Journey to the 'Secret Beach'

21st Jun 2017

Every now and then we come across a local legend. A story which may or may not be true but the details with which it is told, the elaborate specifics and characteristics almost makes you believe the depth and the certainty of the story. It is that kind of a story which does not have an origin but as it passes on from one person to the other, a new detail or a lucrative sub-plot is added to it. Such are the details that your heart starts believing the legitimacy of the story while your brain from the very beginning questions the credibility of it.

Photo of Journey to the 'Secret Beach' 1/4 by Aniket Aich

It was our second day in Bali, Indonesia and my best friend and I were strolling through the market in Kuta after a scrumptious dinner. Our hotel manager had told us about this local artefacts shop in the main market in Kuta which also exchanged currency and gave excellent rates. We were currently in search of that shop which was apparently next to a 24/7 store. On our second round through the same street, we spotted an open garage which was actually a shop once you walked about 10 metres inside. There were artefacts hanging on the walls up to the ceiling on both the sides. There was an old SUV parked right in the middle of the shop and the counter was on the left. We approached the counter and enquired about the exchange rates. There was an old lady, probably in her late 50s who, in a mixture of English and sign language told us the exchange rates. The rates were better than every other store in the market and probably in the entire city. I quickly turned to Aaryamann and asked him in Hindi, the native tongue of north India, whether it was safe to exchange our currency. After a two minute deliberation in Hindi, we decided to go through with it. While converting the currency we started talking to the lady, asking about good, cheap and authentic Indonesian eating joints. We told her that we had rented a scooter and were roaming all over the city, all by ourselves, thanks to google maps and google translate. We then asked her which places she would recommend, places which were incredibly beautiful and untouched by tourism. That is when it all began. She looked gravely at us, almost trying to communicate by her eyes. It seemed that she was asking us whether we were up for it, whether we had it in us to take on an adventure of such magnitude.

“About 50 km to the east of Bali, there are three islands- Nusa Ceningam, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida”, she said gravely. We had obviously heard about these three island and had even planned on visiting the first two as they were tourist hubs and were connected by a beautiful bridge. The third island, however, was a sparsely populated Hindu dominated island. It was the largest of the three but the most underdeveloped and separated by the sea. While the other two islands were infested with resorts and restaurants, this island was untouched by tourism. “Nusa Penida” she whispered. After a pause and slight smile, she continued, “The secret beach”. “Two mountains on two sides. Beach in the middle and beautiful, very beautiful blue, crystal clear water. Beach football you can play. Trees for covering from sun”, she said slowly. By this point of time we were totally engrossed in her story and determined to Google all this down because even if it was half as beautiful as described, we wanted to go there. We were about to ask her more about the place when she continued again in a rather grave tone, “But”, she paused, “200 metres down the cliff you go. Very bad and very dangerous way.” She looked into our eyes and said, “One wrong foot and dead”. In the next 5 minutes, we had put the currency inside our wallets and were on our way to the hotel.

At 7 in the morning, we were on Sanur beach, the eastern coast and port for the boats to Nusa Islands. We had been standing in the same spot for past 30 minutes and still hadn’t decided where we wanted to go: Nusa Ceningam and Nusa Lembongan or Nusa Penida. It was our second last day in the city and did not have much money left. We could afford only one option. The previous night we googled all about the secret beach and had found nothing convincing or stable enough. On the other hand, the two connected island offered a number of tourist spots and beautiful cafes and restaurants. We had to book our tickets in the next 5 minutes and there was the last spot in both the boats. “We’re going to the secret island,” Aaryamann said and proceeded to buy the tickets for Nusa Penida.

It was an hour long speed boat ride. We spotted a number of small Indonesian archipelago islands, yachts and other speed boats. It was a peaceful journey. We saw the other two islands on our way and the plethora of tourism. Right from jet skis and parachutes to party boats and kayaks. After another 10 minutes, we reached Nusa Penida. The port was as quiet and calm as a classroom on a Monday morning. We disembarked the boat and headed to the first hut near the port and asked if we could hire a scooter to travel around till 5 o’ clock which was the time for our return boat to Bali. At first, they could not understand what we were saying. Using sign language we figured that they do not have any scooters for hire anymore. They hadn’t even heard about this ‘famous’ secret beach. The nearest sight-seeing spot was 10 kilometres from our location. We had no means of transport and couldn’t go anywhere now. The next boat off the island was 3 hours later. We had nowhere to go and the only thing we could do was drink beer in the port and go kayaking. We were cursing ourselves for taking this decision while walking to the nearest cafe. “Stoooop”, we heard a voice from a distance and looked back. It was the owner of the scooter rental place. He was slowing running towards us. We walked halfway back and again in a mixture of sign language and broken English he told us that a local man would lend us his scooty for three times the normal rate. We were already running short of money. We had to take another big decision. We decided to go for it. In sign language, the localite told us to park the scooter at that very spot at 5 pm and leave the keys in the glove compartment. Aaryamann sat in front and I opened navigation on my phone and without wasting a second we left for the Broken Beach and Angel’s Billabong, the nearest sightseeing spot. After a rigorous hour due to the half mud-half road hilly terrain, we reached our destination.

