me to a secret beach. We headed over the moutains, on tiny dirt paths, where I was holding on for my dear life. About an hour and sore bum later, we arrived to the end of a road. I was pretty starving at this point and noticed a little warung (tiny “restaurant”) that also was a “gas station” selling re purposed glass bottles of petrol. There was a lady working and I asked her if she sold any food, and she spoke english with a huge smile on my face and said yes. I requested “anything vegetarian” and waited at a little hut/covered area overlooking beautiful lush terraces. She was trying to teach me all the plants that she grows, like veggies, peanuts, mangoes, avocados, papaya, rice, ect. So my fried rice ended up having a ton of fresh food on it that she grew, how cool is that! I also treated Wayan to dinner, although truthfully are entire meal with drinks came out to 30K pr $2.24.
Food is so cheap once you step away from the touristy places and find these hidden gems. Such a cool thing to do. After I ate up my fried rice, I prepared myself mentally for another tough/steep hike. My legs were already a bit tired and I really wanted to go to this beach. I had never heard of it before, but it is this little spot known as Suwehan Beach. The trail down was a bit sketchy, but Wayan told me that they are going to fix it up in the future to make it a little more sturdy. It reminded me a bit of the trek on Molokai down to Kalaupapa with a million switchbacks, but it was shorter than that one. It was beautiful with the occasional clearance of trees revealing the breathtaking beach below.
Eventually we made it to the white sand beach below, and I was shocked that we had this amazing place to ourselves. The beach is known for this specific conically shaped rock that was super cool. I went for a little dip, and when I did I noticed a fin sticking out of the water behind this rock. I quickly ran onto the beach to try to get a better view from a higher perspective. Thats when I noticed there were at least five animals out there. My next thought that they were dolphins playing in the waves. I got Wayans attention and after we sat there for a few minutes trying to figure it out, we saw the massive (I am talking 13ish reef across) body size, indicating they were manta rays! Super cool, we watched them for like a half hour. Wayan also suggested a little photoshoot so about 100 photos later, and a little nap, we were ready to make the climb back up. I was a disgusting, sweaty mess but it was totally worth it.
Our final destination of the way was my hotel called Rumah Pohon. Guys this is by far the coolest place I have every stayed in my entire life. It was on my (never ending) bucket list to sleep in a tree house, and I did it! I will save the description for my next blog post, so stay tuned. Thank you for reading everyone!