Bali is well-known to have some of the most beautiful beaches and snorkeling locations in the world. What is less known is that some of the best spots are not on the mainland, but just a short boat trip away, on and around Bali’s three exotic sister islands – Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan, and Nusa Ceningan.
And, oh, what a boat ride it is! Just getting to the islands off Bali’s southeastern coast is an adventure unto itself and a great way to start a day jammed with fun on our 3 Islands Ocean Rafting Cruise. Our vessel was actually a high-speed raft which immediately proved to be an exhilarating transport as we left Benoa Harbor and zoomed through and over the rocky surf, sometimes airborne. Hang on tight and be prepared! You will get wet on this boat!
The first island that came into our vision was Nusa Penida, by far the largest of the three islands. Slowing down and gliding along the southern coast of Penida, the majestic 300-foot limestone cliffs formed a rugged, towering backdrop – including a natural arch – juxtaposed against the deep blue sea. Due to its lack of natural water, Penida is more of an off-the-beaten-track destination so a Nusa Penida tour is recommended. The island has become something of a bird sanctuary and there are secluded beaches and caves to be explored. The snorkeling in Nusa Penida is wonderful.
On our way to the next island, Ceningan, we stopped to snorkel at Crystal Bay. The clear water for which this spot is named and the calm current make this an idyllic spot for underwater sightseeing, including a reef teeming with tropical fish. Crystal Bay is one of the few places in the world where the elusive mola mola (sunfish) can sometimes be seen. I couldn’t wait to slip into my fins and mask and leap overboard! The reef and tropic fish were pretty, but unfortunately, I did not spot any mola mola.
After a buffet lunch served on board, we continued through the Badung Strait, until a stunning site came into view – the island of Ceningan.
“This. Is. Paradise.” I said to Kathy, my traveling companion. The smallest of the three sister islands, as you approach you are greeted by a white sandy beach with shallow water which varies from azure blue to a shade of aqua so iridescent it’s almost blinding. And yet, I could not tear my eyes away. The clear ocean here is bathwater-warm and great for swimming. This was my favorite part of the Nusa Penida tour.
We landed on the island and took a short guided tour to peek into the local culture of a small village where seaweed farming is the main source of income as well as a short hike to the small Bakung Temple. Nusa Ceningan also has the problem of no fresh water supply so there are not many tourists on the island, in spite of its natural exotic beauty.
On our way to the last island, Nusa Lembongan, we stopped at a second snorkeling spot. Toya Pakeh is a slightly sheltered bay with some beautiful coral. This site has good visibility, and turtles, reef fish and even quite large pelagic fishes can be seen around the coral here.
The last stop on this fun day was the island of Lembongan. This more developed island offers boutique hotels and a beach club. The aqua beaches are pristine with no one trying to sell you anything. We arrived at the Bali Hai Beach Club where we could grab a snack, coffee or alcoholic beverage and settle in to relax under the palapa-shaded beach chairs, swim, snorkel, or parasail.
After a full day of snorkeling, swimming, walking, and hanging onto the raft for dear life, I chose to just sit and chat with Kathy until it was time to board our raft and head back to mainland Bali. I know, it’s out of character for me not to choose another activity like parasailing, but sometimes I can surprise people and be completely normal. 🙂
If you can dedicate a bigger block of time to Bali’s sister islands, here’s an itinerary of more things to do on Nusa Penida.
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