BEACHES AND DIVING IN NORTH AND WEST BALI

MENJANGAN ISLAND

Menjangan Island (in West Bali National Park) is West Bali’s best kept secret Dive site. Surrounded by unspoilt white sandy beaches, stunning coral reefs, and enchanting underwater, environment Menjangan Island is a perfect definition of what natural beauty is all about. Located about 10 kilometers North West off the shore of Bali’s mainland, the small island of Menjangan forms part of the West Bali National Park Conservation Area. The word "Menjangan" in the Javanese language means "Deer". According to Wikipedia, the name was given by the local population who observed wild deer herds swimming to the island every spring covering a distance of approx 1.2 miles.

This small island is actually where diving first started seriously on Bali back in about 1978 under the sponsorship of the Indonesian Navy, when it arranged a get-together of the country’s main diving clubs -Possi, Ganesha, Nusantara, and Trisakti. That get-together led to Menjangan establishing itself as the premier international dive location in Bali and many of the attendees went on to become the pioneers of commercial dive operations across Indonesia.

At “Secret Bay,” a small bay near the ferry port of Gilimanuk, a strange play in currents has rendered the water temperature here to be more, at most 25 degree C, which has created a habitat for Pacific and Indian Ocean species, with often hybrids between the two. The muddy shallow beds, mixed with algae and debris, are host to truly strange marine creatures, some of which have recently been discovered by marine biologists for the first time, such as the 4 types of anglerfish including the Sargassum Anglerfish, Spotfin Anglerfish and one in particular that has created great interest among biologists, locally called the Tono’s Anglerfish. Apart from the anglerfish, the bay is host to numerous different sea horses, dragonets, ghostpipefish, nudibranches, lionfish such us the Blue Finned lionfish, ribbon eels and much more. This unique bay has been and still is the preferred location of some of the world’s most famous underwater photographers and filmmakers, as well as researchers and marine biologists.

Diving at Menjangan Island

Menjangan Island is surrounded by a coral reef, characterized by deep drop offs of near to 60 meters and by complex rock formations. These distinctive features have given rise to a great number of large and small caves, festooned with sponge and soft corals and often inhabited by large groupers, moray eels and by young snappers and batfish in the smaller caves. The sea beds are also rich in large barrel sponges and vibrant sea fans, some of which are truly enormous. Given the depth, the moderate flow of currents and its protection from strong winds, it is common to see tuna, shoals of jack-fish, batfish, angelfish, sea turtles, and on occasion also sharks, especially off the outer corners of the island.

Best time to visit the underwater wonders around Menjangan Island is between April to November. The island is known as the location for the best wall diving in Bali, with a very bright & colorful underwater world and lots of different sites to choose from. These dive sites are rich in marine life and sandy beaches to relax over lunch.

At a depth of 45 meters the Anchor wreck is found. Also called the Anker or Kapal Budak (Slave Ship), the site is an old wooden ship wreck sitting on the sea floor on the western tip of Menjangan which is either an 19th century Dutch ship that sunk during WWII or one that sunk much earlier during the Dutch colonial era while supposedly carrying Balinese slaves to Batavia (now Jakarta). The wreck contains a cargo of ceramics and glass bottles and is completely colonized by soft coral; an excellent place to meet turtles and sharks.

Named after a large colony of garden eels, the Eel Gardens dive site lies on the western point of Menjangan in a shallow area with some dazzling white sand that is a pleasant dive in itself. The dive starts on a nice wall (about 40m) with a lot of beautiful gorgonians and other sea fans then continue over the top of the reef to a stretch of white sand. Arguably, some say that this is the best part of Menjangan Island.

Accommodation and Getting to Menjangan Island

Being an uninhabited island, there are neither accommodation options nor any other facilities whatsoever available on Menjangan Island, however several hotels and other accommodations can be found on the north western coast of Bali near the West Bali National park and the Pemuteran area. Complete facilities and accommodation options are available at The Menjangan Resort. This peaceful 382 hectares compound of lodgings, villas, and other facilities located within the vicinity of the West Bali National Park can be the best place to start a diving trip to Menjangan Island. Since no shops are available nearby, make sure that you have all your diving or snorkeling gear with you, drinks, food and sunscreen, medicines and other necessities on hand.

