If you’re thinking of visiting Nusa Penida but
- You don’t ride a motorbike or don’t intend to rent one
(Note: the terrain in this island is quite bad – rocky, hilly, bumpy, muddy. It is definitely not for amateur riders. If you are doubting yourself, don’t do it.)
- You don’t want to be a pillion of a motorbike tour guide (definitely a cheaper option for solo travelers to consider)
- You don’t want to follow an itinerary and be joined with other strangers
You will be needing your own private driver for this island!
After contacting countless agencies/tour guides/websites (you can read in my previous post) which did not give me a reply on what I wanted, I finally found one reliable tour guide who can speak really decent English. He is very young, somewhere in his early to mid twenties but age wasn’t too much of an issue for this tour guide service. In fact, the good thing about his youth is that he can scale the rocks twice as fast as us, effortlessly climb up and down the many steps and slopes in slippers, climbing up trees and elevated surface to help us take photos and taking instagram-worthy photos for my friend.
While conversing in the car, he told us proudly that he was good at taking photographs and he knows all the best angles. At the attraction spots, he will proactively ask us for our cameras (including the somewhat camera-shy me) and tell us where to stand, how to pose or look or turn.
The best part is that he could speak very decent english (the best out of all my 3 drivers I had in Bali) and we could have many conversations in the car as he drove from place to place. The roads in Nusa Penida were very bumpy with multiple twists and turns where accidents can happen at the many blind spots if the vehicles don’t horn before approaching the bend. Many paths are only wide enough for one vehicle so if there are two vehicles, both will have to find a wider width (pushing into the boundaries of the trees of the edge) and slowly inch across each other.
Anyway, so this is the map of Nusa Penida and I’ve marked out the attractions we visited in Blue, together with the timings. We had a 9.5 hour service (though he mentioned only 8-9 hours when we were quoted for a day trip). There was no fixed start time and we arrived later than expected (supposed to start at 8) but it was fine as I could communicate with the driver via Whatsapp.
Another thing that you will have to note is that transport to Toya Pakeh from wherever you are (be it Sanur, Nusa Lembongon or Nusa Ceningan) is not provided.
Trying to get a boat from Nusa Lembongon (Yellow Bridge) to Nusa Penida (Toya Pakeh)
For our case, we had to travel from Nusa Lembongon to Toya Pakeh. I am pretty unsure about the boat prices as it fluctuates accordingly to demand and supply (something that the guide warned me about). His offer price was 200,000 (for a private boat) if we booked through him but I read online that the pricing can be like 50,000 if you manage to catch a ‘public’ one.
The staff at the hotel attempted to sell us private boat services (by their friends or preferred operators) but we told them we wanted the public boat option so they just dropped us at the jetty and left.
The jetty was not really a jetty. It was just an area with boats ‘docked’ to shore and random people walking up to you the moment you look like you need a ride. I’ve read somewhere saying that the public boat departs at 6/7am every morning but since we were late, we also didn’t know what it will be.
The first person that spoke to us wanted to sell us a private boat at 200-250k but I was like, nope we want a public boat. After discussing here and there, a couple of other people appeared and they started gathering us and told us 75,000Rp for ‘public’ boat. I have a feeling that the term ‘public’ simply means sharing a boat and we definitely had no issues with sharing since it was only going to be a 15 to 20 mins boat ride. Not having too much of a choice to bargain (75k * 2pax is still cheaper than 200k quoted by the guide) and I highly suspect the boatmen practice price-fixing, we agreed to the price and hop-on the boat.
View of yellow bridge from the boat. Just some very sad news with regards to this bridge. It actually collapse back in October 2016. You can read the news here. The bridge re-opened three weeks before our visit so I guess we were really lucky though we did not get any chance to use it as we did not visit Nusa Ceningan.
It was a small boat, maximum capacity should be about 12 pax.
Along the way, you should be able to spot Mt Agung (an active volcano last erupted in 1963-64), the highest volcano in Bali.
I WhatsApp-ed the guide before we board the boat and when we reached, we spotted him standing at the beach holding a paper with my name. “Yay! – Yet another VIP arrival (first was at the airport)”
We didn’t give him any itinerary that we wanted so we told him to recommend us an itinerary which he gives most of his customers and that was it. We left it all to him.
