Nusa Penida (Eiseman, 1986)

Below article is the first part of Fred B. Eiseman's Chapter 5 published in 'Bali, Sekala and Niskala, Volume 2, 1986" (please, refer to source at the bottom of this page): Nusa Penida. It gives an overview of the island's general conditions, size, population, general geography, especially compared to Bukit, rainfall data, facilities, beach areas and a miniature tour of the island in 1986 along often inaccessible roads.

aerialview nusalembongan ceningan

Image right: area view of Nusa Lembongan & Nusa Ceningan (PT Karya Indah, 2009)

(p.93) Nusa Penida is, like the Bukit, one of those places that you find on maps on a folded-in section way down at the bottom in a corner, so that in the normal course of events you never have it folded out to examine. The Bukit has several advantages over Nusa Penida. First of all, you can get there by road. Secondly, the biggest hotel development in Bali lies in the shadow of the Bukit. And as a result of this, the Bali Government has taken steps to spruce up the entire Bukit area for foreign visitors. Third, the Bukit has more rainfall than Nusa Penida, since the latter is an island, far removed from the mountains of Central Bali that provide the slopes for orographic precipitation (see Chapter One for explanation of this term). Yet, there lies this mysterious island, well within view of anyone on the Sanur coast, mostly unloved and unvisited. Mostly because, although Nusa Penida itself is even today almost unknown to tourists, Nusa Lembongan, one of the two little islands that lie of the northwest coast of Nusa Penida has, in recent years, become an attraction because of excellent surfing, snorkeling, and scuba diving, of which more presently.

To the mainland Balinese, Nusa Penida is virtually unknown except through legend. To almost all it is a place that is generally Angker, a term that is difficult to translate into English. About as close as you can come is to say that it is "scary", or even "terrifying", because of strong and mostly evil practices that is associated with the island. It is a fearful place, a source of disease, bad luck, and evil spirits. The center for this evil influence is Pura Dalem Penataran Peed, sometimes spelled Ped, located on the northwest corner of the main island. Quite a few Balinese make the trip there for the odalan of this temple, which, as Budi aptly puts it in his mixed Balinese-English, is the "Angkerest" place in all of Bali because it is the abode of Ratu Gede Macaling, one of the most powerful and potentially destructive and evil of all of the various gods, or, to be more accurate, manifestations of God, to be found anywhere in Bali. We will explore the history and nature of this temple in a moment. The ogre-like, black-faced Barong Landung, Jero Gede, and his white skinned wife, Jero Luh, and her family came from Nusa Penida. And they are always held in great awe and treated as quite potentially dangerous centers of power. The point that I am making is that Nusa Penida is not viewed with equanimity by the Balinese. To add to this, it was well-known to be a penal colony for the Kingdom of Klungkung, to which it still belongs, although this practice stopped many decades ago.

Nevertheless, this interesting island, so near yet so far away, deserves more attention than it gets. And that is the purpose of this chapter. First, a few statistics. Nusa Penida is shaped like a rectangle, the long axis of which points Northwest-Southwest. Look at the map on page 94. Note that the map shows the island parallel with the long edge of the paper. But that is just to fit into the book. The north pointing arrow at the upper right corner shows the direction of North, so you would have to rotate the map about 45 degrees clockwise in order to make North be straight up. Instead of being a perfect (p.96) rectangle, however, there is a hump on the northeast side. Or you might want to view it as a triangle sitting on top of a rectangle. The rectangle measures 22 kilometers (12,4 miles) in its longest dimension, including the two islands, and 16 kilometers (9.9 miles) from the top of the hump to the bottom of the rectangle, giving it a total area of 202.84 square kilometers, or approximately 78 square miles. This makes Nusa Penida almost exactly twice as big as the Bukit, which has an area of about 102 square kilometers. The area of Nusa Penida is approximately 3.6% of the area of all of Bali, As you can see from the table on the previous page, the island is divided into thirteen villages for administrative purposes.

eiseman sekalaniskala map

Image left: Map of Nusa Penida (Eiseman, 1986:94)

Note: The map is oriented such that north is not parallel to the length of the page. The long axis of Nusa Penida is inclined at an angle of about 30 degrees to a North-South line, with clockwise rotations. Thus, in order to fit on the page, the island was rotated back again to the horizontal. The arrow at the upper left-hand corner shows the orientation of the true north. In order not to clutter up the map, many small roads and trails have been eliminated, as have topographic contours and drainages. Only principal features have been shown.

