I have been coming to Bali for many years and am a huge fan of this diverse, and mystical island. However, as a keen surfer, I have tended to stay on the south and east coasts, lapping up the endless supply of world-class surf breaks, delicious cocunuts, cheap food and terrific accommodation that Bali has to offer.
Luckily, on my last trip to Bali, my girlfriend was travelling with me, (also a keen surfer) and she suggested that we head up to the fabled Menjangan Island in North Bali to do a snorkeling trip.
North Bali is far removed from the intense pace and hectic tourism on offer on the southern part of the island. It was once an important administrative part of Bali due to the Dutch Colonial influence, and its closeness to Java, which is apparent in its cultural diversity.
Unlike most of Bali, there are not a lot of rice paddies, but this is more than made up for by the string of palm trees that line the beautiful black sand beaches, and the grass covered rolling hills and mountains situated just inland.
We decided to stay in Pemuteran, a small tourist friendly village close to the harbor from which we could access Menjangen Island. Pemuteran is full of great accommodation options, ranging from the world famous 5 star Matahari Beach Resort and Spa, to various homestays and cottages ranging from $20 – $30 USD per night. We stayed at the newly built Rahayu cottages, run by a lovely local family that spoke great English. For only $30 USD per night we got a big room with a beautiful garden bathroom with hot water, A/C and breakfast in the morning. 90% percent of the homestay and restaurants in Pemuteran are only a 5 minute or less walk from the beach
Nila and Buddi, the friendly owners of Rahayu , organized discounted rates for us with a brother that ran Oden’s Spa and Massage Parlor, and the same for our trip to Menjangen island the next day.
Menjangan Island is a tiny uninhabited island that forms part of the beautiful West Bali National Park (Taman Nasional Bali Barat ). Menjangan Island is a must do for any travellers interested in marine life, snorkeling or diving. Boats leave from the beach at Labuan Lalang at the northern edge of Teluk Terima bay. You can get there by yourself, but there are so many tour operators in Pemuteran, at very affordable rates, that it is worth booking a package rather than face the hassle of doing and finding everything by yourself.
Once again, Rahayu Cottages organized us a package with a company run by one of their family members, that included transfer to and from the harbor, a boat to take us to Menjangan and back, as well as a 4 hour cruise that included 2 hours of snorkeling, lunch on the beach of a deserted island, and a professional Balinese marine guide, all for only $30 USD!
The underwater marine life, and quality of the snorkeling was like nothing I had ever experienced before. Both my girlfriend and I are keen snorkelers, but were blown away by the wide variety of coral reefs, fish and myriads of life forms that inhabit the underwater world of Menjangan. Its hard to process that an island with so little life on its land, can have so much color and life just a few centimeters underneath the surface of its waters.
All in all we spent 5 days up in Pemuteran, exploring the rolling hills and mountains of the West Bali National Park, the underwater reefs of the coast and soaking up the chilled atmosphere of North Bali. It was such a pleasant experience, and I enjoyed it so much that I am a bit mystified as to why I had not visited North Bali sooner. So if you are heading to Bali, do yourself a favour and book a few days up North, you wont regret it.
List of accommodation in Pemuteran:
- http://www.pemuteranbay.com/homestays-web-link.html (a comprehensive list of middle range to budget accommodation in Pemuteran
- http://www.matahari-beach-resort.com/en/1/ (luxury)
Things to Do:
Snorkel/ Dive Menjangan Island
Visit/trek West Bali National Park
PHOTO’S COURTESY OF NANA ARTANA – OUR LOCAL RECOMMENDED GUIDE – Contact Nana