Nusa Penida….Our Day of Misadventures and The Shit That No One Tells You

In all fairness we were in Nusa Penida during their wet season.

In February, a girlfriend and I decided to embark on a week long adventure in Bali. We purchased our round-trip flights, a hotel in South Kuta for the first night and that was it. With absolutely no plans and no expectations we were very excited to discover the beauty of Bali with the freedom to travel somewhere different each day.

We’d first heard about Nusa Penida from some friends and since it was closer than the Gili Islands, while also being less touristy, we decided to give it a go.  After a couple days into our trip we left our hotel in Padang Padang and were driven the 45 minutes to Sanur where we would hop aboard one of the fast boats to Nusa Penida.

The original company we were going to use informed us that there was no noon boat (even though our hotel told us there was) and that the next boat wasnt until 4pm. We really didn’t want to sit around for extra hours so we decided to scope out our other options. There are many different fast boat companies that travel from Sanur to Nusa Penida. While most of the boats have an afternoon departure of 4pm we did find one company that left at 2pm. Score! We purchased our round-trip tickets for 350,000 IDR (about $26) each for the boat named Angels (Angles) Billabong. While we waited for the fast boat we put down our bag and had a Bintang at the Amanda Beach hotel restaurant.

Around 1:45 pm the Angels Billabong fast boat arrived at the shore and we proceeded to make our way down to the waters edge. To get down to the water you could either walk to the stairs or just climb down the boulder-sized rocks that were stacked up along the sea wall. Once we were down at the sand we waited for the guys who worked on the boat to gather our bags and load them onto the boat. There was no dock or ramp to get onto the boat. Instead you placed your shoes into a basket and waded in the water. The waves crashed high onto our thighs as we made our way out to the ladder to climb up onto the boat. Once on the boat we found our seats and sat comfortably during our 35 min ride to Nusa Penida.

Earlier in the day I had spoken to the lovely staff at Bintang Bungalow and they arranged for our pick-up from the harbor once we arrived on Nusa Penida. Arriving at Nusa Penida there was an actual dock and ramp that we walked up. We quickly met our new friends from Bintang Bungalows and after collecting our luggage we climbed on the back of their scooters and they drove us to the bungalows. This was our first experience riding on the back of scooters in Bali and luckily the roads leading to the bungalows were well paved and the drive wasn’t very long.

Bintang Bungalows is tucked away just off the main road in a peaceful area surrounded by trees. A short distance from Crystal Bay Beach are their nine beautiful bungalows that give off some serious island vibes.

We put down our belongings and relaxed for a minute before our 800 meter walk down to Crystal Bay for sunset. Our hotel told us that it was a very easy 20 min walk to the beach. Despite the threatening storm, we headed out, hopeful to see a beautiful sunset.

The walk, while not a long distance, was straight downhill. The whole time we were thinking about how we would have to repeat our steps, this time going uphill.

We reached the beach and, as promised, the views were beautiful.

The waves crashed onto the beach and while we could see just the peaks of a sunset, the dark clouds obstructed the orange-hued skies. As the sun dipped below the horizon the light rain started to drip on our heads and we decided to head back to the hotel. The walk back was significantly more difficult than the trek down but we made it and rewarded ourselves with a Bintang beer by the pool. We ordered some dinner and enjoyed our fried rice and fried noodles from the comfort of our pool chairs. During dinner we looked at our map and attempted to make a plan for the next day in order to maximize our day on the island.

We woke up well rested and full of excitement for our adventurous day exploring the island. We informed the staff that we wanted to rent a scooter for the day and told them what we were hoping to see. They made it seem very easy and eased our worries about driving the scooter due to our huge lack of experience. I got a quick lesson on how to operate the scooter: the gas, the brakes, the key and the kickstand. We both hopped onto the scooter and I began to slowly give the scooter some gas. It was quickly realized that I needed a little bit of practice going up and down the driveway before having Louise on back and taking off. After a few practice runs my confidence increased and we were off.