Here are some of the accommodations available around Menjangan Island: 1) The Menjangan West Bali National Park, Jl. Raya Gilimanuk, Singaraja kilometers. 17, Desa Pajarakan, Buleleng 81155 Bali - Indonesia, Tel. +62 362 94700, fax: +62 362 94708. E-mail:bliss@themenjangan.com, Website: themenjangan.com; 2) Mimpi Resort Menjangan Banyuwedang, Northwest Bali - Indonesia, Tel. +62 362 94497, fax: +62 362 94498. E-mail: menjangan@mimpi.com, Website: mimpi.com/menjangan-the-resort.asp; 3) Taman Sari Bali Resort and Spa; Dusun Pemuteran, Kecamatan Gerokgak, Kabupaten Buleleng- Bali, Tel. +62-362-93264 or +62-362-94755 or +62-828-9703-0012 or +62-815-522-3491, e-mail: resort@balitamansari.com or sales@balitamansari.com; 4) Pondok Sari Beach & Bungalow Resort, Gerokgak, Pemuteran Bali, Website: pondoksaribungalow.com/index.htm

Getting There: Menjangan Island : West Balis best kept secret Dive siteThe main way to get to Menjangan Island is by using a local boat run by the Bali Barat National Parks Service, starting from the little harbour called Labuhan Lalang in Terima Bay. Alternatively, you can also take boats from the small jetty in the lagoon-like inlet of Banyuwedang Bay, next to the Mimpi Menjangan resort. To get to Labuhan Lalang or Banyuwedang bay depends on where you are coming from — if from the tourist area of Kuta-Sanur-Nusa Dua, this means about a 140 kilometers journey which will take around 3 hours or so and take you through Denpasar and along the southwest coast. Or if you are coming from Tulamben, it’s a bit shorter but it is still about 2.5 hours’ drive along the north coast of Bali.

The boat trip over to Menjangan Island takes between 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the weather and the boat’s load, and there is an excellent view of the East Javanese volcano of Prapat Agung in the distance as you make your way over. The boatsmen who take divers and tourists to Banyuwedang Bay have built themselves a kind of tree house in the mangroves where they wait patiently for your return.

Lovina Beach

Lovina (north-central Bali, 2 or 3 hours from Denpasar or Kuta) is a charming town with some nice beaches and access to excellent diving and snorkeling. In recent years it has become popular with budget travelers. It has lots of cheap guest houses and good restaurant and lacks the hawkers and congestion of Kuta. Most of the beaches are narrow and have black sand by seas that are generally calm and safe. One of the biggest attractions is the dolphin boat trips. Another draw is the cooking courses.

A small traditional boat called, jukung, may be hired from villagers in the morning to bring you us off shore to meet the dolphins. According to some reports there about 500 to 1000 dolphins in the area of Lovina Beach

There are various foreign and local restaurants that offering international and local food with varied price. To get to Lovina you need can hire a vehicle or take public transportation. From Kuta or Denpasar, it will take a time around 2 or 3 hours of driving; much longer without public transport.

Pemuteran Beach

Pemuteran Beach (20 minutes drive from Lovina Beach) is a quiet beach area, about as far away from the hustle and bustle of Kuta as one can get. It is also the home of many diving spots, including the phenomenal Underwater Temple. Located in the sub district of Gerokgak,in the Buleleng Regency, the village of Pemuteran is only, just at the outskirt s of West Bali National Park. The coastal area of Pemuteran is also the jumping off point to a diving adventure around the Menjangan Island.

With its gleaming black volcanic sandy beaches complemented with sheltering coconut and palm trees and backed by enchanting sceneries of green hills, Pemuteran is a perfect illustration of Balinese philosophy on energy “Nyegara Gunung” (The fusion of energy between the mountains and the sea). The serenity of this place radiates a certain spiritual ambience, making it a perfect place for meditation. In contrast to the vivacious Bali southern beaches, Pemuteran offers very little (if not to say none) entertainment in the evenings. Instead, the hotels and cottages found here emphasize more on tranquility so their guests can solemnly meditate or just fully retreat from the city’s rat race.

While peace and tranquility are found on the shores, wonders await below the surface. The Pemuteran area is unique because no other part of Bali has such large areas of shallow reefs, and these are accessible to divers and snorkelers because the region lacks the extremely strong currents and waves that characterize other coastal areas of Bali. Although all the dive sites are just a short boat ride away, surprisingly there is so much to see in Pemuteran bay itself. Within a few meters from the shoreline, seahorses, unique crabs, frogfishes, and other sea creatures already decorate the sea floor.