Photo of Journey to the 'Secret Beach' 2/4 by Aniket Aich

A continuous series of cliffs we on the far right. Sky blue water banging on the foot of these 200-300 feet tall cliff was a perfect blend of calm and anger, tranquility and chaos. In the middle was a cliff with an inverted ‘u’ hole right in the middle. The water came about 100 metres inside where it struck yet another cliff. A tiny beach had been formed at the bottom of that cliff which was invisible while standing on that very cliff with the cliff with a hole in front. The cliff wasn’t at 90 degrees but was inverted to a large extent due to repeated hits from the waves over many years. After spending 10-15 minutes there we started trekking towards Angel’s Billabong which was about a hundred metres from the Broken Bridge. We suddenly started walking on volcanic, sharp rock and we saw a lagoon of which was the natural equivalent of an infinity pool. The inland pool was beautiful but not easily accessible. After taking a few pictures and roaming around, it started drizzling. We saw this girl climbing down volcanic rocks to the lagoon. She started to backstroke in the natural infinity pool. I looked at Aaryamann at that very instant and within a second we knew what we were gonna do. He handed me his bag and started climbing down. Once he was there, I threw his bag and mine to him and I started making the journey down.“Welcome to paradise”, she said as she smiled a little. I figured she was European because of her slight accent. I turned towards her and greeted her. Aaryamann was already in the middle of a conversation with her. “During high tide, this entire lagoon comes under the water”, she said. Ignoring whatever they were talking about, I took off my t-shirt and stepped inside the natural turquoise infinity pool. The water was warm and crystal clear. I was still wearing my slippers fearing the sharp volcanic rock but the bed of the lagoon was covered with moss and it almost felt like a green carpet. I let myself loose in the water and drifted aimlessly for a while. I swam to the edge and looked out at the vastness of the blue ocean. There were depressions and caves under the water. The different shades of blue due to the different depths and different coloured moss made the natural paradise look even more beautiful.

Photo of Journey to the 'Secret Beach' 3/4 by Aniket Aich

“The secret beach is not far from here”, she said and immediately she started explaining me the route to the mysterious beach. It was about 10 kilometres from our current location. We still weren’t quite sure whether we actually believed that this secret beach actually existed or it was just an exaggeration. Through ditches and rumbling stones, after 45 minutes we reached Kelingkling. It was on the eastern coast of Nusa Penida. The crescent shape of the beach resembles the moon not only because of its shape but also because of the serenity and peace of the landscape. The beach was about 200 metres below us, at the foot of the cliff. The cliff was in a ‘w’ shape, enclosing the beach on three sides in the lower convolution, opening up to the endless ocean.

We literally had to go down 200 metres off an almost 90-degree cliff. We had just glimpsed paradise there was no way we weren’t gonna try reaching there. There was a rough terrain already paved. It was narrow and slippery. One wrong step and you’d go down 200 metres straight to the beach, probably not alive though. I did not concentrate on the terrain much. I could only think of one thing. The most beautiful place I had ever seen in my entire life. The ‘U’ shaped cliff ended in the beautiful sun burnt yellow sand beach, opening up to the crystal clear blue waters of the Indian ocean. From the beach, you could just see the endless ocean and the tall cliff surrounding you on the other three sides. The hot sun and the cold water complemented the scenic paradise that we were witnessing. The 200-metre hike down the cliff did not make us a bit tired. In a single motion, I took off both my slippers and my t-shirt and ran straight to the serene blue waters of the ocean. The fierce waves struck me down and brought me back to the beach. Although it was a powerful strike yet it conveyed unparalleled tranquillity. For a couple of hours, we just lay there, on the beach. The waves just enough to touch our feets. Prior to that day, I believed such beautiful sceneries just existed in google images and windows’ wallpapers. It was perfect. The only sight you could see was that of the endless ocean. The only sound you could hear was the wind and the waves crashing in some distant cliff. The only thought you could think of was that of infinite peace and tranquillity. There were goalposts made of bamboo bars on the far left of the beach where kids probably played football in the evening before the tide came in. On the far left of the ‘u’ shaped beach were trees where a few people were lying motionlessly, probably taking in the same peace and purity that we were.

Photo of Journey to the 'Secret Beach' 4/4 by Aniket Aich

Bali, for me, didn’t live up to the ‘insane-party’ destination expectation nor was it a sight-seeing paradise. Bali was the perfect merge of restlessness and peace. Right from the bustling and swarming night markets to the desolated beaches, the city radiated composure and positivity. The entire city oozed of positive vibes. The people there were friendly and welcoming to such an extent that once I forgot my scooter keys in the ignition while it was parked near the beach and when I realised what I had done after about an hour or so, I rushed back to my scooter and the key wasn't there. I was cursing myself so much when the parking lot in-charge handed me the keys and told me to be more careful. In another incident, I was advised by a localite to buy many miniature alcohol bottles from the 24/7 store instead of buying them in clubs and restaurants to save money. This example not only validates my statement about the people being very nice and hospitable but also the right mixture of calm and crazy.

How to get there?

Although it is known as the ‘secret beach’ it is no more a secret. The official name of the beach in Kelingking Beach in Nusa Penida. To get to Nusa Penida, you have to go to Sanur beach in Bali and take a speed boat to Nusa Penida. In Nusa Penida you need to hire a scooter or a car (A car would be more convenient as there are practically no roads but more expensive). For assurity book the scooter/car before hand. Once in Nusa Penida, use your vehicle to go the Angel’s Billabong and the Broken Beach. From there go to Kelingking beach. Once you reach Kelingking, theres a 200m downward hike which requires a lot of stamina and skill. It is quite dangerous but the beach is worth the hardship.