FIFTY shades of blue greet me as I skim over the clearest water I've ever seen.
Dark blue, light blue, turquoise, aqua, sky blue, baby blue, cobalt blue, blue-green, royal blue and ultramarine - the colours are simply breathtaking!
Myriads of colourful fish dart along the sea bed and the morning sunshine is almost blinding as rays of light bounce off the crystal-clear ocean.
I run my hand through the water and it's deliciously cool - a welcome relief from the tropical heat and humidity.
Jukungs (local fishing boats) bob in the breeze and smiling, friendly locals wave from shore.
I've just arrived in Nusa Lembongan and I feel like I've arrived in my nirvana.
Far from the madding crowds of Kuta and Legian in Bali, Nusa Lembongan is a small island just a quick 30-minute speed boat ride from Sanur.
Here you can still experience a traditional way of life, watch the locals harvest seaweed, surf some of the best waves in Indonesia at breaks called Playgrounds, Lacerations and Shipwrecks, snorkel and swim in the magnificent clean waters or just relax under a swaying palm tree.
According to travel website Tripadvisor, Nusa Lembongan is the second most favourite island in Asia.
Just eight square kilometres in size with a permanent population of 5,000, the island is surrounded by coral reefs with white sand beaches and low, limestone cliffs.
With very few cars, traffic jams are rare and exploration is done by foot or motorbike.
The main villages of Jungut Batu and Mushroom Bay are centres for the island's tourist-based industry, while much of the permanent population resides in Lembongan village.
Accommodation comes in many varieties - from losmens (small room) to five-star resorts and everything in between.
For just $15 a night with breakfast, Linda Bungalows is a great budget find.
Basic, but clean and cheerful with a great beachfront location, this small hotel features a fantastic restaurant overlooking the Shipwrecks surf break.
Food is plentiful and varied and very, very cheap.
For just a few dollars enjoy a traditional nasi goreng washed down with an icy-cold Bintang (beer).
While away the hours relaxing on a sun lounge shaded by a colourful umbrella, or wander the beachfront path stopping to chat with one of the friendly locals.
Snorkelling, diving, swimming, paragliding, surfing, banana-boat rides, deep-sea fishing, island cruising - in fact anything above or below the water can be found on Nusa Lembongan.
It's a water wonderland just waiting to be explored.
IF YOU GO:
- Nusa Lemongan is a 30-minute speed boat ride from Sanur, Bali.
- The reputable Scoot Fast Cruises will get you there and back for 499,000 rupiah (about $48 AUD) which includes a hotel pick-up and return.
- Cheaper fast boat options start from about 350,000 rupiah ($34 AUD).
- Linda's Place costs from about $15 AUD a night with breakfast. Book on agoda.com.
Traditional Bali among the high-rises
AS Bali's southern coastline becomes increasingly over-run with huge, high-rise hotels, small, traditional-style accommodation is becoming harder to find.
But, if you take the time to explore the small, narrow gangs (laneways) of Kuta and Legian, you'll be rewarded with hotels that feature small, authentic-style Balinese architecture, stunning tropical gardens shaded by coconut palm trees and friendly, smiling staff ready to make your stay a memorable one.
On the beachfront in Legian, the Sari Beach Hotel is a real find.
This small hotel features just 21 rooms located in an oasis of stunning gardens featuring a riot of colours.
Pink, orange, red and white bougainvillea; frangipanis in white, pink and coral; red gingers; huge, hanging red and orange heliconias; magnificent red hibiscus and delicate bonsais surround the lush, green manicured lawns and bungalow-style rooms which feature thatched roofs and delicately carved front doors.
Meandering paths lead to the cool, refreshing pool, water ponds complete with colourful carp, a bar serving a wide range of tropical cocktails and fresh fruit juices, an outdoor restaurant and a temple resplendent with flags, black-and-white Balinese umbrellas and traditional offerings.
And just out the back gate, you'll find the rolling waves of the Indian Ocean and long stretches of white sand beaches where you can buy anything from a cold drink or ice cream to the latest MAC make-up, carvings, watches, kites, sunglasses, jewellery or even Viagra.
You can also watch one of Bali's famed sunsets.
The hotel has five different room types to select from: superior, deluxe garden view, deluxe sea view, a villa and a house.
I stayed in the deluxe garden view room which features a massive king-size canopy bed, marble bathroom with a bath and shower, private balcony, air conditioning (a must in Bali's heat and humidity), satellite TV, safety deposit box and wi-fi.
Room rates start from US$80 which includes a full American breakfast.
Choose from fresh fruit, Danish pastries, cereal, banana pancakes, eggs (cooked any style), bacon, tomato and more.
Feed the squirrels while you're eating and watch them scamper from tree to tree.
Tucked down a long, walled driveway, Sari Beach Hotel is an oasis in the middle of bustling Legian.
It's quiet, peaceful and tranquil and is reminiscent of the old Bali.
Make sure this hotel is top of your list when you next visit the Island of the Gods.
IF YOU GO:
- Sari Beach Hotel is located in Jalan Padma Utara, Legian, Bali.
- Phone +62361751635 or email email@example.com
- Room rates start at US$80 per night including breakfast.
- Garuda Indonesia, Virgin Australia and Jetstar fly to Bali from Brisbane.
NOTE: The author paid for her own airfares, accommodation and other expenses while in Bali.