Key: 1. Principal tourist accommodation area on Nusa Lembongan; 2. Bukit Mundi, highest point of Nusa Penida; elevations 529m; 3. View of steep cliffs; 4. Highest cliff: 228 meter drop to sea; 5. Pundukakaja; 6. Karangdawa & Penangkidan; 7. Pamuhan

The highest point, Bukit Mundi, number 2 on the map, has an elevation of 529 meters (1.735 ft.), over two and one-half times the maximum elevation of the Bukit. In fact, the sheer white cliffs visible from Sanur are, themselves, over 200 meters high in places, reaching a maximum of 228 meters (748 feet) at the point marked number 4 on the map. Nusa Penida is a limestone plateau, just like the Bukit, without a trace of volcanic rock to be found. Its rock and the formation of it is almost identical to that of the Bukit, to which the reader is referred in the preceding chapter. The only difference is that the Nusa Penida limestone is thicker and shows definite stratification in the exposed cliffs. Nusa Penida has two rather distinct terraces, just like those on the Bukit, which are easily visible, especially from the vicinity of Kusamba, the nearest point to the island from the mainland. Because of its limestone platform, Nusa Penida has the same Karst topography as the Bukit and the dame problems with its water supply. Except for a few wells drilled along the low coastal regions, all local water is from cisterns, called locally Cubang, made from concrete. There is generally a large, concrete underground storage tank, again concrete lined.

Table below: land surface (Eiseman, 1986:95)

Village Area, square kilometres
Suana 21.26
Batununggul 13.45
Kutampi 23.89
Ped 21.15
Toyepakeh 0.65
Jungutbatu 3.97
Lembongan 6.15
Sakti 32.89
Klumpu 13.58
Batumadeg 13.56
Tanglad 15.24
Sekartaji 15.39
Total area 202.84

The two islands off the northwest coast of Nusa Penida are called Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan, Lembongan being the outer island. The name, Ceningan, comes from the Balinese word Cenik meaning small. Nusa Lembongan is mostly a very low sand flat, but on the southeast side, facing Nusa Ceningan, it rises to an elevation of 44 meters. Ceningan, on the other hand, reaches up to over 100 meters in the center, although the periphery of each island is close to sea level. Lembongan has a typical curved sand spit extending from its northwest coast. Lembongan measures 4km along its long dimension and 2.5km across its width. Ceningan is about 4 by 1 km, and is separated from Lembongan by a narrow, shallow channel that is only a hundred meters or so wide at its narrowest part. Ceningan island lies about 1km off the coast of Nusa Penida, but the channel separating them is surprisingly deep, about 122 meters at its deepest spot.

Nusa Penida lies almost due east of Bali's narrow isthmus and almost due south of Padang Bai. The tip of Pulau Lembongan is 10.5km (6.5 miles) from the nearest point on the Klungkung coast of Bali and 18km (11 miles) from Sanur. The principal port to which boats come (p.97) from the mainland, Toyapakeh, is 25km, as the bird flies, from Sanur (15.5 miles) and 14km (8.7 miles) from the port of Kusamba, whence most boat travel. Travel to the main island itself is mostly done from Kusamba. There is irregular and uncertain boat service the beach at Sanur to Nusa Lembongan. To find a prahu that will take you to Lembongan, go down the paved road that passes the man entrance to the Hotel Bali Beach, starting at the top light. This road terminates at the sea. Walk a few dozen meters down the black sand beach to where the prahus are usually parked, early in the morning. Boatmen do not like to be out in the Badung Strait after mid-afternoon because waves are high and currents swift. Prices, of course, are negotiable.