Diving at Pemuteran Beach

The most fascinating feature of Pemuteran’s underwater splendors is the existence of an enchanting underwater temple garden which enchantingly combines nature’s beauty with amazing work of art. The site attracted worldwide attention in 2010, when a mystifying photo of divers entering an underwater temple gate taken by British Underwater Photographer, Paul M Turley, spread on Twitter and internet with an alleged discovery of ancient temple ruins on the seabed of Pemuteran. “Apparently someone took my photo, posted it on Twitter and claimed an archeological discovery off the coast of Bali. This went global, thanks to the internet and thus an urban legend was born”-Paul M Turley (searovers.net)

In fact, the site was built on purpose in 2005 as part of the “Reef Gardener” community project which is also incorporated in The Pemuteran Karang Lestari Coral Conservation project. This amazing structure is a somewhat engineering feat with over ten large stone statues resting on stone plinths and a 4 meter high Balinese distinct candi bentar gateway (that appeared on the controversial photo). The “garden” is covered in gorgonian fans and must be seen to be believed. Found at a depth of 29 meters it also incorporates a cleaning station with schooling baitfish. In 2006, a second stage to these Temple Gardens was constructed at a depth of 15 meters to allow less experienced divers to be able to dive the location.

The Karang Lestari Project is recognized as the world’s largest coral reef restoration project, and winner of national prizes for community-based environmental management and many international awards for ecotourism. The project uses the Biorock method to increase coral growth rates, increasing reef fish density by providing fish with a suitable habitat.

The underwater Temple Garden maybe exceptional, but there are also a lot of other dive sites around Pemuteran area which offer equally spellbinding sceneries. Among these are: The Temple Wall, Canyon Wreck, Kuburan Kapal (Ships Graveyard), Chris’s garden, Rock garden, Close Encounters (east slope/west slope), Gede’s Reef, Deep Reef, Napoleon Reef, and Pulaki Reef.

With all the fascinating wonders that lie beneath the surface, and the tranquility surrounding its shores, it may not be a coincidence that the Word “Pemuteran” means the turning point or a place to come back to. Because once you set foot here, you’ll definitely want to come back over and over again.

Accommodation, Restaurant and Getting to Pemuteran Beach

There are a wide range of accommodations you can find around the village of Pemuteran. From modest inns to exclusive cottages, the village provides various types of accommodation to fit the needs of every visitor. Here are some accommodation options found in Pemuteran: 1) Taruna Homestay, Pemuteran Village, Tel. +62 81 338 536318, E mail: taruna.kadek@yahoo.com; 2) Jubawa Homestay, Pemuteran village, Tel. +62 362 94745; 3) Kubuku Bed & Breakfast, Pemuteran village, Tel. +62 362 7005225; 4) Rare Angon, Pemuteran Tel: +62 362 94747.

Restaurants: Here are some of the restaurant and dining options available near Pemuteran Beach: 1) Eka & Brother Restaurant, Sumberkima,Pemuteran, Tel. +62 8523 724 7798, +62 821 475 78173; 2) Warung Sukasari, Pemuteran, Tel. +62 81 338 262 829; 3) Frangipani Bar&Restaurant, Jalan Arjuna, Pemuteran, Tel. +62 81338418668

Getting There: The best way to get to Pemuteran is to organize a car from wherever you are on the island. A direct ride to Pemuteran from tourist centers in the south (Kuta-Sanur-Nusa Dua) will take about four hours depending on traffic on the coastal roads. From the equally amazing Beach of Lovina in Singaraja, the trip will only take about 20 minutes. To get around in the area, the serene village makes it a perfect place to stroll around or take a nice bicycle ride. However, most of the hotels can provide motorbikes for rent, if you ever need one.

Temples of North Bali’s Pemuteran Coast

The enchanting temples of Bali’s north coast (east of Pemuteran Village) include Pura Agung Pulaki, Pura Pabean, and Pura Melanting. Centered on Pulaki Bay, the temples are located in separate places with the main temples, the Pulaki Temples Complex, centered at the Pura Agung Pulaki. The other six temples known as its pesanakan or families are Pura Pabean, Pura Kerta Kawat, Pura Melanting, Pura Belatungan, Pura Puncak Manik and Pura Pemuteran. According to local beliefs, the seven temples represent the Hindu’s concept of the Sapta Loka and Sapta Patala or the seven layers of the universe. There are plenty of accommodation options around Pemuteran and Pulaki area.

