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From Bali to Alor: 11 great reasons to visit the Lesser Sunda Islands

Kathryn Curzon
Kathryn Curzon

Dive travel writer

Jakarta  /  Wed, May 15, 2019  /  01:24 pm
From Bali to Alor: 11 great reasons to visit the Lesser Sunda Islands

A mesmerizing seascape awaits travelers to Alor Island in East Nusa Tenggara. (Shutterstock/File)

From swimming with ocean giants and diving alongside ancient lava flows to cultural visits and mangrove tours, the Lesser Sunda Islands have it all.

It’s time to pack your bags and discover this diverse Indonesian destination as the dry season begins.

Read also: 8 reasons to visit Lombok and the Gili Islands

1. Experience Bali’s wild side at West Bali National Park

Sitting at the northwestern tip of Bali, West Bali National Park is a fascinating conservation area. With diverse habitats including rainforests, mangroves, scrub, beaches and beautiful coral reefs, there's plenty to discover.

It’s a great place to immerse yourself in nature, taking a guided hike through part of the park or exploring the marine environment.

Don’t miss Menjangan Island while you’re there. This idyllic island is known for world-class snorkeling with pretty clownfish, angelfish and huge clams.

It’s also a great place to try wall diving in waters with visibility of more than 50 meters.

2. Take your pick of Bali’s best temples

Bali is known for the diverse and numerous temples dotted throughout the island, often with stunning backdrops.

Tanah Lot Temple is one of Bali’s best-known temples, famed for its unique setting perched atop a rocky outcrop. Visit at sunset for the perfect photo opportunity as you gaze out over a peaceful ocean.

Another eye-catching temple, Uluwatu Temple is a must-see. Sitting on top of a steep cliff that plunges 70 meters down to sea level, it is a breath-taking temple to visit and photograph, any time of day.

3. Dive a 125-meter-long shipwreck in Tulamben Bay

The wreck of the USAT Liberty is truly impressive, covered in hard and soft corals and surrounded by huge shoals of fish. Launched during the final year of World War I, this huge vessel was sunk by the Japanese in World War II and it rests in the calm waters just off Tulamben Bay, which is ideal for wreck diving.

Sitting on a sandy slope at 8 to 30 meters, she’s an easy wreck for all experience levels to discover. Don’t miss your chance to find out why divers come from around the world to dive her.

4. Marvel at the iconic rice terraces of Tegallalang

It’s impossible not to be impressed by the steep and perfectly designed rice terraces of Tegallalang, Bali. Winding across the hillside, the curving terraces descend to the bottom of the valley in every shade of green imaginable.

Take a guided rice terrace tour to learn all about the fascinating history and farming of this special area.

5. Meet the monkeys of Ubud’s Sacred Monkey Forest

The Ubud Monkey Forest is an important spiritual destination and conservation center where you can explore a stunning forest and watch the antics of over 700 wild monkeys.

Walk the forest and you’ll discover some of the 186 tree species found there. The forest is also home to three temples, 100 sculptures and the striking, much-photographed Dragon Bridge.

Just make sure you follow the "Monkey Forest Guidelines" so the monkeys don’t make off with your belongings.

6. Feast your eyes on Ubud’s Art Market

The Ubud Art Market is a riot of color, its stalls packed with silk scarves, woven bags, hats and numerous other handmade goods.

Centered amid art villages, it’s ideal for picking up lovingly crafted Balinese souvenirs to take home.

7. Swim with sunfish, manta rays around Nusa Penida

Have you heard of sunfish? These strange-looking fish, the heaviest bony fish in the world, weigh up to 1,000 kg and span over 3 meters! Nusa Penida's Crystal Bay is the place to swim with them.

Go diving in Crystal Bay from July to October and you’ll have a great chance of swimming alongside sunfish.

Be sure to also visit Manta Point while you’re there. It’s a great place for snorkeling and diving with these majestic ocean giants.

The best way to reach both sites is by Nusa Penida liveaboard diving.

8. Discover Nusa Penida’s hidden beach paradise

If you’re looking for a picture-perfect beach without the crowds, don’t miss Kelingking Beach on Nusa Penida. This stunning white sand beach is nestled in the curve of steep cliffs and surrounded by clear blue waters.

When you’ve had your fill of admiring the beach from the easily accessible viewpoint, put on your shoes and hike 400 meters down the cliffside. It’s worth the effort to feel the sand between your toes.

While you’re there, why not take a dip in the water before tackling the steep climb back up?

9. Venture into mangrove magic on Nusa Lembongan

Perhaps you’ve not spent much time thinking about mangroves, but that’s about to change. These crucial forests provide an essential nesting and breeding habitat for thousands of species, protect coastlines from erosion, support community livelihoods and more.

In short, they’re epic.

Don’t miss out on your chance to fall in love with the humble mangrove. You can enjoy a scenic tour through mangrove-lined waterways with a guide, or rent a kayak and go solo on Nusa Lembongan.

Take your snorkeling kit and you can check out the vibrant marine life tucked away under the trees, or drift over reefs teeming with life.

10. Gain some perspective at Mt. Kelimutu, Flores

It’s hard to describe the three differently colored crater lakes in Kelimutu National Park on Flores; they’re that eye-popping bright. However you describe them, they stand out a mile against the stark volcanic landscape.

Hike up to the lakes and you won’t be able to take your eyes or camera off them. One of the most beautiful sights on Flores, Mount Kelimutu and its lakes are not to be missed.

11. Explore Alor’s ancient underwater lava flows

Go scuba diving around Alor Island and you can explore the underwater lava flows and rich black sands, busy with life. The ancient lava flows are caked with corals and the sand is full of weird and wonderful critters you’ve likely never heard of.

Visit the Sharks Galore dive site to swim among the harmless grey reef sharks that patrol the reef, plus the smaller whitetip reef sharks and fast-moving schools of tuna.

If you want to try your hand at finding tiny critters, Biangabang Beach is your paradise. The area is full of hot springs and volcanic sand, perfect for diving.

Got time for one more adventure? Go night diving at Alor and you’ll see the ocean come to life in a completely different way, lit up by the beam of your flashlight.

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Kathryn Curzon compiled this article from pieces written by the divers and writers of LiveAboard.com.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.