Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia. July 2008.

Growing algae at Nusa Lembongan

#Bali # Indonesia

  Indonesia: Bali - July 2008

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text: 

I'll take you back a few weeks in July 2008. Not quite in Bali, but right next door. A little further southeast, on the small island of Nusa Lembongan. A place I loved, where almost all the inhabitants are seaweed growers.

Algae growers

Of course, vacationers who come to Nusa Lembongan for the beach and swimming may be a little disappointed. There are algae everywhere!

Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia. July 2008.

The island is beautiful and yet has nothing tropical postcard scenery. The coast alternates beaches overlooking seaweed fields, rocky cliffs battered by waves and mangroves. The interior is rather arid.

Seaweed cultivation developed on Nusa Lembongan, Penida and Ceningan Islands in the mid-1980s. In this year 2008, it has become the main activity of the islanders. Here, only 5% of the population lives from tourism. Hence a more peaceful atmosphere, more authentic, than in other very (too) visited corners of Bali.

Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia. July 2008.
Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia. July 2008.
Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia. July 2008.
Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia. July 2008.
Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia. July 2008.

Underwater seaweed fields

The algae grow in shallow water, fixed on cords stretched between small stakes planted on the bottom. At low tide, you can walk among these sandy plots.

When we dock on the main beach, Jungut Batu, we can see the dark mosaic of seaweed fields under the translucent turquoise of the water ...

Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia. July 2008.
Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia. July 2008.
Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia. July 2008.
Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia. July 2008.
Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia. July 2008.

The smell of drying algae

These algae, red or green, have no leaves and look like small soft branches. Their growth cycle is rapid: it takes about 45 days to harvest new shoots.

They are piled up at the bottom of the boats and transported to the beach in bamboo baskets. They are then spread out on the ground on tarpaulins, where they dry in the sun. There are many of them near the huts along the shore. You can see them... and smell them!

Thus exposed in full sun, they discolor and spread in the air this strange smell that stings the nostrils. A heady smell, both wet and a little acrid, surprising at first. But you get used to it quickly and you end up not paying too much attention to it.

Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia. July 2008.
Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia. July 2008.
Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia. July 2008.

The algae once dried are exported all over the world. A kind of gelatin is extracted which is used in the food or cosmetics industry. It is used to thicken ice cream and some dairy products, it replaces fat in diet products and is a natural binder for various gels and creams.

The work is hard, but still profitable enough. In any case, significantly more than the salt harvest in Amed. From dawn to dusk, there is a constant back and forth of baskets on the sand. The women carry them in balance on the head, the men often carry two of them suddenly, with the ends of a sling wedged on the shoulder.

Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia. July 2008.

Beautiful landscapes

On the other side of the island, where the village of Lembongan is, it's the same activity. The strait that separates Nusa Lembongan from Nusa Ceningan is protected by the reef and accessible at low tide.

At high tide, a flotilla of small colored boats are moored along the beach. At low tide, one can observe the work of ant algae growers, who circulate, on foot or in their flat-bottomed boats, between the fields of algae.

Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia. July 2008.

At the end of the day, the light is beautiful and the water seems to mingle with the sky. Mirror games, trompe-l'œil reflections of clouds in salty puddles.

Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia. July 2008.
Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia. July 2008.
Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia. July 2008.

I really enjoyed Nusa Lembongan. If I had had more time (and was less busy with the dives), I think I would have also gone to explore her neighbor Nusa Penida, who looks downright wilder.

Looking back, Lembongan is perhaps the place I preferred during this trip to Bali. As I said above, it changes you from the commercial and superficial relations of other more touristy corners.

However, I do not deny my privileged status as a tourist, and besides I enjoy finding guesthouses and nice restaurants when I ask myself somewhere.

But, how can I put it... It's rather nice to be surrounded by "real people" who do something else than working in the hotel business or taking holidaymakers for a walk. In short, this laborious activity around the seaweed adds, in my opinion, to the charm of Lembongan.


[Add: discover on the same theme, the very beautiful images of Thib, taken in 2007 all the south of Bali, on the peninsula of Bukit, by clicking here.]

