Words: Tucker / Balibelly.com
Photos: Damea & Tucker
It’s the feeling of your body weightless in freefall, your organs levitating inside you. Time slows for an instant, and then the great blue starts rushing toward your feet.
We’re leaping from the cliffs of Ceningan Island into oncoming sets. The ocean surges in and out of a mushroom cove, thundering against limestone cliffs and spraying salted mist. This tropical garden is just a 30 minute ride from Bali, but it feels more remote. A handful of small islands tightly packed together host snorkeling, diving, and a myriad of different reef passes to surf, fish and explore. It’s a bluer, wilder stretch of coral fields and white sand. The cool breeze carries no pollution, and marine life abounds in gin-clear water.
Leaving Bali heading east implies a certain amount of risk. Thieves and rip-off artists tail you in the street. Tourist trap watering holes serve poison booze. But Lembongan isn’t Lombok. The people are friendly and earn an honest living catering to a melting pot of traveled tourists. The food is fresh, delicious and dirt cheap. It’s like a poorer, sparsely populated piece of Sanur broke off and floated out to sea. It’s just the right amount of isolated to escape aggressive development. If the global Ebola outbreak worsens, this would be the ideal place to ride it out.
Alleycats bar manager Nathan Johnson runs a Lembongan Day Tour company, and heads here on a weekly basis with a boatload of eager adventurers. I’m tagging along on assignment to see him in action. The downtown Kuta playboy is actually a fantastically sober and responsible tour guide. We depart at 9:00AM after hemming a hangover with some brekkie and coffee at Sanur Beach, and set a course for Lembongan over rolling ocean swells.
Before the boat comes to a stop, we’re leaping into the cold current, chasing fish and taking underwater selfies in the morning sunlight. After kicking around for a few hours Nathan guides us into port, and we enjoy lunch on the bluff overlooking the stretch of dive shacks and warungs along the main stretch. The colossal Mt. Agung towers in the distance, clouds thickening at its base as the sun climbs into the sky.
Lacerations rumbles in, knee high and innocuous today. The soul of the wave is there, if only we had the rare tide and swell alignment to set it off. CJ Hobgood calls it his favorite wave. Surfers and spectators can lounge on pontoons moored in the channel, cracking beers just a tennis serve away from a square right tube grinding over a shallow reef.
Flat surf can be a blessing, there’s more to see here. We’re on the motorbikes and headed over the hill to charming cafes, seaside geysers and cliff jumps. Surf breaks plume from distant corners, each a little tussled by wind or tide, all showing promise. The magical colors of the islands are a palette of greens and blues that painted Bali thirty years ago, before being replaced by concrete and glass. The old charm still lives in Lembongan.
Nathan rallied his sunburned disciples for departure. After a long day of dehydration, there’s nothing better than a Bintang BBQ at Alleycats, and everyone’s eager to get pissed. As the twin engines roared to life, I stood in the shallows and let them to shove off without me. I’d only just shook hands with the place, I wasn’t ready to leave just yet.