On a side note, my friend wanted to visit this place “Guyangan Waterfall” for some natural pool which features a blue stairway to heaven (think 700 steps down this super steep and narrow staircase with barely there safety) but the guide discouraged us as it will take up a lot of time and I guess he was smart enough to realise we could possibly not be fit enough for the challenge (which was so true cause I died from exhaustion at his existing itinerary)
The other place ‘Tembeling Forest” which also had a natural pool was also closed due to a landslide. From his recommended itinerary, we took out “Teletubbies Hill” as we were not that keen on hills.
Anyway, let’s begin.
After 1 hour of bumpy roads (think of the indiana jones ride at disneyland) where I took a motion sickness pill just in case, we finally arrived at our first destination.
2. Broken Beach (Pasih Hug)
According to TripCanvas (dont quote me cause I can’t verify this information anywhere), the natural arch used to be a cave. You can look at the aerial drone shot video I found on YouTube below to see that the large concave/hole which makes sense of the cave theory.
Anyway, since I can’t provide the best photos, please head over to Instagram to see the popular poses that people have at this spot. – https://www.instagram.com/explore/locations/538637658/broken-beach-pasih-hug/
3. Angel’s Billabong
I’m sure you’ve heard of the brand ‘Billabong’ but do you know the meaning behind that word?
According to google, it is “a branch of a river forming a backwater or stagnant pool, made by water flowing from the main stream during a flood.”
Now you can finally make sense of the picture below. A stagnant pool/backwater made not from a flood, but from the crashing of waves.
Angel’s Billabong definitely lives up to the beauty of its name. A natural pool of water made for angels; but all things beautiful seem to hurt somehow.
DANGER: This place is highly dangerous during high tides.
The most upsetting thing that happened during our trip was that on the very next day, our guide informed us that there were 3 people swept away by the tides at this very location. Of which, 1 guy (a kiwi national) went into the waters wanting to save his girlfriend but ended up losing his life to the unforgiving nature. His girlfriend was saved by a snorkelling boat 4 hours later. Read the news.
This was not the first mishap as back in 2016, there were 2 tourists swept away and I believe there were more unreported deaths in this place. The guide told us that one of his friend (a fellow guide) had lost his life here as well.
From that moment, we were super cautious and listened to whatever the guide said. My friend went down for a photo and the guide told her to be quick and not stand too close to the edge (and well, she indeed kept a very safe distance).
Photo from the Instagram Tour Guide:
Feels like I’ve been living in paradise the past few days (albeit the cuts & bruises everywhere and without buying any data card) – finally checked the beautiful Nusa Penida off my bucket list!! Thank you @nusapenidaholiday for being such an awesome guide who takes good photos too 😊 But it was sure scary going down Angel’s Billabong right after hearing stories about how people got washed away by the strong waves & were never found 😱 #zhenzhenwanders #AngelsBillabong #NusaPenida #nusapenidaholiday #explorenusapenida #thebalibible #thebaliguideline #explorebali #exploreindonesia #livefolkindonesia
Being a super scaredy-cat (fear of danger and death; not really height), I stayed within my comfort zone and did not venture down into the lagoon. Nevertheless, the scenery was great enough.
With the increasing danger/accidents of this place, I’m not sure if it will still remain the same the next time I visit. The local authorities may choose to barricade the area up or restrict access to the place during high tide, or perhaps nothing will be done but I urge you to please be aware of your surroundings before making decisions that you will regret for life.
Found this photo which could possibly be an indication of warning of high tides so please do not even attempt to enter the water if it looks dangerous. The waves in Bali are really no joke.
4. Kelingking Beach / Paluang Cliff
This was the beach that made Nusa Penida famous on Instagram.
Before seeing this magnificant view, we were brought to the other side known as “Paluang Cliff” where the guide said it was a secret spot that not many people will know about. True to what he said, we were the only ones there. Here’s the instagram tour guide at work =p
When we arrived to the parking area of the real kelingking vantage point, there were many cars and people. So much hype for being a ‘secret’ point.. I’m sorry to inform you that this place has became an open secret thanks to people like me who share the love (heh). [On a side note, do you realise that popular instagrammers like doyoutravel, they don’t location tag the exact place. They usually just tag the region, country in order to create some mystery for their followers but woops, I delight in uncovering the secrets (after I have visited the place)]
The crowd to this place will only.. increase. Right now, there are even bamboo railings erected as a safety precaution against the high volume of tourists visiting this place.
