Four months ago, Indonesia was not on my travel radar, and I had never even heard of Nusa Penida. In fact, Vince and I were already changing our travel plans for about the third time and decided we wanted to go to the Philippines. I was feeling drawn to Southeast Asia because of inspiration from a couple of friends, and I had planned an action-packed two week itinerary. Then I looked into the weather in the Philippines in late summer, and realized that the rainy season was not at all the right time to go on a trip like that. What followed was a frenzy of research, focused mainly on Asian destinations, which eventually landed me in the only Southeast Asian country that would be in its dry season during our travel dates.
I had never in my life considered going to Indonesia before and I was starting my planning with only one idea in mind (seeing Komodo dragons), so I turned to an obvious for finding beautiful destinations: instagram. That’s how I discovered Nusa Penida.
This island paradise is to the southeast of Bali, and is only accessible by boat. Many tour operators offer day trips from Bali to Penida, but I had a feeling that we would want more time on the island, so I booked us an open-ended ticket by fast boat from Sanur beach in Bali.
We arrived on the island by late morning and hired a taxi to drive us to our homestay, the Guyatri Bungalows. Guyatri is a small operation with three private bungalows that are well away from the noise of town. The area is secluded and quiet, except for the pervasively crowing roosters that are an ever-present force on Penida. We checked into our bungalow, and then borrowed Guyatri’s scooter. It’s worth noting the pricing on this place because we paid about $20 USD a night to stay in our own bungalow with a private bathroom. This also included breakfast which was brought to our room every morning. The scooter only cost about $5 a day, so our accommodations and transport for this portion of the trip only cost us about $50!
This spot is well known, not only for it’s stunning view of towering sea stacks, but also for a treehouse that has become a bit of an off-beat phenomenon. This treehouse is very well-known, and people flock to get a picture on its rustic staircase. You can actually stay in it, but I wouldn’t be interested because the entire structure wobbles when you walk on it, and it does not seem to have any sort of plumbing (trust me when I say you want to shower after riding a scooter down hot, dusty roads, and hiking up and down cliffs in the sweltering heat all day).
We went ahead and got our standard touristy photos on the treehouse, and took our time meandering around the area. We of course had to climb down and then back up another steep staircase-this was starting to seem like a theme of Penida.
I also took time to notice the subtler beauty of this location. I admired the fragrant blossoms of a frangipani tree and found a small canang, a daily offering that can be found basically anywhere you look on Bali and Nusa Penida. When we drove through towns we could even smell a pleasant scent of burning incense because of all of the offerings.
After the Thousand Island Viewpoint we had a lot of day left, and we decided on the fly that we wanted to visit Goa Giri Putri, which is a temple inside of a cave. We rode another hour back to the other side of the island, and parked the scooter at the base of-you guessed it-another giant hill. There was a shop where we parked where we rented sarongs so we could enter the temple.
We climbed up the steep staircase (not the easiest task with the sarong restricting my legs) and made a donation at the entrance to the temple. Then we were allowed to enter the cave. We had to crawl through a fairly narrow tube to get in, but the chasm opened up to massive cave.
It was eerily quiet and we didn’t know if we should be taking pictures or really making any sounds at all. We were put to ease when we saw some other tourists taking pictures. Nobody seemed to mind so I snapped a few shots.
Unlike most caves I’ve been in, Giri Putri was very hot and stuffy, and the sarong was becoming uncomfortably warm, so we retreated to the still hot, but at least breezy outdoors and discussed what to do next. We landed on driving into town and just hoping to find something interesting. We ended up at another temple, Pura Dalem Ped.
It was harder to find where to rent sarongs here, but we eventually procured a couple of them and entered the elaborate temple.
This temple was bigger and more detailed, and we spent a lot more time exploring the maze-like structure, and admiring its intricacy and craftsmanship.
By this point we were feeling hungry, and the sun was starting to set so we returned our sarongs and started back in the direction of the bungalows. We stopped for dinner along the way at a restaurant that’s tables stilted bamboo gazebos overlooking the ocean. As we ate, we could see the shadow of neighboring Bali’s massive Mount Agung looming in the distance.
All in all it had been a lovely first day on Nusa Penida, and I was already looking forward to the next day.