Island-hopping Part I: Nusa Lembongan 

It is with a relatively heavy heart that I left Canggu and Serenity, and with some apprehension that I boarded a fast boat to Nusa Lembongan across the infamous Badung strait. The Lonely Planet and multiple online sources don’t mince their words when stating that there are no safety regulations and that there have been a number of accidents; some boats have even sunk. I chose to travel with Scoot, as recommended by our Ubud driver Arsa, and I’m pleased to say that it’s all gone smoothly so far. Despite a little engine trouble when leaving Sanur and the rather epic swell which caused the boat to sway and bump more than I would generally feel comfortable with, we safely made it across to Nusa Lembongan, where my first thought was: “Wow! Look at that water!”

My boat ticket included a pick-up truck transfer to Mushroom Bay where, after a somewhat awkward yet friendly conversation with my driver about how the price of my flight to Bali was the equivalent of a family’s food for two months, I checked into the lovely Perdana Homestay. My own room, AC, swimming pool, private terrace, adorable kitten and smiling owner – all for £18 a night. Having checked in, my tummy started signalling that it was perhaps time for some lunch, so down to the beach I headed. Eating nasi goreng on a shady terrace overlooking a stunning bay with clear waters and UB40 playing in the background was exactly what I needed. And breathe!

In my 3.5 days on the island, I didn’t actually do as much as I’d initially thought I would. I’d considered day trips to the two neighbouring islands and exploring Lembongan on foot, but the stifling heat, a general sense of fatigue and a really bad bout of migraines somewhat forced me really to take it easy. Not to mention the suspension bridge leading to Nusa Ceningan that collapsed last month, killing 9 people. However frustrating, travelling can be exhausting, both physically and emotionally, and I have been learning to let go of the guilt of not necessarily doing everything there is to do in a given place. 

What I did do, however, was go on a snorkelling trip organised by my new Canadian friend Bianca with two lovely Frenchies, Manu and Mehdi. We scooted around the three islands, Lembongan, Ceningan and Penida, stopping in 3 different snorkelling spots. First, we saw large, black fish with big eyes and big teeth (can’t remember the name!), that were rather impressive, particularly when they fought over food right next to you. Second, and I still can’t quite believe this, we saw manta rays! Yes, those huge, black, floaty things. We had to search for them for a while, visiting several bays, when suddenly our boat driver told us to get ready and get in the water as quickly as possible as they would probably swim away at our approach. What with the large waves and the nearby cliffs, it was all rather stressful, and I have to admit I wasn’t all that reassured when I got in the water and found myself face to face with a 2-meter-across ray with its mouth wide open. But, after the initial panic and having to hold on to someone’s arm, I was eventually able to enjoy and appreciate the mantas’ majestic gliding. What a sight! 

Finally, we joined some other snorkelling groups at Crystal Bay where the water was, as you might have guessed, crystal-clear. Being relatively new to this sort of thing, I was surprised at the clicking sound the coral makes and at the brightness and sheer number of fishes. Electric blue, iridescent pink, flashy green, bright yellow – it was like swimming in an aquarium!

Back at Mushroom Bay, we enjoyed a well-deserved lunch on the beach and delicious mango iced tea, and only narrowly avoided being pooed on several times by the birds above. They may have been pretty but I think they must have been suffering from Bali belly!

The rest of my time was spent adjusting to the island’s pace, reading, swimming, eating, catching up on sleep – especially after the wedding ceremony prayers that went on until 11.30pm (way past Granny Knapp’s bedtime) and started again at 5.30am – and enjoying some beautiful sunsets. They weren’t the most amazing sunsets I’ve ever seen in terms of colours, etc. but they felt very special – sitting alone at the top of steep cliffs, watching huge waves crash and seeing dolphins and turtles peek out as the sun went down was nothing short of magical.

More soon on Gili Air!




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