T he island of Nusa Lembongan lies 12 kilometres south-east of Bali (only 18 kilometres from Bali’s international airport). The 25-minute boat ride across the Badung Strait from Sanur is a great metaphoric way to slow down and leave the hustle-bustle behind. Stepping ashore onto Mushroom Beach is akin to stepping back in time – many say several decades! Laid-back and easy-going, Nusa Lembongan is blissfully traffic-free. You will only see a few cars, no buses, and mostly just scooters and bicycles.
The eight-square-kilometre tropical island is ringed with white sand beaches, limestone bluffs and mangrove forests, and is fringed by a coral reef. It’s linked by a dazzling yellow suspension bridge (two-wheels or pedestrians only) to its tiny neighbour Nusa Ceningan, beyond which is the third of this island sisterhood, the rugged Nusa Penida.
The island’s crystal-clear waters are visited seasonally (July-September) by Mola-Mola, the majestic oceanic sunfish which contributes to the island’s standing as a world-class dive destination. The shallow coral reefs attract snorkellers, while the more adventurous head for the surf breaks and cliff-jumping sites.
There are plenty of things to do in Nusa Lembongan on dry land too. Clamber across limestone outcrops on delightful headland walks, visit a seaweed farm (perhaps followed by a seaweed spa session), cycle through Lembongan Village to the mangroves on the northern shore - the choices are aplenty. Tourist activity is focused on Jungut Batu (the island’s second village) and Mushroom Bay, where the midday heat brings an influx of day-trippers from the Bali mainland. By 4pm the crowds have gone, and this beautiful beach of white sand becomes the preserve of lucky overnight residents, who have the run of barefoot beach bars, cafes and an increasing number of restaurants.