Luckily, the google maps on my phone worked so we were able to make stops along the way and map out our routes. Initially the roads were well paved and wide but the farther away from the main road we got the worse the roads got. They became hillier, narrower and rittled with huge pot holes. Due to the rainy season the pot holes were filled with mud and water making it very difficult to not get splashed with the muddy water when we weren’t able to dodge the pot holes.

Based on our preliminary plan for the day we headed to manta ray point first, since this was the farthest away from our hotel and we were told that it was best to get there early. We were under the impression that you could swim with many manta rays, again this is based on very little to no research. We continued in the direction of manta point for several miles, making stops along the way to confirm we were heading in the right direction. A few times we needed to backtrack just a bit based on our google maps. We also asked some of the locals if we were heading in the right direction. During our long drive through the terrible roads the google maps would recalculate our distance to manta point and somehow the distance and time would be longer than before even though we were heading in the right direction. Eventually, we became quite discouraged as the time was slipping away and the roads were progressively getting worse. We decided to head back and away from manta point.

We were determined to see something this day so we began our drive in the direction of Broken Bay and Angel’s Billabong. Again, through all the super crappy roads we drove until we finally reached some promising signage that confirmed we were heading in the right direction. We whipped around a tight turn and the locals starting flagging us down. Turns out you have to pay about 5,000 IDR to enter the area of Broken Bay and Angel’s Billabong. We paid the small fee and the guys wished us “good luck.” We didn’t think anything of it until we started driving in. Just when we thought the roads couldn’t get any worse, they did.

By a lot.

It was mostly downhill so my forearms were burning trying to keep us from flying off the front of the scooter. The roads, if you can even call them that, were almost entirely covered by rocks of varying sizes. But then dotted throughout would be huge, mud filled potholes. I honestly don’t know how the bike was making it.

The road is pretty long and just when we were about to reach the end there was an uphill…. on a turn! Knowing that the scoot needed some gas to even make it up the hill, I prepared Louise for the jolt and up we went. Except the scooter couldn’t handle it, shit went flying and we fell over in this order: me, louise, bike. After the initial shock and making sure the other was okay we broke out in a fit of laughter.

Seriously???? How did no one warn us about this?!

Now covered in scratches and mud we said screw it! We moved the bike out of the way into a patch of grass, took the key and left it.

We walked the rest of the way until we reached Broken Bay. While walking we saw many locals driving back and forth on that terrible road, sometimes with 3 people and a baby. Louise and I kept looking at each other with puzzled looks, repeating “how??” every time someone would zip past us.

I guess that “road” is expert level and we are no experts.

Broken Bay was really beautiful and is the first thing you come across on the way to Angel’s Billabong. You can walk all around the natural arch and the views are stunning from every angle.

Based on the instagram photos I was pretty excited to see and potentially swim in Angel’s BIllabong. Plus I wanted to rinse off and clean out all of my new battle wounds. However, due to the rainy season it was no instagram photo. The sea was very rough and the huge waves were crashing into the muddy, murky water that is normally clear.

So even though we couldn’t go swimming in there we sat and enjoyed the view for a bit. In our search for working 3G internet we wandered back over to Broken Bay so that we could send our hotel an email and see if they could pick us up with a van since we didn’t feel comfortable tackling those roads again.

After seeing a few other visitors pulling up in private vans, we now knew that it was an option.  Of course it costs more to have the private driver but everyone we spoke to had visited sights on the island that we were absolutely going to miss.

Next time!

After about 3 hours, staff from our hotel arrived and what do they arrive on??

Another damn scooter!

The girl and Louise rode on the scooter we rented and I rode on the back of another scooter with the guy. They somehow (probably because they grew up driving on these shitty roads) got us out of there and back on what now seemed like the world’s easiest roads.

Earlier in the day we noticed that our scooter was literally out of gas, like the needle was creeping below the E. We knew it would come back and bite us in the ass and sure enough the scooter ran out during the drive back. The two from the hotel left us on the side of the road with the scooter while they went and bought some petrol. About 20 min later they returned, filled the scooter with gas and off we went.

We arrived back at the Bintang Bungalows and headed straight for the pool, beer in hand. What. A. Day.

Despite all the hilarious misadventures, that were at many times very frustrating, we still had a ton of fun and shared a lot of laughs!

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