Bali, a tropical paradise situated in the heart of the Indian Ocean, is more than just a single island. It’s an archipelago of numerous small and large islands, each with its distinct charm, natural beauty, and vibrant balinese culture. Visiting Bali is incomplete without exploring these island gems.
Gili Islands: The Trio of Serenity Paradise
Of all the islands near Bali, the Gili islands, comprising Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air, holds a special place. This trio, located east of Bali, is synonymous with white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and lively nightlife. Known for coral reefs and an underwater world like no other, Gili Trawangan (lovingly known as ‘Gili T’) is the largest among the three and a prime honeymoon destination.
In contrast, Gili Meno offers a peaceful escape with its turtle sanctuary, while Gili Air blends a bohemian island vibe with spectacles of active volcanoes from a distance. The trip to these pearls of the sea is just a boat tour from Benoa harbour away!
Nusa Islands: The Diverse Triplets
Not far from the southeast coast of Bali lies the cluster of three Nusa islands – Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan, and Nusa Ceningan.A hot favorite for island hopping, the Nusa islands, are well-known for their cliff jumping spots and spectacular beaches, like the Kelingking beach and Atuh beach on Nusa Penida.
Nusa Lembongan, the neighbouring Nusa island, allows you to explore mangrove forests, immaculate seaweed farms, and coral gardens. Last but not least, daredevils might find the thrill of surfing at Blue Lagoon of the small island Nusa Ceningan alluring.
The Dragons’ Home: Komodo Island
Beyond Nusa and Gili islands, the Komodo Island awaits with its unique inhabitants, the famous Komodo dragons, in the Komodo national park.Located in the lesser sunda islands chain, it’s the large island closest to Bali. The island is not all about its resident dragons. The island is a natural delight for nature lovers, with its mangrove point hinting at large mangrove coverage, pink beaches, and manta rays sightings!
Island Less Traveled: Gili Gede
Among the islands closest to Lombok island is the quiet and beautiful Gili Gede. This island, located southeast of Bali, stands out with dive shops where you can experience the thriving marine life and scuba diving. Apart from the underwater extravaganza, places like the Desert Point make Gili Gede a haven for surf lovers.
Bali’s Neighbor: Lombok Island
Here’s another island near Bali, Lombok island, famous for its surf breaks, pristine beaches, and an active volcano, Mount Rinjani. Lombok is a perfect example of the untouched beauty of Bali islands.
Bali, rich with natural allure and culture, is an island day trip haven with countless surrounding islands. Each island brings with it new sights, remarkable interruptions, and mesmerizing experiences. So, why limit your Bali vacation to just one island when there’s a world of beautiful islands waiting to be discovered!
West Bali National Park: Bewitching Encounter with Nature
West Bali National Park, occupying Menjangan Island off the northwestern coast, offers a well-preserved panorama of lush mangrove forests, coral gardens, and diverse marine life, making it a cherished destination for nature lovers. Here, dive shops offer underwater adventures helping you explore one of the best coral reefs in Bali Indonesia. The park’s serenity is often broken by the vivid chirruping of over 120 bird species residing here. The well-known Menjangan Island is a must-visit site for scuba diving enthusiasts seeking an underwater world bursting with tropical biodiversity.
Sanur Beach: Gateway to the Nusa Islands
Sanur Beach, on Bali’s east coast, serves more than lounging and leap into its colorful underwater life. It’s also the active embarkation point to the three Nusa islands and Padang Bai. Nature lovers will not miss this great spot for getting a glimpse of the lush mangrove coverage and enjoying the gentle waves. Just a boat ride from here takes you to an immersive experience of the gorgeous Nusa islands as well as Sanur’s neighboring islands.
A Different Pace at Nusa Penida
Nestled in the sparkling waters of the Indian Ocean and located east of Bali, Nusa Penida, one of the three Nusa islands, offers a stark contrast to the lively atmosphere of Bali. With its less crowded, pristine beaches, Nusa Penida can feel like a world apart.
The island’s spectacular Diamond Beach, nestled below an imposing cliff, provides picturesque views and a perfect spot for a refreshing swim. While Goa Giri Putri, a series of underground caves, are spellbinding with their stalactites and stalagmites formations.
Gili Air: The Mix of Energies
Crowned as a tropical paradise, Gili Air, part of the three Gili islands, is known for its crystal-clear water, white sand beaches, and, surprisingly, seaweed farms! It blends the tranquility of Gili Meno and the exuberant life of Gili T, making it a magnet for both relaxation seekers and party-goers. For the adventurous at heart, the island offers opportunities for cliff jumping, scuba diving, and snorkeling among the island’s coral reefs and witnessing the fascinating marine life. With the large island Lombok in view, Gili Air holds its own as an appealing destination in the turquoise Bali waters.
Padang Bai: The Harbor Town with Hidden Surprises
Located southeast of Bali, Padang Bai is more than just the crucial ferry port for those en route to Lombok or the Gili islands – it hosts some hidden gems for the coral gardens enthusiasts. Among them is the Blue Lagoon, a snorkeler’s paradise with its crystal-clear turquoise waters. With two white sand beaches and opportunities to spot turtles and reef sharks, Padang Bai is a pleasant pit stop on your Bali-island-hopping journey.
Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan: Island Tranquility
Among the three Nusa islands, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan offer a compact yet diverse range of experiences. Connected via a bright yellow suspension bridge aptly named ‘The Yellow Bridge’, these islands are perfect to explore on foot or by bicycle.
While Nusa Lembongan sways towards tranquility with local seaweed farms providing a unique spectacle, Nusa Ceningan, the smallest of the three Nusa islands, is known for its cliff jumping thrill at Blue Lagoon. Dazzle at the mangrove forests surrounding you in a scenic boat tour, and don’t forget to visit Devil’s Tear, a lagoon overlooking the Indian Ocean offering incredible views of the surf breaks.
Lesser-Known Pulau Menjangan
Part of the West Bali National Park, Menjangan Island is the prime destination for snorkelers and divers, catering brilliantly to the underwater world explorers. The coral gardens surrounding the island show an incredible variety of hard and soft corals teeming with colorful fish. Long-tail macaques and deer, the name-givers of the island, invite for some land exploration after indulging in the turquoise waters.
A Different Pace at Gili Meno
Gili Meno is the middle and smallest island of the three Gili islands but never falls short of providing a serene and intimate experience. Its turtle sanctuary should be a must on your list if witnessing turtle hatching sounds thrilling to you. The island’s breathtakingly beautiful underwater sculptures create a fascinating snorkeling site. With fewer crowds and silent beaches, Gili Meno truly is a honeymoon island, ideal for those seeking a dose of peace and solitude.
Venture East: Exploring Lombok Island
An island with a character profoundly different from its Balinese neighbor, Lombok Island, offers a quieter alternative to Bali’s hustle and bustle. Home to Indonesia’s second-highest volcano, Mount Rinjani, Lombok draws adventurers with its epic trekking routes through jungles and waterfalls to volcanic peaks. The island’s south coast, particularly Kuta, is famed for surf breaks that attract surfers worldwide. From traditional Sasak culture to beautiful beaches like Tanjung Aan, Lombok island makes a fascinating stopover on your island hopping expedition.
Embrace the Waves at Desert Point, Gili Gede
As the largest of Sekotong’s “Secret Gili Islands”, Gili Gede presents an untouched version of nature’s beauty. Surfers can’t miss a visit to Desert Point, an iconic surf breaks spot known for its exceptional waves. And for scuba diving enthusiasts, the nearby dive shops arrange excursions to explore lush underwater coral reefs and islands’ thriving marine life. Also, don’t miss a chance for a thrilling boat tour witnessing the neighboring islands that dot the horizon.
Kelingking Beach, the T-Rex of Nusa Penida
Nusa Penida, the largest of the three Nusa islands, defies the beach archetype with its mesmerizing Kelingking Beach. An iconic highlight of Bali islands, this spot resembles a T-Rex and presents jaw-dropping views from atop the cliff. It’s one of the best islands’ gems where nature lovers come to embrace the island’s natural beauty.
Lesser-Known Beauty: Komodo Island’s Pink Beach
Komodo Island, best known for the famous Komodo dragons, has more to offer. The Pink Beach, or Pantai Merah, is one of seven pink beaches in the world. Against a backdrop of turquoise waters, the blush shoreline stuns every island visitor. The pink-tinted sand, a result of microscopic animals called Foraminifera, exudes an alien yet captivating charm. It’s an exquisite stop on your Komodo island adventure.
Seaweed Farming: Witnessing Balinese Culture on Nusa Lembongan
Nusa Lembongan, part of the three Nusa islands, presents a unique, cultural side of life on the islands. The island’s natives are traditionally seaweed farmers. A visit to the seaweed farms offers firsthand insight into the traditional Balinese culture, providing you with an experience beyond the white sand beaches and crystal bay.
Experience the Barefoot Luxury of Nusa Ceningan
Blue Lagoon, a famous cliff jumping point, Marks Nusa Ceningan as an adventurous stop among the islands around Bali. The azure waters, pristine beaches, and the unique ‘zip line’ that this small island features, draw thrill-seekers from the world over. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker or prefer a slow-paced experience, Nusa Ceningan’s barefoot luxury will cater to your preferences, radiating an irresistible island appeal.
Rising Star: Exploring Gili Trawangan
Among the three Gili islands, Gili Trawangan, universally known as Gili T, enjoys a reputation as the buzziest island. Known for natural beauty meets lively nightlife, this is where stunning sunsets meet dance-til-dawn parties. For a quicker pace than the usual island life, Gili T is your place. And while here, don’t miss a visit to the island’s turtle sanctuary dedicated to protecting and preserving the marine turtle population.
Intriguing Catch: Gili Gede’s Underwater World
Lesser-visited Gili Gede is a treasure trove of under-the-sea beauty. Brushing elbows with vibrant sea sponges, clownfish, and other sparkling residents of the coral gardens can feel like stepping into a dance routine choreographed by Mother Nature herself. The local dive shops on Gili Gede make this underwater exploration possible for everyone, from beginners to experienced divers. So, take the plunge and explore the captivating underwater world that thrives beneath the island’s crystal-clear waters.
Final Stop: Padang Bai, the Harbor Town
And last but definitely not least, the small coastal town of Padang Bai. Known as a main harbor for boats and ferries exploring the neighboring islands such as Gili Islands and Lombok, it is also the gateway to the three Nusa islands.