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Travel Log: The Great Penida Escape

Words and Images: Teo Holland

Teo Holland and her husband, Johnny, leave touristy Bali behind to immerse themselves in the beauty and serenity of a hidden gem – Nusa Penida.

The less-than-easy access to Kelingking Beach has preserved the natural beauty of this stunning spot

AirAsia delivered us once again to one of our favourite holiday destinations, Bali, Indonesia. But after a month, we found ourselves craving the road less-travelled. We needed an escape – a vacation from our vacation. Before we knew it, we were clambering aboard a giant speedboat bobbing like a cork in the choppy surf of Sanur Harbour. And off we went, zooming towards Nusa Penida, one of three karst islands floating in the Badung Strait between Bali and Lombok. Penida’s remoteness and lack of infrastructure made it the ideal locale to disconnect.

With a map in hand and high hopes for adventure, we hopped on a motorbike to explore. Immediately, we fell hard for the majestic panoramas and seascapes that popped up at the end of each pothole-riddled dirt road. Rugged karst cliffs tower some 200m above the giant aquamarine pool known as the Balinese Sea. From these plunging heights, we were able to spot the dark silhouettes of manta rays, gliding effortlessly through the water. “It just doesn’t get any better than this,” I thought to myself, but it did!

The remarkable beauty of the natural elevated tidal pool and its surroundings at Angel’s Billabong

Among the remarkably picturesque sandy beaches that punctuate Nusa Penida’s coastline, Kelingking Beach is by far the most fascinating and aesthetically pleasing. Intrepid travellers can get their fix photographing this natural wonder, or test their trekking skills on the cliff -hanging descent. Sinking our feet into the deep, surf washed sand, we discovered a rare purity – the precarious access means that the only footsteps you come across may very well be your own.

Postcard-perfect Atuh Beach

A short, bone-rattling motorbike ride away are the phenomenal landscape anomalies called Angel’s 1 Billabong and Broken Beach.

Angel’s Billabong is a hanging tide pool carved from the rocky cliff s by eons of erosive forces – nature’s own infinity pool. And close by is the incredible sea arch surrounding the collapsed sea cave of Broken Beach, although the beach itself, enclosed by a fortress of vertical rock wall, is completely inaccessible.  

Heading south, the coast is scattered with perilous cliff hikes leading to spring-fed waterfalls and Hindu temples. To reach Guyangan Waterfall, we descended a blue metal staircase bolted to the cliff face. We couldn’t help but pause to soak in the stellar views. Could there really be this many hues of blue? Gazing across the wild coastal landscape, it seemed as if our eyes were fixated on a magnificent canvas, but it was all real. We couldn’t think of a more perfect place to unplug from everyday distractions and harvest the ancient energy of Penida island.

The sharp cliff drops surrounding Kelingking Beach make it seem like a secret cove.

The long journey to Atuh Beach on Penida’s east side was well worth the two-hour drive. As soon as we hopped off the motorbike, we were greeted by stunning seascapes. We spent almost an hour capturing the splendour of unyielding sea cliff s, barren offshore islets and an untouched white sand beach with our camera lens before descending to the beach. The captivating scenery of Atuh Beach would be a fitting backdrop to a major motion picture. In front of the beach lies a mesmerising sea arch that is both fascinating and mysterious.

To complete our Penida adventure, we opted for a snorkel tour. Luck was with us that day, as we swam amongst six humongous manta rays. Getting up close to the colossal creatures was daunting, but absolutely thrilling.

A beautiful Hindu shrine

Focusing so intensely on Penida’s natural surroundings, we almost overlooked the plethora of Hindu temples and mystical seaside shrines of the island. The simple elegance of the architecture blends seamlessly with the environment. It’s easy to pass by without even blinking. But when you do blink, there is a whole other universe in Nusa Penida waiting to be explored.

The stunning view on the descent to Guyangan Waterfall

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GETTING THERE AirAsia flies to Bali and Lombok from various destinations. Book your seats now at

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