The islands off Bali’s southeast coast beckon with white-sand beaches, clear waters, and plenty to do both above and below the waves.
Enter the USAT Liberty, an American military cargo ship that was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in World War II and subsequently beached on the island’s eastern shores at Tulamben. In 1963, the tremors emanating from deep beneath Mt. Agung pushed the vessel back into the ocean, where it came to rest on an underwater slope. Since the coral-encrusted wreck is very popular, it’s best seen earlier in the day, though a night dive is also a must for sightings of humphead parrotfish and the elusive nudibranch known as the Spanish dancer. Farther along the coast, to the east of Tulamben, you’ll find Amed, a string of quieter fishing villages on black-sand beaches. Freediving has been gaining traction in this part of Bali, with the opening of two schools in the area. Jemeluk Bay is a fine place to learn the sport, thanks to its position sheltered from strong currents and the dramatic coral walls dropping to a depth of more than 40 meters. Snorkelers will also find plenty to ogle at in Jemeluk—the reef here begins by sloping gently away from shore, and even in the shallows it boasts healthy corals and abundant fish life. Far removed from the hustle and bustle of Kuta or Seminyak, these isles are worth more than a day trip from the “mainland.” Nusa Lembongan is as much a haven for relaxation as it is a surfer’s magnet, thanks to the reliable waves, varied lodgings from simple beach huts to upscale private villas, idyllic coastal walks, excellent snorkeling, and a handful of secluded beaches. Smaller but no less scenic, neighboring Nusa Ceningan has its own notable surf break, gorgeous sunset views over Bali, and for the brave, a heart-stopping zipline high above a rocky lagoon. Rugged, untamed Nusa Penida—the largest of the group—has little in the way of tourist infrastructure, but offers sights such as the cluster of grassy, conical hills known as Bukit Teletubbies, the sheer limestone sea cliffs in the south, and Goa Karang Sari, an impressive limestone cave on the eastern coast. Below the water’s surface, Nusa Penida is famed for its world-class diving: manta rays can be seen year-round, while the prehistoriclooking mola mola (oceanic sunfish) are most commonly sighted from July to October. Non-divers should head to Crystal Bay for some of the island’s best snorkeling.
The quiet villages of Amed, overlooked by Mt. Agung.
A mola mola (oceanic sunfish) as seen off Nusa Penida.