The following photos are a little low res as they are screen capture from my GoPro footages.
I was not kidding when I said our driver/tour guide will go all lengths to take that perfect photo for my friend. Here’s a photo proof.
If you’re feeling annoyed with the railings, do not worry as there is one spot where they did not build the railings and most super nice photos from instagram were taken there.
Anyway, just so you know, the railings were newly erected this year (2017). I scrolled instagram timeine to find this photo which shows that there isn’t any railings back in Jan 2017.
So you may be wondering if this secret beach is actually accessible and the answer is not really, but it can be done.
After scrolling through tons of photos and website on instagram and google, I only managed to find one person writing about her successfully descend down to the beach. The climb down and up took her 1.5 hours so in case you’re feeling adventurous, make sure you have the fitness and the time.
Note: Our guide discouraged us from venturing down by saying that only locals area allowed but, people still go anyway. He said it was dangerous and there isn’t any steps that brings you down directly so a bit of real rock climbing is required (this information is similar to the person who went down).
In case you want to make the descend, let me give you some photos so you can know what you’re getting into.
If you do come across more accounts of people successfully reaching the secret beach, do let me know in the comments section below!
5. Atuh Raja Lima
The guide told us that this was his favourite place and he will ride all the way to this spot to fall asleep wake up to the sunrise. Note that this place is along the eastern coast of Nusa Penida so yep the sun rises in the east.
Anyway, do note that visiting such places are not free. If you see little huts like this, please note that there will be someone collecting an entrance fee. Right now, most fees were 5,000Rp and this fee is paid by our guide and it is included in our tour.
We had our lunch here – sitting by the edge and overlooking the ‘thousand islands’. The big island that we see afar is Lombok.
Sorry for the really bad photo as this was simply a screen capture from my GoPro footage.
Lunch was a simple affair – mee goreng which was basically indomee. Delicious but obviously msg. Oh wells. The food was besides the point; the view here is pretty much a million dollar view.
After eating, we made our way down to find his ‘sleeping location’.
Yes, there are two treehouse available for rent in this spot.
If you prefer booking from booking.com – https://www.booking.com/hotel/id/rumah-pohon-tree-house.en-gb.html#tab-main
TIP: Rumah Pohon is not the name of this exact treehouse. Rumah Pohon simply means ‘Tree House’ in Bahasa so do not be confused with the other bookings of the same name.
I kind of underestimated my fitness level for the trip plus I had this weird fear of falling and it took be quite a while to get down the steps (which was mud/soil-based). Another thing that could possibly be slowing me down was that I was holding a GoPro with one hand. Sadly, the footage that I captured was bouncy and terrible. All I have are stills to show.
This is the start of the descent.
1st Vantage Point
Spectacular cliff views
Note: It took me about 5 mins to get down to the first vantage point. We are about 4/5 distance from reaching the treehouse.
This is the view from our first vantage point.
Note: I don’t have a photo of the resting pavilion as it was occupied when we were there. It feels like a 2.5 by 2.5 elevated platform with shelter. This was the place where my guide spent many nights sleeping and waking up to see the sunrise. If you prefer a more ‘comfortable’ way, you can rent the tree house (about 500,000/night). If I’m not wrong, the treehouse only has a bed and the toilet is below (the one in black), a short distance away.
Vantage Point 2
The steps up was definitely a huge challenge for the unfit me. I believe I spent at least 15 mins climbing up. I do not have the exact timing as it was so tiring that I stop filming on my GoPro to give myself two hands free. Thankfully, there were ropes for me to hold on to (though you can’t exert much weight on them) but it helps psychologically to prevent yourself from falling.
My legs were definitely wobbly the moment we reached the top and I rewarded myself with some cold drinks at the warung. At this moment, I totally had no idea that our next destination at Atuh Beach requires climbing too.. Oh wells.
