It was thanks to an invitation by a Balinese friend to follow them on a trip to attend to a local ceremony that I discovered the beauty of Menjangan Island. This 1,5 km long and 500 mt wide island, with its size of 24 square kilometers, is situated in the northeast of Bali and is a significant part of the Bali Barat National Park. The park occupies 190 square kilometres area in the most north-westerly point of Bali, the Prapat Agung Peninsula, and large swathes of land, protected beach and offshore coral reef and long stretches of around the towns of Gilimanuk, which together with 580 square kilometres of protected reserve in the highlands to the east it accounts for some 10% of Bali’s total land area. The small, uninhabited offshore island called Menjangan, at 10 kilometers from the coast, is s part of the Indonesian archipelago.
We left Lovina in the mid morning on a cloudy Sunday; the trip took about 2 hours by minivan. At the Labuan Lalang pier, where lots of people were waiting their turn to be shipped to Menjangan, we drank a tea and had a snack at a local stall, and observed peanut sellers and boat builders on the bay before boarding our chartered boat at the harbour.
The sea was a bit rough but the ride was pleasurable and charged with excitement. The boat trip was fun and lasted about 40 minutes; the view of Ruang volcano in Java during the journey was majestic. I always love being on the water, and seeing the ocean in all is glory. On approaching the island we realized how beautiful is nature on Menjangan, with unspoiled white sandy beaches and a green interior complete with a group of inhabitant deers.
Our day was dedicated to visiting the 3 temples present on the island, the most notable being the Pura Gili Kencana, which is certainly worth a visit for the huge white stone of Ganesh looking out at sea. We were told this is the largest Ganesh temple in the world and the oldest temple in Bali, dating back to the 14th century. Another temple, located at the hilltop of Menjangan, is the Kalenting Sari: it was built as part of the holy trip of the great Hindu missionary Danghyang Nirarta who, in the 16th century, came from the kingdom of Majapahit in Java to teach Hinduism to the Bali people. These temples are inhabited by 16 Hindu monks, the only human presence on the island. Next we took a nice walk around Menjangan perimeter. The walk took 1 hour and a half along paths of dry turf, as we did it slow in order to absorb Menjangan natural coastal beauty.
Menjangan in Javanese language means ‘deer’, and this name was given by the local coastal population when they observed herds of wild deers swimming to the island every spring. And deers were indeed present, hiding on the thin island bushes, shy at our presence. Deers, we learned, are not the only animals present on the island: there are wild rabbits, iguanas and wild chicken as well. Once we reached the coast, we witnessed the woman shaman performing a ritual dance armed with a kriss knife, as well as a processions of men and women heading towards the moored boats to take part of the traditional ceremonial trip around the island.
The day trip was a great success, though in my opinion, more could be done in terms of organization, cleanliness and communication: there was lot of waiting around at the harbour, the walking tracks on the island are few and badly kept, and some of the beauty of the island is lost in the rubbish.
DIVING ON MENJANGAN
Menjangan area is where diving first started seriously on Bali back in about 1978 under the sponsorship of the Indonesian Navy, which helped to establish Menjangan as the premier international dive location in Bali. The island is still today considered to be an important part of the local tourism industry thanks to the seven world-class dive sites that lie off its coast, and to one of the most spectacular and best-preserved coral reefs in Bali. These reefs incorporate an incredible marine fauna that includes groupers, large groups of jacks, turtles, enormous sea fans, pygmy seahorses, vivid gorgonians, schools of snapper and reef sharks. Thanks to the depth of the dramatically deep drop off of nearly 60 meters and by complex rock formations, there are a great number of large and small caves hosting sponge and soft corals, moray eels and young snappers and batfish. The moderate flow of currents and its protection from strong winds means it is common to see tuna, shoals of jack-fish and angelfish. Many of Bali’s dive operators based in the southern tourist regions can arrange daily dive excursions specifically to Menjangan.
Snorkeling is also said to be the best on Bali: the water around Menjangan is often clear and calm, there is a great abundance of marine life and coral, and visibility is usually excellent, ranging from between 15 and 50 meters. Dive companies offer a comprehensive selection of wetsuits, masks, diving equipment and all other gear necessary to explore beneath the waves.
What are you waiting for? Whether you are a dive aficionado, a sea lover or an adventurer, a day trip to Menjangan is absolutely worth it. Boats leave from the beach at Labuan Lalang and can chartered on the day. The best is to arrive early in the morning and try to club with other tourists in order to make chartering a whole boat worth it. The permit to visit the island cost Rp 40,000 per person and can be purchased from the national park office in the main Labuan Lalang car park.
Trips to Labuan Lalang last: 90 minutes from Lovina, 15 minutes from Pemuteran, 15 minutes from Gilimanuk.
Menjangan has no accommodation or facilities. Sleeping options are plenty on the north western coast of Bali near the West Bali National park and in the Pemuteran area.
Upmarket accommodation can be found at The Menjangan – http://www.themenjangan.com/ – Mimpi Resort Menjangan – http://www.mimpi.com/menjangan-the-resort.asp – Taman Sari Bali Resort and Spa – www.balitamansari.com – Pondok Sari Beach & Bungalow Resort – http://pondoksaribungalow.com/index.htm