Finally - a pristine reef!
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Where I stayed
Nusa Lembongan is a small island about 4 miles long and 1 to 2 miles wide, close to the larger island of Nusa Penida, and 12 miles from the mainland, but a world away from the bustle of Bali. I think this is how Bali used to be 30 to 40 years ago. There isn't a jetty so it is necessary to jump out of the small ferry boat into the sea. I did worry about our cases but the boatmen managed to keep them dry. There is a village on the beach and the few small hotels and hostels are dotted throughout the village and at a couple of other beaches. We are staying at Mainski Resort which does not have free wifi or hot water as claimed on it's website but provides a simple breakfast of toast, a bowl of fruit and tea or coffee and has a lovely pool, small but perfectly formed to crack ankles and elbows of the unwary. However it is lovely to jump in and cool off every few minutes and the view from the infinity pool is unbeatable
It is not the worst place we have stayed but it falls a long way short of the Ari Putri! Mainski advertise, “Aussie owned, Aussie Chef and Aussie hygiene”. I am glad we travelled the Stuart Highway as it prepared us for the Aussie hygiene here! They neglect to advertise, “Aussie prices”, but that is what they charge in the restaurant so we don't eat in.
Life here is very quiet and casual with only a handful of cars, and relatively few tourists, just enough to keep the 3 or 4 dive schools and a handful of boats in business. There are no tourist shops or stalls apart from a couple of young children who sometimes display some shells they have collected on the beach.
About 500 metres off shore the reef forms breakers sufficient for surfing enthusiasts, although sometimes the waves quieten down depending upon tide and wind and when that happens it is possible to see a handful of keen surfers bobbing around like buoys in the distance, patiently waiting for the waves to build up again. At other times the breakers are huge. I had not realised how uncomfortable surfing can be. A group of 3 surfers at Mainski suffered board burns, cuts from the coral, and worst of all, attack from sea lice
There is no night life here so it really only attracts those interested in surf or reef. In fact, when Anna was attending her degree ceremony at Cranfield on 9th June, it was being streamed live on the internet and we really wanted to see it. So after eating dinner at our favourite bar (which has free wifi), we went back to our room to charge the battery and then returned to the bar a little before 10pm which we guessed would be about the right time to watch. It was a strange experience as we were the only customers and when we left 20 minutes later to return to Mainski the whole beach was in darkness. We did manage to see Anna and hear her name but it felt quite surreal and as she was shaking hands she suddenly disappeared to be replaced by another person as the signal link caught up with itself
When we left the Ari Putri I was not sure if it was worth transferring here to Nusa Lembongan for 8 nights but I am so pleased we did. The islands are beautiful with emerald green hills, cliffs, beaches and bays but most impressive is the reef. It has amazing corals, some of the best I have seen. They are what we have been looking for since we left England and they rival the Maldives. They are pristine, with a huge variety and mix of soft corals and some of the largest shoals of reef fish ever. On 4 days we hired a traditional junglut boat and Tony, the owner, took us to whichever reef or bay we wanted to visit. One day we went to Manta Point and were lucky and spotted 2 mantas. We had to fin like fury to keep up with them. I was slightly put out as Jim (despite his wobbly knees) managed to keep up with the Mantas longer than I could but I explain that by his greater height and therefore more powerful finning. But I have to say he was exhausted for the next couple of days. The Mantas are so graceful, gliding and soaring through the water as effortlessly as a bird of prey in the air. Another day I saw a black and white ringed sea snake right up at the surface chasing small fish and then followed it as it dived back to the coral. It moved surprisingly quickly and I was just glad it did not swim in my direction.
The islands remind me of James Bond films where an evil billionaire megalomaniac has his high tech nerve centre hidden inside an island from where he plans to control the world
Apart from tourism and fishing the other industry here is the farming of seaweed. The bay is wide and shallow, ideal for growing and harvesting seaweed. Large rectangular “fields” are marked out under the water and the area is criss crossed with rope around which the seaweed grows. Families farm their own areas. When the water level is very low (at the new moon and full moon), the bay is alive with activity as they harvest as much of the seaweed as possible at that time, and depending upon the time of low tide, they carry on into the night with torches. They collect the weed, dry it out on giant cloths by the beach and then send it to Sanur on the mainland for processing. Much of the crop is then exported to Hong Kong. It is used in cosmetics, food products and in medicine.
We are stopping at Ari Putri Hotel for 2 nights before flying on to Kuala Lumpur. We haven't a clue what we are going to see or do there yet but I am sure it will all into place at some point.
ps should just add that when the owner returned to Mainski after a trip to Denpasar he reinstated the free wifi and occasionally it worked!