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 of an article originally written in French. I apologise for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have resulted. If you read French, click on the French flag below to access the original, correct text: 

Let me take you back a few weeks, to July 2008. Not quite in Bali, but just next door. A bit further south-east, on the small island of Nusa Lembongan. A place I really liked, where almost all the inhabitants are seaweed farmers.

Seaweed growers

Obviously, 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 of a tropical postcard setting. The coast alternates between beaches overlooking seaweed fields, rocky cliffs beaten by the waves and mangroves. The interior is rather arid.

Seaweed farming was 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 algae 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 you land on the main beach, Jungut Batu, you 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 seaweed

These algae, red or green, have no leaves and look like small soft branches. Their growth cycle is fast: 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 the heat of the day, they fade and spread in the air this strange odor that stings the nostrils. A heady smell, both wet and a bit pungent, which surprises at first. But one quickly gets used to it and ends up not noticing it too much.

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

Once dried, the algae are exported all over the world. A kind of gelatin is extracted from it and used in the food and cosmetic industries. 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 beauty creams.

The work is hard, but still profitable enough. In any case, significantly more than the salt harvest in Amed. From daybreak to nightfall, there is a constant coming and going of baskets on the sand. The women carry them in balance on the head, the men often carry two at once, at the ends of a palanche fixed on the shoulder.

Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia. July 2008.

Beautiful landscapes

On the other side of the island, where the village of Lembongan is located, it is 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 colorful boats are moored along the shore. At low tide, one can observe the hard work of the seaweed farmers, who move, on foot or in their flat-bottomed boats, between the seaweed fields.

Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia. July 2008.

At the end of the day, the light is splendid and the water seems to mix with the sky. Games of mirror, reflections of clouds in the salt 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 diving), I think I would have gone to explore its neighbor Nusa Penida, which looks much wilder.

In retrospect, Lembongan is perhaps my favorite place on this trip to Bali. As I said before, it changes you from the commercial and superficial relationships of other more touristic places.

However, I don't deny my privileged status as a tourist, and I appreciate finding nice guesthouses and restaurants when I stay somewhere.

But, how to say... It's quite nice to be surrounded by "real people" who do something else than working in the hotel business or walking holiday makers. In short, this laborious activity around seaweed adds, in my eyes, 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 farmers 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 looks like a lot, as I told you, to 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 seaweed under the water compose a dark blue and turquoise patchwork of great beauty. I hasten to add at the end of the article the link to your post and the splendid photos that you had 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 most of all, I can't wait for the rest of your Australian story!!!

  5. Beautiful photos and relevant comments, as usual!
    I had the privilege to stay 4 nights last April at the home of the island's doctor who runs a small boutique-hotel: Tanis Villas.
    I had the pleasure to meet Urip, an amazing boy, unfortunately without forearms and hands, with only one trained foot, but able to use a PC, a laptop, to take orders, to do the service...
    This boy speaks English fluently, is curious about everything and is the source of very fruitful exchanges...

  6. @ Bernard69:

    Hello Bernard, and thank you for your testimony. I don't know the Tanis Villas and I didn't have the chance to meet Urip or the island doctor. But if I have the opportunity to go back to Lembongan one day, I will not fail to go and greet them.

    That this boy is capable of so much with such a severe disability is indeed amazing. I guess it's the kind of encounter that sets me straight. It makes our little everyday worries seem ridiculous in comparison.

  7. Another great article about these seaweed cultures that I see often but know little about.
    These seaweed cultures are also present in Nusa Dua on Bali.

  8. Good evening,
    Unfortunately, Nusa Lembongan is not so peaceful anymore: a lot of tourist constructions to welcome the tourists who "overflow" from the Gili. It is a pity, because it seemed much more authentic.
    The result of all this influx is just as disastrous on land as underwater: hundreds of tourists diving for a day, without any ecological conscience, who ruin the corals with their fins because they are too busy taking pictures underwater.
    However, I can only advise you to go there (even in August) because the dives are quite exceptional (manta rays and especially the famous Mola-Mola). However, be careful with these dives, which are not like the quiet ones, because the current can sometimes be complicated to manage!
    it was a small update, because if I'm not mistaken this article dates from 2008!
    I went there in August 2015 for information :=)

    Good bubbles!

    1. @Charlie: Yes, that's what I thought, while watching the Thalassa report, this Friday, January 29, 2016, almost eight years after my visit (this article dates back to the summer of 2008)... I told myself that the place must have changed a lot and was surely much less quiet than before... I did well to go there before the big crowd.

      Thank you for taking the time to deliver a short, recent review here!

      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 am going to Bali with a friend in July and we are planning to spend 4 nights in Nusa Lembongan. Can you please tell me what would be really interesting to do while we are in the area? What are the must-see things not to miss? Knowing that I'm a tourist who likes to do some snorkeling but loves to visit atypical cultural places, walk in natural places and meet people especially to go to the authentic. Thank you for the 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!