Bali’s Best Kept Secret
Tasa Nugraza Barley
Many say Bali has everything a tourist could ever want — beautiful scenery, exotic culture and plenty of sunshine — but those coming to Indonesia’s most famous island for a peaceful getaway may find themselves disappointed. Finding a quiet place on the Island of the Gods is not an easy task. Due to rapid development, hotels and resorts have already infiltrated many of Bali’s best and most remote locations.
Last month, I visited the island for the fourth time this year.
Having already been to all the popular locations such as Kuta and Ubud, this time I just wanted to chill out on a white sandy beach and read a good book without being disturbed.
Lucky for me, I had a tour guide on my last trip — my friend Bowo Hartanto, who lives in Bali but proudly calls himself a backpacker —who was able to help me find just what I needed.
Bowo’s love of traveling has already taken him to remote places in Sumatra, Java, Western and Nusa Tenggara, Borneo and Papua.
“I want to go to the most beautiful beach in Bali, a place that most tourists still don’t know about,” I told him when he asked where I wanted to spend my holiday.
“Then we must go to Menjangan Island,” he said, with a smile.
Located about 10 kilometers north of Gilimanuk Harbor in northwestern Bali, Menjangan is a 175-hectare island, which is part of the West Bali National Park.
The journey from Denpasar to Labuhan Lalang, a small traditional port that connects tourists to Menjangan Island, takes around four to five hours.
We arrived at the port around 4:30 p.m. and although we felt exhausted after hours of driving, we decided to get on the boat immediately so as not to miss the sunset.
It cost us around Rp 300,000 ($33) to go to the island on a traditional boat. The boat, which can fit up to 10 people, can wait around three to five hours while you and your friends explore the island.
Bowo’s promise of undiscovered beauty proved true. When we finally arrived on the island 30 minutes later, there was only one boat tied to a small dock and several foreign tourists hanging out on the beach.
Besides its natural beauty, the island is also home to a unique species of deer, called Menjangan, for which the island was named.
Those wanting to soak up a bit of culture as well as sun can visit some of the Hindu temples on the island, including Kelenting Sari and Segara Giri.
There is also a large statue of Ganesha, the Hindu god with a human body and an elephant head, which was recently erected on the island.
Bowo and I decided to spend an extra Rp 150,000 on two snorkeling masks and two pairs of fins.
Bowo assured me that going to Menjangan Island wouldn’t be complete without enjoying the beauty of its coral reefs and fish.
Accompanied by our guide, Bowo and I were in the water within minutes.
You don’t have to dive very deep to be immersed in Menjangan’s marine beauty.
As I was floating in the water, I could clearly see the coral reef and a plethora of colorful fish.
Not wanting to let me miss anything, Bowo eagerly pointed out each interesting thing he saw.
At one point, he showed me a group of small yellow fish with black and blue stripes.
The best moment came after our swim, when we decided to simply lay on the pure white sand, look straight at the sun and do nothing.
Bowo assured me that it was the best way to enjoy the sunset.
Half asleep and completely relaxed, I tried to focus on the sunset and forget all the stress I had brought with me from Jakarta.
As if he knew exactly what I was thinking, Bowo said, “Don’t go back to Jakarta. You should live here.”
‘I want to go to the most beautiful beach in Bali, a place that most tourists still don’t know about.’