One morning in a place called Labuhan Lalang, along the Singaraja-Gilimanuk Road in north-western Bali, I am waiting to take a small boat to a paradise. The pier was built on a beach with black volcanic sand, but I will soon be walking on much whiter, coral sand.
My destination is a small island in the heart of West Bali National Park, called Pulau Menjangan (Deer Island, in Indonesian).
West Bali National Park covers a large region of lush rainforests and coastal coral reefs, including that island that I am going to visit.
The interior of the island is made of a kind of savannah, a mix of grasslands and groups of trees, it also features a Hindu temple built right on the seashore. But the real treasure of this island lies underwater: coral reefs.
The Coral Garden: North Coast
The first place I am heading to is a snorkeling spot named “the Coral Garden”. The name says it all!
In the distance, the majestic cones of the Ijen volcanic complex break the horizon line and make a wonderful background for the island’s crystalline waters.
These volcanoes are located on the island of Java and they include one of the most spectacular experiences that Indonesia has to offer: Kawah Ijen, which I had visited a couple of years before.
Back to Menjangan Island, my boat now firmly tied to a wooden pier dried by the hot sun, all was left to do was jumping in this highly appealing, turquoise and transparent water.
The Coral Garden is one of the most beautiful snorkeling experiences that I had as far as I can remember. I have good memories of snorkeling around Tioman Island in Malaysia, but I think West Bali national Park might be a level above Tioman for coral density.
There is a good density of colorful coral and all the marine life that goes with it. I wish I had the equipment to make an underwater panorama there!
After a good hour snorkeling around the coral reef, I decided to go explore the island. I followed a track across the island, past the Hindu temple where a small community lives, and through quiet grasslands almost all the way to the opposite coast of the island. This is not a big performance as the island is very small!
The South Coast
It is now time to take the boat again for a short ride to another part of the island – on the opposite coast. Here another snorkeling spot awaits me.
This time it was quite different. It was along drop-off, a kind of underwater cliff. It was pretty impressive because there is no transition between the shallow plateau surrounding the island and the deeper sea.
You would swim in the shallow waters, looking at the coral and all of a sudden a cliff goes down into the darkness of the sea that is so deep that you can’t see the bottom.
Along this edge is where I found the most beautiful corals and bigger fish. Again, it’s a pity that I didn’t have any equipment to take any underwater pictures like I had done in the Raja Ampat Islands, another exceptional region for snorkeling (and of course for scuba diving!)
I also enjoyed myself exploring this side of the island, the coastline was interesting. It appears there that this island is actually made of a platform of coral that got out of the water with land movements, and that is now eroded by the restless attacks of the waves.
From this side of the island can be seen the mountainous landscapes of the inland part of the West Bali National Park, covered with a dense jungle.
Last Thoughts About Menjangan Island
This trip to Menjangan Island was one of the nicest excursions I did in Bali! Its geographic location is pretty cool, at the western tip of the island of Bali, and there you realize how close you actually are from the much bigger island of Java.
West Bali National Park protects a region that represents so well the Indonesian archipelago, with a subtle mix of coral, volcanoes and rainforests.
It is very easy to plan a day trip to Menjangan Island, the most convenient being if your accommodation is along the north coast of Bali such as in Lovina.
It is very affordable and if you are a snorkeling enthusiast (or even just a beautiful landscape enthusiast!), you will remember this place for a long time!