AS DUSK descends, I watch local children run barefoot along a white sandy beach. Against the backdrop of blue sky, brightly coloured kites dance to the tune choreographed from strings held firmly in their small hands.
The daybed on which I watch the children's simple game graces a wide veranda of my accommodation: a thatched roofed hut - one of many carved into the hillside.
I am on Nusa Lembongan, a small island about 11km from mainland Bali and a world away from the frantic pace of popular, fun-filled Kuta. This small island is still relatively untouched by tourism and so my modest yet comfortable hut is without a telephone, television and hot water. I move my gaze to fishing boats rocking gently on turquoise waters and, as the tide recedes, crops of Euchema Cottomi (a species of ocean algae) are exposed, which locals harvest then spread along the beachfront to dry. The dried seaweed is sold for export and is the main source of income for the islanders.
Ramshackle homes and beach huts dot the coastline alongside local restaurants that serve delicious Indonesian fare and a good variety of western food, which was great for my teenage sons whose palate was not accustomed to the local cuisine. There are also a number of small warungs where icy cold Bintangs, soft drinks and other necessities can be bought from ever smiling locals whose welcomes are warm and friendly. There are no banks on the island so bring enough cash for an entire stay and although prices are slightly more expensive than the mainland, it is still relatively cheap.
Life on the island is slow and easy, backpackers, surfers and families mix contentedly with locals who seem happy to share their little piece of paradise. There are no cars on the island, but motorbikes can be hired if you feel like exploring further than you care to walk.
Nusa Lembongan is also home to the famous surf breaks of Shipwrecks, Lacerations and Playgrounds and boasts great scuba and snorkelling spots where you can swim alongside manta rays and tropical fish. Local children mix with the surfers and as my 15-year-old son found, will happily share their knowledge of the breaks and tidal patterns. Accommodation can range from about $A10 a night for a beachside bungalow to $A200 a night for a luxury cliffside villa. More of these villas are slowly appearing and as we observed construction of the latter was well under way. We stayed at Playgrounds Resort where an oceanfront room cost $A70 per night.
Getting to Nusa Lembongan is simple. It takes about 30 minutes and there are many boat companies from Sanur. We used Rocky Fast Cruises and found them to be friendly and helpful.
If tranquillity, stunning views and a good book are the makings of a perfect holiday, head to Nusa Lembongan, find a daybed, grab an icy cold Bintang and relax.