It’s August and I’m escaping the New Zealand winter and heading back to Bali and the Gili Islands for three weeks. I really love this place with its warm climate, culture and friendly people.
After an early morning tequila or two, buffet breakfast including cappuccino and free wifi at the Strata Lounge https://www.aucklandairport.co.nz/eat-and-relax/strata-lounge in Auckland, the NZD49 for entry was worth it, as I had no time for breakfast before leaving home this morning.
I love flying and have the window seat and the middle seat is empty. I get chatting to the dude in the aisle seat who’s name is Michael. He is from Manchester and in his final year of study to become a Doctor. Michael is heading home after completing a year of study in Melbourne and a tour of New Zealand solo in a campervan.
Several vodkas later, I decide that people like Michael give me faith and hope in humanity as Michaels attitude to life is pretty cool. He cares about people and what happens to them and is waking up to what I call “The Matrix.” The injustices imposed by our so-out-of-whack society.
It takes one hour and thirty minutes to get through customs at Denpasar Airport as there are people everywhere. I pick up my backpack from the luggage carousel and go outside to find my ride to the guest house. As fate would have it – I can’t find them! There are hundreds of drivers outside the arrival hall all waving signs looking for their person to pick up. After a slight WTF moment, I purchase a SIM card to phone the Guest House. NZD25 buys me 15GB – a huge amount of data. Personally, I will never understand why data is so expensive in New Zealand! Joyce, my driver has been there the whole time and we head to our destination, just outside of Sanur.
Going with the flow, I have no idea what the next 21 days will hold for me as I have only one nights accommodation booked in Bali. In the morning I am going straight through to Gili Trawangan for 4 nights (or so I thought) ….only to find out from my host that The Gili Islands are closed due to big waves in the Bali Strait….. What to do now??
My host recommends Nusa Lembongan instead as it’s pretty close to the Gilis and it’s the only place boats are running. I make the mistake of purchasing an open ticket from Bali-Nusa Lembongan-Gili Trawangan and back to Bali. Kind of wished I hadn’t, as I have no idea when the Gilis will reopen and I end up cancelling my accommodation there.
Nusa Lembongan is a small island off the southeast coast of Bali. Its neighbours are Nusa Ceningan and the much bigger Nusa Penida. The three islands are separated by the Badung Strait. Each island is different in geography with only local traffic (and novice scooter riders) and no hawkers. The pace of life is “island time.” As Lembongan is only 8 kilometres around and is paved all the way, it is a great place to rent a scooter and explore.
The journey from Sanur takes about 30 minutes by boat, and depending on the tides, you disembark either on a jetty in the middle between Nusa Ceningan and Lembongan, then sail on a smaller boat to the beach by the Yellow Bridge as the channel is very shallow. These two islands are connected by the little Yellow Bridge which you can either walk or scooter over. Or you disembark on a floating jetty at another place on the island.
Nusa Lembongan/Nusa Penida is a great spot for diving. It boasts the famous Manta Point where Manta rays live along with vibrant living coral, thousands of colourful tropical fish and turtles. The white sand beaches are clean and not jam-packed with tourists. The water is clear and clean. This is a great place to escape to away from the hustle and bustle of the mainland.
I’ve booked a stay at the https://www.bonghostel.com/ in Nusa Lembongan. (It has no bongs though, haha) This is a brand new eco-hostel up the hill with a pool. You have the most amazing view of the hills and the ocean inlet that leads to the Bali Sea. The Hostel is also planting an eco-farm which is pretty cool. There is such a chill vibe at this hostel. Rooms are set up pod-like with most rooms having the view mentioned above from your bed! They have their own water filtration system as well.
Nusa Lembongan is not a party island, it pretty much shuts down about 8:00-8:30 pm, meaning there are no taxis around. One of the other girls from the Hostel and myself go out for a sunset dinner with Bintangs on the other side of the island on the first night. There was a beautiful sunset at We end up paying a local Astro dollars to take us back home.
The next day I rent a scooter to ride around on. I can only ride a Honda Scoopy as it’s just that little bit smaller and I can touch the ground. Finding a Scoopy is a bit of a challenge at first. All the places I try to rent from only have Honda Varios left. At a cafe, one of the local girls rents me her Scoopy without a deposit, she just wants to know where I am staying and tells me not to leave the keys in the ignition.