6. Atuh Beach
Despite the threatening skies, it did not rain and so we made our way to Atuh Beach. I was pretty worried about having to walk through mud/soil steps if it rained but the steps at Atuh Beach were made of concrete. When we reached the car park, we were the only car. I guess the dark skies probably deterred people from visiting the beach.
I was slightly delighted when I saw the smooth concrete slopes, thinking that it ain’t gonna be that hard.
However, the soreness from the ascend 15-20 mins ago was starting to build up. (Note: Raja Lima and Atuh Beach are very close)
I had to walk each step slowly and steadily, one at a time, as I was afraid that my wobbly legs and knee might just give way.
Sneak Peak of Atuh Beach. Damn, it feels really far down.
Embarrassing moment while walking downslope on the sandy path – I slid and fell on my butt (despite wearing shoes). 2 people in front of me who wore slippers were fine but me wearing $12.90 aqua shoes bought from decathlon, had an embarrassing fall. damn.
The remaining route down was (thankfully) concrete steps. These steps were pretty new too and before these steps, it was really dangerous to get down. The guide described the level of difficulty as being similar to the one in Kelingking, where you will require a bit of rock climbing equipment of skills to descend.
The steps got steeper and steeper as we went down. Compared to the previous mud/soil steps at the treehouse, this had no railings so I couldn’t descend with confidence. I took one step at a time (meaning 2 feet on one landing before moving the other feet) as my legs were super wobbly and I did not want to risk falling (and dying) as there was nothing to hold!! I was even impressed that I manage to hold on to my GoPro for most of the journey down.
Can I call this the stairway to paradise?
As I walked down, I kept doubting my ability to climb back up later as I was really tired. (Bali was somewhat a back-to-back trip with Japan.)
Really beautiful beach was awaiting for me at the bottom. The blue waters did remind me a bit of Krabi but there’s a bit more sweetness in arriving to Atuh beach as a lot of effort was spent coming to this place.
We spent a total of 1 hour 40 minutes at this place (including the ascend and descend).
We set on the beach chairs, staring at the waves crashing in. To be honest, it was a little hard for me to relax at that moment because my legs were aching quite a bit and at the back of my mind I was wondering if I could climb back up the stairs and slopes in one piece =/
I even asked the guide if there was any secret path to get back up without the stairs (I was thinking of like perhaps riding a motorbike taxi or something) but he said the stairs was the only way up and down. Which means that all the shop operators at the beach had to bring their supplies up and down the same steps everyday.
Here’s our driver tour guide photographer taking photos for my friend. Thanks to him, I had an easier time as I only had to take photographs and videos for myself. I’m not very good at photography so the more particular friends will always ask me to retake as i can never get angles right but.. thanks to our guide, I was relieved from this duty =p
We sat down on the beach chairs but let me tell you, the bean bags were so much more comfortable! They were hidden away as it was drizzling but my tour guide took it out for his personal selfie shot and we ended up lying down on a beanbag which was like the best thing ever. The bean bags and beach chairs belonged to the store owners so it would be good if you buy something from them. We bought a coconut which was errr not sweet at all but oh wells.
The guide told us that he had 2 customers who swam all the way and climbed up the arch rocks during low tide. He said they were crazy but took photos of them anyway. When we were there (4 to 5pm), the tides were getting rougher so swimming was absolutely dangerous. At times, the waves were so huge that there was a mini waterfall down the arch rocks.
Say hi to Captain Rila, Duffy and Paddy. They had a tiring journey in my backpack too.. Luckiest bears on earth – traveling everywhere with me.
Paddington since 2012, Duffy since 2014 and Captain Rila since 2016. I hope the entourage dont increase as they are such a cute little burden.
The climb back up was insane on my legs and knees but I took it real slow. I started climbing first as I did not want to be too pressured knowing they were waiting for me. I counted the steps as I wanted it to be like a motivation factor but as I type now, I can’t seem to recall the magic number. I think it was something less than 200.
I just happen to notice this video on Atuh Beach 2 years ago. If you are keen to see how modernity changed a place, you can see what Atuh beach was like when there were no huts, no bean bags, no beach chairs and no concrete walkway. Video Link. There was concrete staircase though.
