Bali, Indonesia, Java, Travel

Exploring West Bali and Day Trip to Ijen Crater

The next day when we woke at the beautiful Menjangan Dynasty Resort, the clouds had cleared and it was a glorious day. I had Whatsapped a small company called West Bali Explorer to take us on a snorkelling trip to Menjangan island. The trip was about 1/3 of the price as the resort and the boat picked us up at the resort beach at 9am.

We headed out over to Menjangan island, about 20 min off the coast of Bali. The island is surrounded by coral reef and is supposed to be the best place in Bali for snorkelling and clarity. The journey there was also interesting, being able to see Bali’s only national park and mangroves, and also the volcanoes on East Java.

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East Java’s volcanoes

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We arrived at Menjangan and both felt pretty seasick, just from the short 20 min journey… oops! But luckily we had some anti-nausea tablets which we took before getting into the water. As soon as I was in the water I felt better, it was still quite wavy, but the reef and fish were so amazing it instantly distracted me! We started at ‘cave point’, apparently one of the best spots around the island. Our guide was able to dive down and swim through some of the caves, but both Pete and I found it a bit deep and hadn’t yet got to grips with equalising via our noses so couldn’t manage it.

We saw loads of fish, including little clownfish in an anemone, a non-stinging jelly and a huge bannerfish maybe, we’re not actually sure what it was…

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Pete ready for snorkelling!

 

 

It was so good and we saw loads of different fish before having lunch on Menjangan island itself, where we also saw the deer, called Menjangan, from which the island gets it’s name.

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The jetty at Menjangan island
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Bali in the distance
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A Menjangan deer

After lunch we headed out to ‘coral garden’, a spot on the north side of Menjangan island. The sea was much calmer here and we had a much more fun time. There were less interesting fish, but the calm seas definitely helped us enjoy the experience more! Here we saw more clownfish and countless blue starfish.

After being out for most of the day, we got back in the boat and headed back to Bali. On the way, we stumbled upon a pod of spinner dolphins! It was incredible. They were swimming all around the boat and jumping out and spinning. We didn’t catch many good videos because the GoPro screen was wet and we didn’t realise! So all the clips have a bit splodge on the screen! The only shot that worked well was the underwater one!

Here’s a quick video of the snorkelling!

Snorkelling was amazing! Afterwards, we returned to the resort and chilled on the beach and around the pool, before having a nice meal at the restaurant.

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Amazing sunset at Pemuteran

The original plan for the last 4 days of the holiday was to stay in Pemuteran in West Bali the whole time just chilling and snorkelling, but before we left home I had read about Ijen crater in East Java, which is a volcano with blue flames because of the sulphur fumes and mining in the region. The whole experience seemed incredible, and East Java was only 30 min over the water by car ferry… we’d be crazy not to go – being so close…

We saw that you could hire guides and get a trip organised, but if you know us, you’ll know, that’s not our style. So the next day after chilling on the beach and doing a bit more snorkelling and visiting Pemuteran town, we drove ourselves to Gilimanuk in West Bali to get the car ferry to Java.

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Chilling on the private beach of the resort, overlooking the mangroves.
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Pemuteran beach
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Pemuteran
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Vegan Nasi Campur – the best one of the holiday!

Ijen crater is recommended as a night trek, with most hikes starting at 1am to catch the blue flames in the dead of night and then witness the sunrise in the morning. We thought this seemed like a weird way to do it, and after a quick Google, it appeared that there was no reason why you couldn’t go up to watch sunset then stay til darkness for the flames. So we planned to arrive in Java at about 3pm local time, then drive straight to Ijen and hike up, see the flames, then return to Watudodol beach on Java for a sleep before returning to Bali.

We arrived at Gilimanuk port and got stopped by the police who said we didn’t have the correct licence to leave Bali… our first mistake. He charged us the minimum fine, but wrote us a ticket for the maximum fine, so we could still leave the island and not get fined any more. We initially thought this was a scam, but it turned out, after speaking to our car-hire guy, that we actually didn’t have the right licence and that this police guy actually did us a massive favour by doing this!

