The Island of Nusa Penida in Bali is starting to be an attraction to a lot of tourists. A popular spot for Instagram posts is the one overlooking Kelingking Beach. Whereas the mainland of Bali is better known for its temples and cultural art, Nusa Penida has inviting beaches and snorkeling locations, such as the Underwater Buddha Temple.
Exploring Nusa Penida isn’t a picnic though. The roads are not mostly rough roads with a lot of pot holes. Instead of renting a scooter as most backpackers do, we hired a van for our trip. We were amazed that even on steep, bumpy hills, our driver managed to navigate like a pro.
Nusa Penida has a calming, provincial vibe. There are less artistic structures compared to Ubud, for example. There are lots of forests and trees, animals such as cows and black pigs, and very few people.
Nusa Penida – Day 1
Early-morning snorkeling trip
In our first day, we stopped first for a snorkeling tour. Kat wasn’t feeling well so I was the only one who signed up. I was part of a group of 5 people, which includes tourists from Thailand named Ing, Pet, Mak and An. There were 4 stops for the snorkeling tour and we started around 9AM.
Our first stop was Manta Point, a swimming ground for manta rays, although I was able to see only one. Because there was a flock of tourists circling the area, it was easy to accidentally hit someone while swimming.
Manta Point has been known to have problems with waste, as there was a viral video of a diver swimming in garbage. I saw some plastic cups floating in the water, so it’s probable that a clean-up was done after that story got out.
Somehow I felt sorry for the lone manta ray, maybe it only wanted to swim in peace since it was trying to escape from the people taking videos.
Next was Gamat Bay. It had beautiful corals and lots for fishes, perfect for snorkeling. The water was so clear. There was an area with strong currents where you should take heed, as it might pull you away. There weren’t a lot of tourists when we swam, so it’s easy to see the aquatic life underneath.
Our third stop is the one I was truly excited about – the Underwater Buddha Temple.
I wasn’t prepared when our boatman said he would drop us off and then just wait on the other side. I thought it was easy and we could take our time. To my surprise, after jumping in the water, the current immediately dragged me away. I passed by a long rope which I held onto. I tried going against the current but I wasn’t moving forward. I saw the underwater temple but only fleetingly, I was struggling to keep afloat. I tried to dive closer to the statue but my swimming skill apparently wasn’t enough. There was a big steel chair where you could sit and take a photo with the Buddha in the background, but it’s difficult to reach.
I grabbed another rope and pulled myself to another boat. From there, I jumped back to the water and let the current take me to the other side.
Our final stop for the snorkeling tour was the GT Point. I thought GT stands for Giant Tuna, we’re told that we could see a big fish there. In Google, some say that GT stands for Giant Trevely, which is another type of big fish. The water here was too cold. I shivered and immediately went back to the boat. I didn’t see much, though I could see big fishes from afar.
This ended our snorkeling tour.
Beaches in Nusa Penida
We went off next to Kelingking Beach, another famous Instagrammable area in Nusa Penida. We were the first to arrive but opted to have lunch first. As we were about to finish eating, other motorcycles and cars started to arrive.
Going down to the beach takes about half an hour. The stairs are steep. We just enjoyed the view from above. It was a wonderful sight and you could easily take good pictures.
We didn’t stay long and then headed to our next stop.
Broken Beach and Angel’s Billabong are located in the same area. To get here, you need to follow a cemented pathway for several minutes. Kat decided to stay behind so I went alone. On the way, I came across a restricted area, as well as a tidal pool with a small temple/offering stand on the side. There are rock formations reminiscent of some places we’d been to in the Philippines, such as the tidal pool in Pangasinan.
And then there’s Angel’s Billabong, a rock formation with a natural tidal pool, and further ahead, Broken Beach, which is a huge arc over the ocean. I wish Kat were with me, but I don’t think she’d like the long walk.