Most Balinese go to and from Nusa Penida from Kusamba, a fishing village that is populated mostly by Muslims, about 6km (4 miles) Klungkung along the road to Amlapura. There are two places from which boats can be had. The older port, Kusamba Kampung, is reached by turning right at the Y and the Kusamba market and driving a few hundred meters to the beach, where you will find boats loading up. It is usually easier to find a boat to Nusa Penida in the afternoon than early in the morning, although there are some available at that time. Boats from here generally only go to Nusa Lembongan and to Toyapakeh on Nusa Penida proper, a 9 kilometer drive from the capital, Sampalan. But bemos ply this route regularly, and the charge is only Rp. 1,000. The normal charge for a one-way fare to either Lembongan or Toyapakeh is Rp. 1.500. The boats must wait their turn to fill up, and none leaves before it is full. So the wait may be about an hour or more, depending upon the time of day and the number of people who want to go. You can charter a small motorboat from here to Lembongan or Toyapakeh for Rp.30,000, or to the port of Sampalan, called Sampalan Mentigi, for Rp. 40,000, round trip. But, the boat has to be back no later than 3 PM because big waves on the Kusamba beach make landing in late afternoon dangerous. You can leave at 1 PM and spend the night at Lembongan, returning the next morning at 9 or 10 AM. The boat cannot leave Nusa Penida any later than about 2 PM. If you take the public boats you will find that it is easier to get a returning boat from Toyapakeh than from Lembongan. This is because the Nusa Penida people who want to come to the mainland to shop or trade leave there in the morning and go home late in the afternoon. And so there are only a few boats that go to Toyapakeh from Kusamba in the morning, because they are all in Toyapakeh, waiting to take the large numbers of people to the mainland.

The other point of embarkation is a new "harbor", actually just a stretch of beach, not a harbor, located at Kusamba Banjar Bias. To get there, proceed from the Y at Kusamba one kilometer east along the main road to Amlapura. There is a small sign on the left side and an arrow pointing to the right, marked: "Dermaga Penyeberangan Kusamba 200m. ---->". Turn right, south, her and go along the road called Jalan Pasir Putih (although this is a misnomer because the beach is quite black, not white, Putih) about 300 meters to the boat area. This area has boats that specialize in going to Sampalan Mentigi. A regular one-way ticket is Rp. 1,275. One boat carries 25 people, and it has to fill up before it leaves. The normal wait is 1.5 hours. You can charter (p.98) one of the big boats for Rp. 30,000 one way or Rp. 60,000 round trip. The boats starts leaving at about 6 or 7 AM. A smaller boat can be chartered for Rp. 40,000 round trip. The trip takes 2 hours one way, or perhaps 3 if the weather is bad. The local boatmen say that their boats are safer than those from Kusamba Kampung because they are bigger.

Nusa Penida's shoreline is remarkably similar to that of the Bukit. The shores exposed to the full brunt of Indian Ocean waves, on the southwest and southeast sides, terminate abruptly in sheer cliffs, just like those of the Bukit, only higher. Wave erosion is the explanation. The shores facing Bali, on the northwest, north, and northeast, are mostly mow, sandy beaches, with fringing coral reefs everywhere except in the center of the north shore. But the flat areas are not as extensive as those in the Bukit area, generally less than 1 kilometer in width and giving way immediately to a steep and rocky rise to the first level of the limestone plateau. The water in the Badung Strait, separating Nusa Penida from the Klungkung coast is quite deep, commonly more than 100 meters. Currents are swift and the waves are big, especially late in the afternoon. Water depths between the Sanur coast and Nusa Penida are only about half those in the Badung Strait. On the southwest shore of Nusa Penida water depths are again rather shallow near the shore, but increase considerably 5 km. or so from the shore to the 100 meter range. The Lombok Strait is even deeper. Depths of over 200 meters are found only 4 km. off shore. The fishing industry, therefore, is confined to the north and northeast coasts, which are one long beach. Fishing is generally a small size operation involving individuals. At last count there were about 1,575 families engaged in fishing. Almost all the rest are farmers. Fishing is done mostly in the Lombok Strate using long lines with hooks and lures, but no bait.

