This month I decided – finally – to take one day off and travel a bit during a weekend: I was feeling quite stressed so I really needed to take a break from the normal routine in Bali.
In November I visited two nice islands close to Bali – Nusa Lembogan and Nusa Ceningan- so I decided to explore the third island: Nusa Penida, located in the southeast.
In the 18th century, this island was used by the Gelgel Dynasty as prison for convicts. Now, it is populated by about 45.000 Balinese Hindus, who speak an old form of Balinese language, not used anywhere else. The scarcity of water makes rice farming impossible: little is grown or produced there, so even some basic foodstuffs come in by boat. Local inhabitants live in a very simple way: most of them just fishing and collecting seaweed.
Nusa Penida is really a good place to relax and explore the nature: 200 km2 of land, “semi-desert” tropical beaches, friendly inhabitants, just a few touristic locations (four or five warungs near the harbor, one home stay – where I found a double room for 2.50 Euros each – and no clubs or hotels… ). In total, while I was there, there were no more than 10 tourists beside us! Many of the people I met there told me that Penida looks like Bali thirty years ago, so the people who used to go to Bali long time ago, now is more likely to visit this small island, because it is still genuine. Emanuele and I met a lot of friendly locals: as usual, we were offered a couple of shots of Arak. They also showed us the way to some “secret beaches” and the wonderful Giri Putri Cave Temple (whose entrance is not higher than 60cm!!) where we had a nice chat with the Hindu priest.
The nature is amazing and the island is recognized as a bird sanctuary. During the trip, we also visited a local NGO: FNFP (Friends of National Parks), which is located in the top of a mountain and regularly hosts international volunteers. Their activities are based on conservation and local development, among which look after the birds, – included the Bali’s emblem bird – and expecially the critically endangered Bali Starling. The organization has a really accommodation for the volunteers, but unfortunately we couldn’t stay there because the price was really too expensive for us.
I enjoyed so much the weekend spent there, far away from the touristic areas and the traffic of Denpasar city. It’s been so nice to talk with local people that doesn’t seem inclined to cheat you all the time, and driving through remote areas, admiring the stunning landscapes of Penida.