The place was nice, but there’s not much to do except swim in the tidal pool and take pictures of the Broken Beach. I didn’t find any beach in the Broken Beach so I’m curious why they call it that.
Our last stop for the day was Crystal Bay. It’s a long beach full of people lying on lounge chairs and beanie bags, under huge umbrellas. There’s an islet nearby, but it looks like it requires a long swim or a small boat at the least.
What picqued my interest was the broken stairs on the left-end of the beach.
I climbed up the stairs, which was almost covered in bushes. It seems no one was going this way. It’s like Mary and the Secret Garden. The stairs eventually pointed down and at the end I saw an empty beach. There was a lone couple walking along the shore. It was quiet. I sat for a bit and wondered why there weren’t many people here. Perhaps it’s too far for some people to hike.
After the whole-day tour, our driver dropped us off in a bungalow where we’d booked for a night. A fan room with an outdoor bathroom with open ceiling, some potted plants and grass beside the shower. We appreciate the hospitality of the caretaker who welcomed us. Our place is walking distance from a minimart and a few eateries. I pampered Kat and bought her food.
We ended our first day in Nusa Penida with hot noodles and curry.
Nusa Penida – Day 2
Most people opt for a day trip in Nusa Penida. Though that is cheaper, we felt like we would miss out something. So we preferred to stay overnight and thankfully we did because on our first day, Kat wasn’t well but the morning after she was feeling much better.
More beaches and cliffs
Our next destination was Atuh Beach and Thousand Island. We left early from the bungalow near the port, but it was still a long drive. The weather was great and there were blue skies.
Atuh Beach was a breath of fresh air. Windy and breezy, you should hold onto your hats if you’re wearing one. We saw a beach on one side, but it was low tide and it seemed not swimmable, the sand uninviting. On the other side, there’s another beach with white sands. The stairs going down was unfinished though, so it’s not possible to get there. Still, the view from the cliff was great, and maybe when the stairs is finished, it will also become a favorite place.
We walked to the overlooking small house on the hill. We took pictures of the islets and the stone arc on the other side. The sea below looked like it was filled with seagrass.
It was a nice place to chill. There was a hammock and a swing nearby where you can rest because to get here you need to walk a good 20 minutes from the entrance.
Just a few minutes away is the TreeHouse (as our driver called it) and we found out that, because of the islands visible from the viewpoint, the place is also called Thousand Island. We only saw about 5 islands though. There was a lot of walking and climbing stairs here. Best to bring water. We only stayed at the viewpoint where there’s a view of Atuh Beach from earlier, Kat’s dubbed favorite place. We didn’t go to the treehouse because we were already spent walking.
After gathering back our strength, we went back and told our driver we were good to go.
Hills and temples
Our next stop is the Teletubbies Hill, so-called because it resembles the hills in the iconic children show. The hills are rounded, perhaps similar to the ones in Bohol. If you have time, perhaps you can prepare for a picnic or just lie down on the grass. It looks like an area where you can play or fly a kite.
We also stopped by the Goa Giri Putri Temple. When we reached it, the monks gave us free water in plastic cups. The temple itself is inside a cave, the entrance of which is small and cramped that if you have a good height you might have trouble crawling inside. Inside there is a huge cavern, with sparse lights. It’s best to bring a flashlight to see better, as it can be very dark. A pathway leads to the main function hall, where people pray.
After this, we had for lunch in a sea-side restaurant. There was an orange cat that seemed to have a liking on us or maybe it just wants food. I was confused because it would meow and hiss and then meow again. As if it’s asking for food but don’t want to be touched at the same time.
Before we went back to the port for our ride back to Sanur, we stopped by a resort where we saw a black-sand beach. We didn’t stay for long because there wasn’t much shade in the area. We took pictures and our driver finally dropped us off at the port.
Nusa Penida offers very different attractions from the usual sceneries in Bali. We had a good time, though I think Kat only fully enjoyed the tour on the second day. The more reason to go back here.
P.S. Going to Bali soon?
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