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Waka Nusa at Nusa Lembongan Bali

Published 06 January 2011   

Text by David Trauts

Speeding across the sea with Bali fading fast in the background, the Scoot’s double outboard motors were humming a get-a-way tune sweet to my ears. After a weekend where we had staged a Beat Party in Bali’s new cliff-top venue, Klapa with over 2000 people attending and a friend’s son dying in tragic circumstances, taking a break from Bali’s hectic pace was an offer too good to refuse. Friends I had first visited Bali with in 1980 were waiting on the shore at Nusa Lembongan, which was just half an hour away, and what would turn out to be almost 30 years in the past.

Nusa Lembongan is approximately 12 kilometres from Sanur beach, Bali. It’s a small island neighbouring the bigger Nusa Penida just to its south. Development has been at a slow, leisurely pace over the past two decades and while being closer to Bali than the popular Gili Trewangan, it hasn’t yet been overrun by villa and restaurant developers and backpack wielding tourists, and still remains a quiet and tranquil destination.

I was met at Playgrounds Beach from the boat and taken a short bemo drive away to Mushroom Beach and the Waka Nusa Resort. Waka Nusa holds true to the Waka Experience philosophy of keeping it simple while keeping it comfortable, and is set on the most idyllic little cove of beautiful white sand and crystal clear water that you could ever imagine. It was one of the first higher-end properties on the island built some 17 years ago and while now is surrounded by other developments; hotels, villas and restaurants, the position and spacious lay-out can not be beaten. The round shaped rooms with teepee style alang-alang roofs are sited around open garden areas without dividing walls separating them from each other. This open community style living is the trademark of the Waka Experience. The rooms have air-conditioning and hot water – a luxury for most accommodations in the area.

Nusa Lembongan isn’t exactly the kind of place where you expect to meet new people, it’s not a party island, so fortunately, travelling on my own, I had friends already there on holidays staying at a villa on the Playgrounds headland. This gave me the chance to check that part of the island. I had stayed there 10 years earlier in one of the first developments there at the time, Coconut Villas, but now that area, mainly due to the surfers coming to surf the three quality surf breaks in front, has moved along at a heady pace. Many villa, small hotel and restaurant developments have popped up along the headland and are connected by a tastfully built pathway leading back to the beach. The reggae sounds coming out of most bars and restaurants in the evening give an air of Bali yesteryear in this zone, however, there is a choice of a number of stylish accommodations and the views are totally breathtaking over Playgrounds Bay.

Motorbikes can be rented at about double the price of Bali, but a trip around the island is a must. Beaches like Sunset and Dream Beach to the south of Mushroom Beach are hidden gems and a small trip across the bridge to the neighbouring island and up to the lookout point high up on the hill is fun. The rest of the trip around Nusa Lembongan is uneventful until you get to the secluded and narrow beaches of the northwest tip and lighthouse area.

Food options are limited around the island as most produce, including seafood is imported from Bali, but our frinds at the Waka Nusa and neighbouring Lembongan Resort’s Jo Jo restaurants are reasonable. Another small cafe along Playground Beach called Linda’s also has quite a healthy reputation, but I personally was a little non-plussed on a visit there.

In classic Waka style, the Waka Nusa is an ideal escape from the rat race that Bali has become over the years. As we discovered, Nusa Lembongan is just like the Bali of my first trip almost 30 years ago, with quaint lanes and friendly people, but even now, it is still cleaner and most definitely, a little quieter.

Waka Nusa Resort
Nusa Lembongan
T: +62 361 484695
Rates from US$ 127
or Rp Rate from 1,019,700