Because the island is so small, I spend the day cruising around it several times. It takes a little bit of time to get my confidence back and used to scootering again. I take in the sights, the people, some of the amazing beaches and the dogs. Dogs are everywhere, most of them look happy and healthy and a lot of them are wearing red ribbons around their necks. Red ribbons on a dog indicate the fur baby is vaccinated with no rabies. It seems like every household or shop has a woof-woof or several outside sunning themselves or sleeping. The air is alive with the smell of the ocean and incense from the Balinese offerings (Canang Sari) the locals make to the Gods every day.
I end up at Devil’s Tears, a spot on the South Coast where huge waves come crashing into a cave resulting in an epic blow-hole! I stand there mystified, enjoying the power of Mother Nature and feel grateful I’m not in the churning waters below as it would surely result in instant death!
Lombok & Gili Islands Earthquake
Later that evening there is a very BIG earthquake, a 6.1 centred again in Lombok. It is like being back in Christchurch, it hits Lombok and the Gilis hard and hundreds of people are dead. Much peace to everyone affected by this tragic event.
Therefore, I won’t be going to the Gilis at all now, and decide to stay on Nusa Lembongan for a bit and do some diving as this is a world-renowned diving site. It is my first time diving in 6 years and after a half-day refresher, I was ready for the next days diving. I thoroughly recommend https://www.tamarinddivers.com/ (PADI) as a diving school for safety and helping me to get my confidence back in the water.
We dive at Manta point and see Mantas!! The visibility is not the best as the waves are still high. Visibility is better at Crystal Bay, even though half the reef is smashed by the storm that came through last week. I see thousands of tropical fish in every colour of the rainbow and a big school of big-eyed barracuda. I feel I am part of a giant aqua coloured aquarium.
The next stop on my trip is Sanur, back on the Mainland. Sanur is on the East coast of Bali, and there are sunrises to look forward to. This coastal village is pretty chill, full of families, restaurants, calm waters and good markets. It is nowhere near the hustle and bustle of somewhere Uber busy, such as Kuta.
After a week in Sanur, I’m now on my way to Amed on the east coast of Bali for three nights with Denise, another kiwi who I met in Sanur. We are looking forward to seeing Mt Agung, the active volcano, which is 15km away from where we decide to stay. My intention is to dive as Amed has some of the best diving in the world! You can dive off the beach!! BUT, I was all impulsive the previous week and got myself a wicked tattoo. Diving is now not possible. Big Fail on my behalf!!
Upon arriving at the Amed Sari Beach House, they have made a mistake and double-booked, so my room with a sea view isn’t available for the first night. The lady offers me a mattress on the floor of the dorm which I accept, as there are no vacancies within my budget available. There are two solo female travellers staying there along with a giant RAT that decides to visit!!
It is really hot in Amed and the black volcanic sand makes it even hotter. So we spent the rest of the day lounging around the pool drinking Bintang, reading and watch a local lady dance on the salt she is making. Chickens are everywhere, roaming the beach, haha! I find the beach really dirty with lots of plastic everywhere.
I have to wrap my tattoo in plastic wrap with duct tape if I want to go for a swim and keep it out of the sun. The sea is really warm as is the pool. Sunset from the bean bags watching the volcano over happy hour cocktails is a pretty cool experience.
The next morning I shift into my room and I’m so happy with it. The room is new and large with sea views and is on the top floor of the guest house. Later that afternoon there is a 6.4 magnitude earthquake, again centres on Lombok which is really close. We are having lunch in a cafe by the beach when it happens and everyone evacuates. People are very shaken up.
At 10:56 pm, after I just got into bed, there is another really big earthquake (6.9). It goes on for about 20 seconds. 20 seconds of very intense shaking. The young Swiss couple in the next room along with myself go out onto the open deck and we don’t know what to do! Do we stay where we are or attempt the four flights of stairs to the ground? We decide to stay where we are. After the shaking stops, we go down to the beach and wait to see if there is a tsunami alert (there isn’t, thank goodness).
Very little sleep is had by anybody as strong aftershocks continue all night and into the morning. Many people have slept on the beach overnight and I am feeling very anxious. In the morning we are leaving this side of Bali and going to Ubud, the spiritual centre of the Island. These earthquakes have rattled me more than the ones I experienced in Christchurch, New Zealand. I think it’s because I am on the 4th floor and not on the ground. I really feel for the locals who live here.