Farming is almost the same as on the Bukit, except that the rainfall is somewhat less, making the growing of even Padi Gaga impossible. There is plenty of rice, but it is all brought from the mainland. Beans of all sorts, especially soybeans, peanuts, and the favorite snack Kacang Hijau [small green beans, GD], small green beans that are made into a kind of soup. Manioc (cassava) is the staple. Corn and sweet potatoes are successful crops. The pattern, with the exception of rice, is about the same as the Bukit. The government encouraged the farmers to plant lots of sorghum, Jagung Bleleng [corn, GD], a few years ago and export it to Bali. But, there was little demand, and production has fallen off. Almost all of the foodstuffs grown on Nusa Penida are consumed locally. A few mangos are exported to Bali, as are some fish, particularly Lemuru, or sardines, and a little fruit, usually in the form of the seldom-seed Sawo Bali, a large red grape-like fruity that is also grown on the Bukit. It is no relation to the ubiquitous Sawo. The biggest and most interesting exporting industry is the commercial growing of seaweed, which takes place along the northwest coast of Lembongan, in the channel between the two small islands, and all along the north and northeast coast of Nusa Penida. A separate chapter will be devoted to this industry because of its special interest and bright future for Indonesia. Almost 900 families, or a total of about 2,700 people participate in this industry on Nusa Penida. The beach-dried product is sent by small (p.99) boat to the mainland and exported from there - either to Japan or to Denmark for processing into Agar or Carrageenan.

Rainfall data from the Bureau of Meteorology at the airport in Bali indicate that Nusa Penida, while not the driest part of Bali, is a close second to the north and especially northeast coast of Bali. Rainfall data date back only a few years, and it is not certain whether blanks in the record indicate no rain at all or that measurements were not taken. Totals for the 6 years, 1976 through 1980 appear below:

Table below: Rainfall data in mm. at Sampalan, Nusa Penida (Eiseman, 1986:99)

Month/Year 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980
January 244 202 329 180 - -
February - 95 516 222 38 -
March 182 - 97 - 129 45
April 42 - 98 32 15 56
May 87 - 31 - 114 79
June 0 - X 123 81 41
July 7 - X 16 13 229
August - 0 0 42 0 4
September - 35 0 17 0 25
October - - 0 153 22 28
November - 44 0 203 X 234
December 294 - X 55 X 135
Totals 856 375 1,701 1,041 412 876

The average for these six years is 772 mm. Compare with the Denpasar Airport yearly average of 1725 mm. It was not made clear just what the significance is of the - and X symbols on the chart. Whether they stand for zero rain or for a missing record is unknown. The data, as indicated, are for Sampalan, on the coast. It is likely that data for the higher spots of Nusa Penida would show greater rainfall. But other corroborating data indicate that in the months January through March Nusa Penida has less rain, on the average, than any other part of Bali. In April and May, the rainfall is about the same as the NE and NW sections of Bali. From June through October only the North Coast of Bali is dryer. And in November and December Nusa Penida is the driest except for a tiny strip of Bali at the extreme Northeast Corner. The data above exhibit an irregular and uncertain pattern at best, one that surely could not be counted upon for abundant agriculture.