Anyway, if your sharp eyes noticed this random house (back at the tree house) and when we were walking along the concrete smooth path, this is in fact a house available for rent on airbnb!
Link to book (airbnb) – https://www.airbnb.com.sg/rooms/16608619?s=OJ2oqrrV
Booking.com – https://www.booking.com/hotel/id/jogglo-bungalow.en-gb.html?aid=357004;label=gog235jc-hotel-XX-id-joggloNbungalow-unspec-sg-com-L%3Aen-O%3AwindowsS10-B%3Achrome-N%3AXX-S%3Abo-U%3AXX-H%3As;sid=e01848ea85db7d939643cda99ca70805;dist=0&sb_price_type=total&type=total&
Note: the room comes with a toilet (with shower) and even a TV!
When we were driving out, we spotted a caucasian couple (on a motorbike) asking for directions to this place so I guess people do stay there (3 reviews on airbnb) but I don’t think I will have the courage to stay there though. It feels too isolated away from everything, anything.. maybe one day; who knows.
Going back from Nusa Penida to Nusa Lembongan
We reached Toya Pakeh at 6:22pm which was later than the intended 5pm. In Bali, the skies darken pretty early (not in summer) so it is advisable to go back earlier as the street lamps may be limited. We were the only ones at the beach needing a ride back to Nusa Lembongan. As a result, we had to pay like monopoly price of 250,000Rp for a private boat. The tour guide (not sure where his boatman friend who could quote us 200,000Rp was) didn’t help us negotiate but I guess it was a price we had to pay or risk swimming back. The return journey was a lot faster than the going there journey (perhaps the boat was lighter with lesser people).
We spent a bit of time taking photos of the yellow bridge before our guesthouse motorbike drivers found us. Off we were on at 10-15 mins pillion ride back to Water Blow Huts.
Our trip to Nusa Penida was really amazing and I believe it is likely that I will make a second visit. Maybe I’ll stay in a treehouse and watch the sunrise the next time? Oh wells, the only barrier that we have right now is that we do not have any motorbike license and even if I did, I don’t think I dare to ride. I’m not sure if taxis or drivers can be hired on a per trip basis but we shall see. With its increasing popularity (they are definitely stepping up on providing accommodations right now), the place may not be Bali’s best kept secret in time to come.
Sorry for the really low quality photos you see in this post. I was holding on to my GoPro most of the time and the photos that I have using my phone and camera is rather limited. I wanted to show more information about the place, especially the steps and potential danger which you can’t see from beautiful photos or read from popular instagram influencers.
All my photos are not edited with any software (duh! they look nothing awesome anyway) and it represents the actual condition on my day of visit.
I hope my post will be useful for you in planing your visit and of course warn you about the potential danger and risks that you should worry about. All that ‘YOLO’ nonsense is really nonsense when you really brush with incidents/news like this. I was really affected by the news of the incident at Angel’s Billabong. It made me realise how fragile lives are against nature and how I am in fact still afraid of dying. Sorry for ending this piece on such a sad note but these thoughts have been lingering in my mind for a while. Anyway, there was a second ‘blow’ for us as Bali had an earthquake (though not very major) the next morning after we left. Yep so all these accumulated and true to the words, you only live once, so.. treasure your life and safety.
Perhaps if I have time in the future, I will write about the other 9 attractions that I have yet to visit plus the other activities like snorkelling with the manta rays.
Read about my 3D2N costing and itinerary to Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida in my previous post.
(Updated on 21-Aug-2017) The guide that I used was
Nusapenida Holiday | firstname.lastname@example.org | https://www.instagram.com/nusapenidaholiday/
If you would like to have the exact same tour guide as me. Please quote that you are a reader of ‘flyhoneystars’ while making an enquiry. This company has expanded and they have more than one guide. Sad to say, the service level and photography skills may not be as satisfactory as my experience (reference to a reader comment below). However, please note that Nusa Penida is getting viral and popular lately and the demand for his services is really high! There’s only one (super good english) guide/driver and I guess it takes time to train up the other potential guides and drivers.
Feel free to leave your comments and feedback on this agency and I’ll help to convey to my guide so he can try to improve because I believe he has a really good attitude and drive in this job but I guess it can be difficult to manage your other co-workers.