Just a short walk crossing the street about less than 20 meters from Pura Agung Pulaki, is Pura Pabean sitting enchantingly on a small hill on the shore overlooking the picturesque coast of Pemuteran. While the view is already a pleasure on its own, the architectural feature is equally magnificent. With, two gigantic dragon sculptures (Naga Anthaboga and Naga Basuki) decorating the main entrance, the temple displays an unusual blend of Balinese culture and Chinese decorations.

The Temple is said to have been dedicated to the ancestors of the early seafarers from China and other countries visiting Bali. The name Pabean itself is said to bederived from the word “bea”, which in Balinese (and Bahasa Indonesia) means “customs” and is closely related to customs activities on sea traders in the port. Thus, this temple is frequently visited by ethnic Chinese living in Bali and local fishermen and seafarers.

At the foot of Pura Pabean, by the sea is a very simple and much older temple known as Pura Segara. The only features here are two piles of stones which appear very aged with a vaguely human shape. Located a bit further from the shoreline, roughly about 4 Kilometers from Pura Pulaki and Pura Pabean is Pura Melanting. All across Bali, one may find many temples called Pura Melanting which are usually located near market places or trade centers since this is known as the temple for traders who seek good fortune. The Pura Melanting near Pemuteran coast is recognized as the center of the entire Melanting Temple network since it is believed to be the abode of Ida Betara Ratu Mas Melanting. Ida Betara Ratu Mas Melanting was known in her lifetime as Dyah Ayu Swabawa, daughter of Danghyang Nirartha who taught the local population how to trade.

Aside from the stunning view of Mount Pulaki in the background, Pura Melanting also features the beautifully presented inner compound of the main temple. The inner compound houses a small but serene pond and stunning meru painted in a rainbow of colors and decorated with countless yellow and white ceremonial umbrellas. The tranquility of the place creates a perfect atmosphere and ambience for people to do their prayers and also to meditate.

Getting There: Located just to the east of Pemuteran Bay, the temples of Pulaki, Pabean, and Melanting are just a short drive away (roughly about 8 minutes) from the tourists facilities compounds of Pemuteran Beach. If you are staying in Pemuteran area or at Lovina Beach it is best to rent motorbikes, since these temples can be easily reached from the main road. The best way to get to Pemuteran is to organize a car from wherever you are on the island. A direct ride to Pemuteran from tourist centers in the south (Kuta-Sanur-Nusa Dua) will take about four hours depending on traffic on the coastal roads. From the equally amazing Beach of Lovina in Singaraja, the trip will take roughly about an hour.

Pura Agung Pulaki

Nestled magnificently between the mountain and the sea, Pura Agung Pulaki sits pleasantly in the perfect setting of what Balinese called Nyegara Gunung or where the mountain meets the sea — a place of very high spiritual energy. The temple is considered as one of the biggest and most important temples in Bali, and was said to have been built to commemorate the arrival of the Javanese Priest Saint Danghyang Nirartha to Bali in the early 16th Century. The temple is dominated by black granite stone in its architecture and decoration, perfectly blending with the hilly background as if some parts of the temple are actually carved out from the cliffs.

The cliffs behind the temple are surrounded by jungle and inhabited by hordes of monkeys. As the statue in front of the main entrance suggests, these monkeys are believed to be the descendants of the heroic Hanuman mentioned in the Ramayana saga and have existed long before the arrival of Danghyang Nirartha. It is said that when Danghyang Nirartha entered the forest of Pulaki he was escorted by troops of these monkey. As his respect to them, Danghyang Nirartha then established the Pulaki Temple and the all the monkeys there came to be its guardians.

It is said that prior to the arrival of Danghyang Nirartha, a village of 8000 people existed here. When Nirartha came, the village leader requested a boon that Nirartha granted: the village was to be given supernatural knowledge that would enable it to attain an immaterial state. Thus, the entire village and all its occupants became invisible and locals believe that they still exist until today. These invisible supernatural beings are called “Gamang” or “Wong Samar” and offerings are routinely given to them.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Indonesia Tourism website ( indonesia.travel ), Indonesia government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020

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