Update 2019 (almost 11 years after the publication of this article). There are no more seaweed growers in Nusa Lembongan, according to the testimony of a Balinese guide in the article below:

→ How Instagram changes the face of tourism in Bali


  Indonesia: Bali - July 2008

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  1. Very interesting 😉

    It's like for many, as I told you, what I saw in the south of the Bukit Peninsula ... the same mosaic under water ... I could see an "aerial" view from the cliff, it was impressive and beautiful!


  2. Hello Thib!

    Yes, these small fields of underwater algae make up a beautiful dark blue and turquoise patchwork. I hasten to add at the end of the article the link to your post and the splendid photos you made from the top of the cliff.


  3. Thank you 🙂

    I just created a list of links on my blog, you're part of it 😉.


    (not yet watched your video you just put online, I'm doing it shortly)

  4. Many thanks, Thib !!! I'm really happy to be in the list of your "Favorites to dream" ...

    But above all, I look forward to the continuation of your Australian story!

  5. Beautiful photos and relevant comments, as usual!
    I had the privilege of staying 4 nights last April at the island's doctor who runs a small boutique hotel: Tanis Villas.
    I had the good fortune to meet Urip, a stupefying boy, unfortunately devoid of forearms and hands, having only one trained foot, but able to use a PC, a laptop, to take the orders, to do the service ...
    This boy speaks English fluently, is curious about everything and at the origin of very fruitful exchanges ...

  6. @ Bernard69:

    Hi Bernard, and thank you for your testimony. I do not know the Tanis Villas and I did not have the chance to meet Urip or the doctor of the island. But if I have the opportunity to return one day to Lembongan, I will not fail to greet them.

    That this boy is capable of so many things with such a heavy handicap is indeed astounding. I guess this is the kind of meeting that gives me a square. What make appear our little worries of the daily ridiculous in comparison.

  7. Another great article about these algae crops that I see often but I do not know much about.
    These seaweed cultures are also present at Nusa Dua in Bali.

  8. Good evening,
    unfortunately Nusa Lembongan is no longer so peaceful: many tourist constructions to accommodate tourists who "overflow" Gili. It's a shame, because it seemed much more authentic.
    The result of all this influx is just as disastrous on land as underwater: hundreds of tourists day divers, without any ecological conscience that ruin the corals with their fins because too busy taking pictures under the sun. 'water.
    However I can only advise to go there (even in August) because the dives are quite exceptional (manta rays and especially the famous Mola-Mola). Be careful though for those dives that do not look like quiet diving because the current can sometimes be complicated to manage!
    it was a small update, because if I'm not mistaken this article dates back to 2008!
    I went in August 2015 for info: =)

    Good bubbles!

    1. @Charlie: yes, it's the reflection that I made myself, watching the report of Thalassa, this Friday, January 29, 2016, almost eight years after my passage (this article goes back to the summer of 2008) ... I told myself that the place must have changed and was surely less quiet than before ... I did well to go before the bulk of the crowd.

      Thank you for taking the time to deliver here a small recent report!

      PS. All my articles on this 2008 Indonesian trip, many of which are dedicated to Nusa Lembongan (seaweeds, waves, dive into the current, manta rays and molas-molas) can be found at the end of this link:

  9. Hello,

    I travel with a friend to Bali in July and we plan to spend 4 nights in Nusa Lembongan. Can you please tell me what would be really interesting to do as long as we are in the corner please? What are the essential things not to be missed? Knowing that I am a tourist who likes to do some snorkelling but who loves to visit atypical cultural places, walk in natural places and meet people especially to meet the authentic. Thanks for your advice.

  10. Hello, we are today on Nusa Ceningan, in front of Nusa Lembogan, and I confirm you that there are still seaweed farmers! We observe their ballet during the tides from our guesthouse. Our host explained us that the price of the kilo having increased since 2-3 years, and the cultivators having now the information of the prices practised on Java to which they sell them, the culture developed again.
    Nice continuation to your blog!