Nusa Lembongan

The island of Nusa Lembongan lies 12 kilometres south east of Bali (only 18 kilometres from Bali’s international airport). The 25-minute boat ride across the Badung Strait from Sanur is a great way to seriously slow down: leaving the hustle and bustle of the mainland behind and stepping ashore at Mushroom Beach is akin to stepping back in time – many say several decades! Laid back and easy-going, Nusa Lembongan is blissfully traffic-free – few cars, no buses, mostly just scooters and bicycles.

The eight-square-kilometre tropical island is ringed with white-sand beaches, limestone bluffs and mangrove forests and fringed by a coral reef. It’s linked by a startlingly yellow suspension bridge (two-wheels or pedestrians only) to its tiny neighbour, Nusa Ceningan, beyond which is the third of this island sisterhood, the rugged Nusa Penida.

The island’s crystal-clear waters are visited seasonally (July-September) by Mola-Mola, the majestic oceanic sunfish which contribute to the island’s standing as a world-class dive destination. The shallow coral reefs attract snorkellers, while the more adventurous head for the surf breaks and cliff-jumping sites.

There’s much to charm on dry land too: clamber across limestone outcrops on delightful headland walks; visit a seaweed farm (perhaps followed by a seaweed spa session); cycle through Lembongan Village to the mangroves on the northern shore. Tourist activity is focused on Jungut Batu (the island’s second village) and Mushroom Bay, where the midday heat brings an influx of day-trippers from the Bali mainland. By 4pm the crowds have gone, and this beautiful beach of white sand becomes the preserve of lucky overnight residents, who have the run of barefoot beach bars, cafes and an increasing number of restaurants.