We finally boarded the boat and took off for Java. The trip could easily have been completed in less than 10 minutes, but there were soooo many boats waiting to dock at Ketapang on Java that we literally floated about off the coat for 45 minutes waiting for an opening…

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Our little jeep on the boat!
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Leaving the boat!

The journey from Ketapang to Ijen took about 2 hours, first through the busy city of Banyuwangi. The main differences between Bali and Java were obvious straight away… First, there were no longer hindu buildings and temples everywhere, but mosques instead. The women were all covered up, which prompted me to pop on a long sleeve top and the streets were simply chaotic. It felt like there was 5 times more people here than Bali. We thought the streets in Bali were busy, but in Banyuwangi it was just carnage. The streets were also really dirty, full of rubbish and waste. We missed the clean streets of Bali…

After a stressful hour of driving, we eventually broke free of traffic and into the mountains. The jungle began to envelop us and the road slowly disintegrated. We soon started humming the songs of Jurassic park, as giant ferns lined the roads, it felt like we were slowly driving back in time and like a raptor would pop out of the ferns any moment… 🦖

We arrived at the top at Ijen crater car park at about 6pm but it was a ghost town… there was literally nobody there. Nobody in the shops, cafes, or even in the ticket office. We walked up to the main trailhead and saw a sign saying “closed, open at 12am…” So I guess you can only visit Ijen at night… what a mess-up…

Feeling super deflated and tired, we headed back down the mountain to the small village of Licin where we checked into Ijen resort for the night. The plan now was to get to bed straight away after dinner and wake at 12am that night to return to the crater and try again. We checked with the staff here who were also pretty confused… They assured us that Ijen should have been open and we should have been able to go… Odd…

So we had some dinner and got to bed at about 8pm. Sorted!?

Nope…

I woke up at 10pm feeling extremely ill…. I was sick several times and ended up clinging to the toilet for about 2 hours before my alarm finally went off at 12am… By this time I was still feeling a little sick, I think from the meal we had just eaten, but I was starting to settle. We decided to wait a couple of hours and then try again – As long as we were up Ijen before 5am it would be ok…

Try again…?!

Nope…

Then the heavens opened! It literally began pouring and pouring with torrential rain and didn’t stop the whole night!!! We didn’t feel like trekking up a Volcano in the pouring rain whilst also feeling a bit sick, with no wet-weather clothes or coats. So we gave up 😔 our fate had been decided. This was the only night we could try, so we continued with our crappy night’s sleep and after breakfast simply drove back to Ketapang with our tails between our legs 😦

It was pretty disappointing not being able to see Ijen’s blue flames, especially considering we did make it all the way to the car park 😂 But it was still really interesting to see a different part of Indonesia.

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The views at Ijen resort

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Our little jeep really served us well during our week-long adventure!

We got the boat back to Bali and headed south along the coast to the surf spot of Medewi for our final night of the holiday. It was a long day of driving, so when we arrived we slumped in the pool and tried to relax. Pete hired a surfboard briefly, but  quickly tired after the long drive and eventually joined me in the pool.

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A road sculpture just outside Gilimanuk
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Medewi beach
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Amazing sunset

Our last day we drove the car back to the airport via a few tourist hotspots, our favourite of which was Tanah Lot. It was extremely busy, with both foreign and local visitors, but was still a nice place to visit.

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Rice terraces

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Tanah Lot

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A poor little civet we saw in a civet-poo coffee shop

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We handed the jeep back at the airport and then that was it… our 3-week epic adventure to Thailand, New Zealand and Bali was over.

What an amazing 3 weeks.

We loved every minute of it – except perhaps being sick at midnight when I was supposed to be looking at epic blue flames. Yes, it was kind of disappointing to miss that experience, but we had just one week in Bali and we really crammed a hell of a lot of stuff into every day, so it was still an epic holiday.

You can watch the full video of this blog post here:

For all my other posts from this epic 3-week adventure, please visit this page.

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