Beautiful but dangerous: Tourists are starting to flock to Bali’s Nusa Penida but safety standards haven’t kept up with island’s growth

Kelingking Beach, Nusa Penida. Photo: James Connolly/Unsplash
Kelingking Beach, Nusa Penida. Photo: James Connolly/Unsplash

Nusa Penida, a small island off the east coast of Bali, though off the highly-beaten path, is quickly becoming a becoming a favorite destination amongst adventure-seeking travelers (and Instagram bloggers) because of its jaw-dropping cliff panoramas, amazing diving, and rugged beauty.

But safety standards at Nusa Penida, which still has quite limited infrastructure, along with the two other islands it is clustered with in Bali’s Klungkung regency, including Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan, seem to be failing to keep up with the islands’ rapid growth in popularity over the past several years.

The waves and current can be so strong around the three islands that the area is prone to marine-related accidents, says sub-distrcit head of Nusa Penida, Gusti Agung Mahajaya.

However, Mahajaya insists tourists often ignore warnings posted at certain points of interest and don’t always take care—let us interject here that probably a vast majority of them are sadly probably motivated by getting the best Insta snaps.

“Safety is becoming a priority, but it’s not yet the reality. A lot of tourists are stubborn. The regency has already put some warning signs on certain sites. There has also been socialization,” Mahajaya told Bali Post on Thursday.

The problem is that every tourism attraction, like the natural infinity pool Angel’s Bilabong and Crystal Bay, should be equipped with lifeguards.

“Now there are lifeguard posts in Sampalan (Penida) and Jungut Batu Village (Lembongan). But there aren’t guards posted there yet. If there would be, monitoring could be done more intesively,” Mahajaya said.

The lifeguard watchtowers were ordered for construction after a series of coastal accidents, with at least five in 2017.

The first was in March, when a collision involving a small boat and a fishing boat off Nusa Lembongan and neighboring small island Nusa Ceningan, left one person dead.

Also in March 2017, a tourist from New Zealand was carried out to sea by a wave at Angel’s Billabong in Penida. The kiwi’s body was found four days later.

Another was when a a young man from Sumba was lost after falling from the cliffs of Ceningan in May 2017. His body was never recovered.

In August 2017, a pair of tourists, one from South Africa and one from Denmark were stranded, clinging to the side of an islet when spearfishing at Penida’s Atuh Beach. They were pulled out by a strong current but were fortunately able to be rescued after 17 hours.

In September 2017, a 32-year-old from Sanur was diving and spearfishing in the waters of Nusa Penida and drowned.

But the story that probably sticks with us the most took place back in June 2016, when a woman on her honeymoon and traveling with her family, was pulled over the edge of of Angel’s Billabong along with her young sister. The two did not survive.

Head of Klungkung Regional Assembly (BPBD) Putu Widiada said 15 balawisata officers will be contracted to the posts in Sampalan, Jungutbatu, and also Kusamba on the mainland.

“Each post will have five lifeguards,” he said.


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