Who would’ve thought that a tiny island that was once used as an abandonment site holds so many charms? Yet, we find it odd to learn that visitors still don’t frequent a place as beautiful as Nusa Penida, even though the island offers a real glimpse of traditional Bali. Without a doubt, that’s the beauty of Nusa Penida, where things are unspoiled and traditionalism is still held to its core.
NusaPenida is commonly branded as a beach getaway. The island’s bays are white sand and the perfect clear waters are perfect for snorkeling and diving. Some of the beaches are truly idyllic spots, and you are likely to have it to yourself apart for the diveboats offshore. But if you’re willing to spend 10 minutes and go on foot to the inner island, then you’ll discover the true beauty of Nusa Penida: life on the island.
Visiting Sakti Village in Nusa Penida is one way for you to really have a uniquely Bali experience. Here, you can closely observe the traditional life and discover how the Balinese share their hard work and their pleasures. Everybody plays an integral role in serving the society, working happily together in large groups, chatting and laughing to prepare for religious ceremonies and festivities that maintain social harmony.
Due to a lack of natural fresh water, little is grown or produced on Nusa Penida, and even some basic foodstuffs have to be transported in by boat. And given that the villages on the island are some of the oldest in Bali, they have their own unique version of weaving, dance and architecture styles. You can see at firsthand how the locals weave their traditional cloth in the yard of their home, and how the women of the village work together in fashioning their offerings for an upcoming ceremony.
You can buy traditional woven cloth straight from the villagers in their homes. Hawkers, who are mostly children gently offer you some souvenirs such as necklaces, palm oil and t-shirts. But don’t worry, for they will not swarm you; they will wait for you to come to them instead.
Before entering the village, you will see loads of pigs and piglets scattering around. This typical local livestock makes a distinctive sight in the area. Chickens and cows are, of course, running around freely; if not taking a rest somewhere in the shade. Nusa Penida has also become an unofficial bird sanctuary for the endangered Bali Starling. Despite the similar sanctuary in the West Bali National Park that has failed because of poachers, the one in Nusa Penida has been by far the most successful to prevent the Bali Starling from becoming extinct and also because the villagers actively protect the birds.
Visitors should expect higher prices than in Bali, and not bank on any tourism-related luxury items being available for purchase here. Plan accordingly — this is as off-the-beaten-track as you can get.
There are several ports that offer public boats to Nusa Penida from Benoa, Sanur, Kusamba or Padang Bai in East Bali. However, if you travel there using the Bali Hai Cruises’ Aristocat (you need to check schedule first with Bali Hai Cruises), not only will you get to enjoy the boat’s facilities, but you’ll also enjoy a guided tour to Village Sakti, snorkeling tour and a relaxed time on a private beach.
There are some small, simple home stays and bungalows on Nusa Penida. These are in the north between Toyapakeh and Sampalan. Visitors to the island often do not book ahead and instead turn up and take their chances.
There are simple local eateries otherwise known as warungs on Nusa Penida but no western style restaurants to speak of. The area of Sampalan has several good roadside warungs and the night-market serves up local dishes such as siomai (fish cake) and bakso (meatballs). Try the fresh-caught fish for a real taste of Nusa Penida.