Nusa Penida

The Hidden Gem of Bali

Batu Atuh (Father Rock)

Nusa Penida island is a part of Bali which is often overlooked by visitors to this region of Indonesia mainly due to the copious amounts of things to do on the main island of Bali itself and the lack of real infrastructure. Nusa Penida though is a beautifully untouched and undeveloped island off the coast of Bali which is actually Balinese being a part of Klungkung regency and was once used as a penal colony during the Klungkung dynasty. Very similar to Alcatraz in the USA and the Andaman Islands of India it was used to incarcerate political prisoners and criminals.

View entering the ferry terminal at Buyuk (Sampalan) on Nusa Penida

Nusa Penida covers an area of around 200 square kilometres making it much larger than its more popular and better known neighbouring islands of Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan. The reason for this is the lack of tourist infrastructure which tends to put people off but for those more adventurous types who do put themselves out to visit this hidden gem they will be extremely well rewarded.

Map of Nusa Penida (Source_Wikipedia)

Nusa Penida has a very different climate compared to nearby Bali, it's a dry island, receiving little rain so much so that lack of freshwater along with the limestone based soil makes agriculture extremely difficult. A lot of the food on the island is actually imported from Bali.
The Limestone foundations of the island have created an absolutely stunning coastline for Nusa Penida and this is the big attraction. Limestone Karst formations are in abundance mainly in the south of the island.

Karst Landscape near Pantai Atuh

This is where the beauty of Nusa Penida is to be found, the Limestone Karst Landscape. But not only that, the limited infrastructure which in turn creates a lack of visitors allows it to maintain a quaintness and supresses over development yet this in turn creates its own difficulties for the visitor to this beautiful part of the world. It is rather difficult to get around to see the amazing sites it does have to offer as the roads away from the main highway, if you could call it that, are extremely rough in places. An over abundance of potholes is the norm but expect much worse than that, some are so broken you would be better off with a trail bike!

Pasih Uwug (Broken Beach)

There is very little choice regarding public transport for navigating your way around the island so the main options are hiring a car and driver, hiring a motorbike which cost around 50-80,000 idr per day or bring your own transport over from Bali. The motorbike option is by far the best way to get around unless you have a four wheel drive vehicle of course! Distances are not so great but very time consuming nevertheless!
Now you have transport how do you know where you are going? where the main sites are? Well I suggest doing a lot of research beforehand as maps on the island are few and far between and road signs are also very limited. You will find yourselves asking locals for directions on numerous occasions and most likely get lost! but this is all part of the fun if you have time to spare. Other than that riding on roads free of traffic unlike Bali is an absolute dream.

Paluang Cliff at sunset

Another point to make are the limited places to stay. Accomodation is quite sparse and is mainly located at Toyapakeh where you would arrive if you take one of the fast or slow boats from Sanur on Bali and Sampalan which is right next door to Buyuk Ferry Terminal where you would arrive if you take the Vehicle Ferry from Padang Bai on Bali
Western type restaurants are also few and far between, almost none existant but there are local Warungs (Indonesian restaurants). These are also found at Toya, Sampalan and Ped. One more thing to mention is don't leave your last meal of the day until too late at night as a lot of the local warungs will be closed for 9pm in fact much of the island will be closed down by then!

Pantai Atuh at Sunrise

If you don't need your western comforts such as western food, beer, easily accessible beaches, snorkelling and diving this most definitely is the place to be, an island devoted to the adventurer! Unlike Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan next door. If you want all the above those islands are the place to be for you. Much more accomodating. For me Nusa Penida was ideal and well worth the visit, very much beyond my expections but it's no walk in the park!
it can be if you just want to relax on Crystal Bay Beach which if you do don't expect a crowd. Even at this beautiful spot you won't find many visitors day or night and if that's exactly what you are after what more could you ask for!

Crustal Bay Beach at Sunset

The stunning coastline that Nusa Penida boasts is situated at the southern portion of the island. Home to such attractions as Bana Cliff, Manta Point where you can dive and swim with huge black Manta Rays and if you would rather just observe how about from a viewpoint 300m above the sea on top of a cliff overlooking the sea where the water is so clear you can actually see the Manta's feeding. If you are extremely lucky you may even see the famous Mola Mola or Sunfish too.

Manta Point

Batu Atuh is another incredible striking place to visit with a range of limestone sea stacks but again not an easy place to reach, once you have located it you then have to cover the last few kilometres on your motorbike over an extremely rough broken road before heading off on foot along a precipitous cliff top from where you descend hundreds of steps to Atuh Beach (Pantai Atuh).

 Mushroom like Limestone Karst near Pantai Atuh

Long Exposure shot from Atuh Beach

More limestone karst on the coast can be found at the sea crater of Pasih Uwug and Pasih Aduas. Pasih Uwug (Broken beach) is a superb natural geological phenomenon, quite surreal. Formed after a former cave collapsed in on itself leaving a huge sea crater of a hole with surrounding walls intact along with the original cave entrance where you can witness the turquiose clear water of the surging in and out with the ebb and flow of the tide.

Broken Beach (Pasih Uwug)

Pantai Aduas (Aduas beach) at High Tide

Travelling through the middle of the island reveals a beautiful landscape of undulating hills which arise from the central mountain or Gunung Puncak Mundi where the small town of Tanglad (no warungs at time of writing) can be found on the south east slopes. Famed for its handwoven material used for sarongs etc with its individual and unique style.
Another town of note is Suana to the east of the island, from here you can see the island of Lombok in the distance and in the opposite direction see Gunung Agung, the highest mountain on Bali. More notably at Suana is the Seaweed farming taking place, flourishing and on a large scale.

Seaweed Farming at Suana with Gunung Agung in the background

Getting There and Away

There are a number of options to reach the island regarding Ferry Boat transport. fast boats leave Sanur on Bali to Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Penida quite frequently along with the more inexpensive slower boats. These sail mainly to Toyapakeh on Nusa Penida and some go to Buyuk harbour at Sampalan further to the east.
If you are taking your own transport your only option is the inexpenisve vehicle ferry which takes one hour for the crossing from the ferry terminal at Padang Bai on Bali and also sails to Buyuk.

The vehicle ferry from Padang Bai cannot really be trusted regardng departure time due to inconsistency, there is one a day which is meant to leave at 1pm but when I visited it didn't leave until 3pm! Nevertheless you have to be there because nobody know when it will depart, Coming from Buyuk it's a different story where the ferry leaves at 10am daily almost on the dot.

Vehicle Ferry from Buyuk on Nusa Penida to Padang Bai on Bali

I hope this article will be of help to somebody as I know before I went I also found some extremely helpful and informative blog posts relating to Nusa Penida and research is pretty much essential with this place! Good luck if you do venture that way and ENJOY!

One last shot.....

Long Exposure of Paluang Cliffs at Sunset

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