Nusa Penida is part of the Kabupaten of Klungkung. For information about Civil Government see the previous chapter that subject was discussed in some detail. Nusa Penida all by itself consists of one Kecamatan, with headquarters in Sampalan, the principle city. Sampalan is right at the tip of the hump on the northeast coast. There are 13 Desa Dinas on Nusa Penida, each with a Kepala Desa, or village head, who is elected by the people, and hence is also properly called a Perbekel. There are 44 Desa Adat. The population is roughly 45,000. In (p.100) 1985 radio telephone service was established between Klungkung and Sampalan, but that is the only means of communication except by boat. There is electricity in the Sampalan area, serving Sampalan and a nearby village from a diesel generator. The Sampalan area consists of several villages very close together. The capital of Sampalan is Batununggul. They are considered to be one village. As the Balinese put it, the Ibukota Desa is Batununggul, meaning capital city. There are 3 family health care clinics, Puskesmas, in Nusa Penida, each with a doctor. There is one mosque at Toyapakeh, since about 50 families of Muslim people live there. There is one high school, but it is private. There is no government high school. There are two government primary schools, SMP, and another one that is private. Color TV reception can be obtained from Klungkung, but there is no tower on the island. There are a few wells scattered around. One is at Sumur Dalem at Kutampi, near Sampalan. It is used only in the immediate area and is a bit salty. Cisterns are the standard water supply. There is a fair paved road from Toyapakeh to Sampalan, which continues along the coast to the southeast to about Karangsari and to the south from Toyapakeh to Klumpu. All the other roads are rocky and rough and negotiable only by trucks or motorcycles or foul wheel drive cars.

Facilities for tourists on Nusa Penida are limited to one homestay, Bungalow Pemda, at Sampalan. It has 5 bungalows, each with two rooms and bathrooms. The costs is Rp. 2,000 per night, single, Rp. 3,000 twin. There are no meals available, but there are plenty of warungs in Sampalan, but no Western style food is available. There are bemos to most of the villages, but service is slow and irregular. You can bring your rented motorbike from Bali on a boat and use it. Or you can get someone on Nusa Penida to drive you around, an arrangement called Ojekan. The accommodations at Bungalow Pemda are occasionally used by visiting government people, so it is not certain that there will be rooms for foreign visitors. Nusa Penida proper is not often visited by tourists.

Nusa Lembongan is the most popular spot because its sandy beaches and coral reefs afford excellent snorkeling and scuba diving, and its coast has wonderful breakers for surfing. It is also a nice place just to sunbathe. There are about 30 rooms available on Lembongan, mostly at the village of Jungutbatu. The west coast of Nusa Lembongan forms a right angle, and Jungutbatu is right at the apex. The tourist accommodations vary from about Rp. 1,000 per night to over Rp. 10,000 at the hotel, if meals are included. The accommodations are right on the beach, so that there is no transportation problem. There are roads on Lembongan, but few motorbikes. One can walk from Jungutbatu to the other village, Lembongan, in a few minutes. In fact, the two are really just on large, spread-out village. There are no villages on Ceningan, and it can only be reached by boat from Nusa Lembongan. The people in Lembongan raise seaweed, fish, and make salt from seawater. The salt making process is similar to that used in the similar area just north of Kusamba, except the people on Lembongan use fire to evaporate the water rather than the (p.101) sun. Firewood is at a premium, so such things as coconut leaves are used for fuel. There is a small temple on Lembongan, Pura Bakung, in addition to the three village temples, Pura Puseh, Pura Desa and Pura Dalem.

In order to get some idea of what Nusa Penida is like, of course you have to take a trip to the interior, which is vastly different from the low, sandy coast, where fishing and seaweed raising provide a fair income to most of the people. Inland, life becomes more difficult. The paved road from Toyapakeh to Sampalan, about 9 kilometers, passes right along the beach, through land that is rather more barren than one finds on the main island of Bali. There are, however, coconut trees and typical beach vegetation. The small village of Toyapakeh itself (the name means salt water) is the normal landing place for boats from Br. Bias, Kusamba. It is a small village of Muslims people mostly. There is a warung on the beach. Bemos are usually waiting there to take passengers to the Sampalan area. The road traverses an alluvial plain that is not more than 0,5 km. wide. The hill starts to rise steeply just to the south of this coastal plain. Typically the rise is up to about 100 meters in just 1,5 km, of travel. From Toyapakeh to Sampalan, about 3 km. to the east, is the village of Ped, or Peed, the home of the famous Pura Dalem Penataran Peed and the shrine of the infamous Ratu Gede Macaling, sometimes called Ratu Gede Nusa. More of him and the temple in a moment.

Sampalan is a medium size village, confined by the hills to the south to a narrow strip. The Bungalow Pemda is at the east end of town, and the boats from Br. Bias, Kusamba, land at Sampalan Mentigi, the port, at only about 200 meters from the hotel. There is fair snorkeling along the coast here. But, by far the best snorkeling and scuba diving is along the channel separating Ceningan and Lembongan from the bigger island, The water is calm, clear, and warm here, and the fine visibility allows you to see a great variety of typical reef flora and fauna.

South from Toyapakeh the road begins the ascent of the hill. It is about 3 km, to the first village, Sebunibus. Just south of town as side road leads to Sakti, about 1,5 km. to the west, at an elevation of 150 meters. At this junction, the main road turns east and traverses broken country about 5 km. to Klumpu. About half way along the way you meet a road coming in from Toyapakeh that goes through Biyaung. Klumpu has an elevation of 225 meters. The scenery her is rather stark, with small rocky, terraced fields. All of the fields have rock walls, since that building material is the one thing that Nusa Penida has plenty of. You see cisterns everywhere, and manioc and more manioc. From Klumpu you go about 0,5 km. east to a Y. The north branch takes you back toward the north coastal road, about 8 km. from Klumpu. That is about the extent of pavement on Nusa Penida. The rest of the roads are rough and rocky.

From Klumpu the road continues irregularly in a south and then (p.102) southwest direction, passing close to Bukit Mundi, at 529 meters the highest point on the island. Another road from Klumpu leads north and east back to Sampalan via Glagah or to Karangsari on the northeast coast. Passing Bukit Mundi you come to Batumadeg. Turning off here to the southwest, you can drive to Sebuluh, which is the end of the road, at an elevation of about 300 meters. From here is a 2 km. long foot trail that leads down a dry wash to the sea. The last few hundred meters is very steep, but the townspeople make the trip daily because there is a good spring at the foot of the cliff by the sea. Instead of going down this draw to the sea, you can walk overland to the very edge of the cliffs, number 3 on the map, from which you get a spectacular view of their size and sheer drop. Two km. to the southwest is the steepest cliff along the coast, a sheer drop of 228 meters, about 750 feet, to the sea below, number 4 on the map. These are the cliffs that you can see from Sanur. But, the close-up view is much more awe-inspiring. There are some outlying rock pinnacles, or sea stacks along the coast here.

A road east from Sebuluh leads about 2 km. to the village of Karangdawa. From Batumadeg two roads lead to the east. One goes to Sebuluh from which a trail leads to the cliffs on the coast. The other leads east about 7 km. over rough, unpopulated land to Batukandik, at an elevation of 300 meters. From here the road goes 4 km. east and the bends to the south over open land to Tanglad, at an elevation of 400 meters. From Tanglad there is a rough road south to Sekartaji. The road back to Sampalan leads north to Pejukutan, about 4 km, from Tanglad. From here still another road leads each to Karang and the sea, where the cliffs start to give way to open beach. The main road goes north to Suana, gradually descending 3 or 4 km. down a drainage to the sea. From here, you follow the usual beach road all the way back to Sampalan, the last part of it now paved. St Suana there is an important temple, second only to Pura Dalem Penataran Peed. Its name is Pura Batu Madau. Many people from the main island of Bali go to the odalan of Pura Dalem Penataran Peed, but few go to Pura Batu Madau because it is rather remote. On the way back to Sampalan you pass a big cave at Karangsari. There is not much in the way of articles made for tourists on Nusa Penida. A kind of red weft ikat (tie-dyed) material is made here and there and sold mostly on the main island.


  • Eiseman, Fred B. Jr. - Nusa Penida, in: Bali, Sakala and Niskala, Vol.2, First Ed., Chapter 5, p.93-102, 1986 

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