Tides and Temples in Nusa Dua: Bali, Indonesia

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Many come to Nusa Dua, a popular area in southern Bali, Indonesia, for the beautiful beaches. Photo by Carrie Dow
Many come to Nusa Dua, a popular area in southern Bali, for the beautiful beaches. Photo by Carrie Dow

“Where did the water go?”

My husband and I stand in shocked silence during our first morning on Pantai Samuh (Sumah Beach) at the Westin Nusa Dua Resort. What should have been a beautiful swimming bay with gentle waves has disappeared. Swim buoys sit on the sand and beyond, exposed sea grass. We can barely hear and see the distant surf beyond the bay’s protective reef.

No worries, it’s just low tide, the resort server tells us. The moon and sun play tug-of-war with the earth and the waters of Nusa Dua display the results. We foolishly ask if the bay will ever refill.

“Oh, yeah. It comes right back,” he says. That fast? While we know about tides, we have never seen anything this dramatic. Along with some other beach goers, we amble into the bay, past the swim buoys in water only up to our knees. Wading farther out from us, three men collecting clams put their spoils into coolers floating behind them, tied to their waists with rope.

Since the server said the water would return soon, we claim two beach lounge chairs to watch. He isn’t kidding. Before our eyes, the Indian Ocean spills back over the reef and into Benoa Bay. We observe each swim buoy until they float again and waves lap the shore. All this has happened before lunch.

Benoa Bay at low tide from Sumah Beach in Nusa Dua. Photo by Carrie Dow
Benoa Bay at low tide from Sumah Beach in Nusa Dua. Photo by Carrie Dow

Bali and Nusa Dua

Located on the eastern side of Bukit Peninsula, Nusa Dua is a popular area in southern Bali, Indonesia. We knew before we arrived that it was a popular tourist area filled with upscale resorts, shopping malls, restaurants and other attractions.

People from all over the world venture here for soft sand beaches, tropical weather, delicious food and drink, and charming people. Usually areas that cater to tourists don’t always offer “authentic” experiences. Not the case in Nusa Dua, but unlike the changing tides, authenticity is slower to witness.

Nusa Dua means “Two Islands” and refers to the two tiny peninsulas that become almost islands at high tide. Tethered to Bukit, both locals and visitors use these appendages as parks and temples.

Nusa Gede (Peninsula Island), a large park with manicured lawns, paved sidewalks, public restrooms, vending machines, and a helipad, bustles with activity. While other visitors circle the perimeter, we follow a path to the center to gawk below the towering statue of two enormous figures, figures so large we pondered their significance from the Westin over a mile away.

The water blow hole at Peninsula Island in Nusa Dua in Bali. Photo by Carrie Dow
The water blow hole at Peninsula Island in Nusa Dua in Bali. Photo by Carrie Dow

With no signage help at the pedestal, I resort to Google and discover the statues are Arjuna and Krishna, prominent figures in the Hindu tale of Mahabharata, the longest epic poem in history, longer than the Iliad and Odyssey combined.

At the far end of the park, we follow other visitors under a wooden sign that reads “Water Blow.” The paved walkway leads to jagged pock-marked lava cliffs where the path splits into two, each ending at a wooden platform overlooking the rocks and ocean.

For several minutes, we watch as waves far below enter the rocks and splash up the through the “water blow” hole.  We speculate because of the low tide, the splashes aren’t as spectacular as they could have been. That will change in a few hours.

Smaller than Nusa Gede and closer to our resort, Nusa Dharma is connected by a sliver of sand with a cement stairway leading to the top that appears it might crumble at the next high tide. The peninsula is lush with vegetation and the holy site of Pura Nusa Dharma. A large sign at the temple entrance warns visitors that only traditional dress, a sarong, must be worn inside and menstruating women are not allowed.

Temple at the Club Med in Bali. Photo by Carrie Dow
Temple at the Club Med in Bali. Photo by Carrie Dow

Temples in Nusa Dua

Temples are everywhere. Each resort has its own elaborate structure while businesses and restaurants have smaller versions where the devout place daily offerings. These brightly colored offerings consist of bowls of woven green bamboo leaves filled with pink and yellow flowers. Paired with a burning stick of incense, the offerings fill with air with sweet and earthy fragrances as you stroll around Nusa Dua.

Hoping to see an ancient temple, not just the new temples made to look old, we walk the length of Nusa Dua, embarking on the paved path along resort row passing fabulous resort after fabulous resort.

Some of the names are familiar – Hyatt, St. Regis, Marriott. The most exquisite of all is Mulia on the picturesque Pantai Gege. It features a pool lined with giant statues of women in long dresses and large-brimmed hats holding baskets pouring water into the pool. Like something from a movie set, it’s both amazing and gaudy.

Pura Geger Temple in Nusa Dua. Photo by Carrie Dow.
Pura Geger Temple in Nusa Dua. Photo by Carrie Dow.

Pura Geger

From Mulia’s beachfront, we glimpse a temple’s weathered towers rising above the trees on a seaside cliff. This is one of Bali’s many historic, yet seldom visited temples, Pura Geger.

Doing internet research later, Google says the temple’s exact age is unknown (but guessed it was several centuries) and worshippers honored gods of the sea with elaborate ceremonies every full and new moon.  To reach it, we hike uphill on a hot asphalt road. At the summit we find a woman hiding in the shade behind her concession stand.

The entrance to Pura Geger has the same warning sign as all Bali temples: No entry without traditional dress and no menstruating women. Being respectful, I had purchased a sarong at the resort, but there is no comprehending the second regulation. As I wrap the sarong around me, some talkative Russians exit the gate.

Signage at a local temple in Nusa Dua in Bali. Photo by Carrie Dow
Signage at a local temple in Nusa Dua in Bali. Photo by Carrie Dow

Flaunting the rules, the two women and one man wear regular beach attire, but no one is around to scold them. Upon entering the eerily quiet space, the breeze buffeting the coast disappears. A tree with bent, bone-like branches grows out of the moss covered brick floor shading the statues of unknown deities.

The tall white spire we spied from the beach is part of another section isolated behind a locked gate. Also guarding this space are three dark towering spires with carved wooden doors. The doors have golden fabric draped above and the deities guarding entry have tasseled silk umbrellas protecting them from the sun. Looking west, the Geger cliffs disappear to the distant beaches of Pandawa. The empty Indian Ocean expands to the southern horizon.

I exit the temple where my husband waits in the shade with some stray dogs. Parched, we purchase Coca-Colas from the woman’s stand before returning to the Westin. It would be high tide when we get back, perfect for a cooling swim.

If You Visit Nusa Dua

Westin Nusa Dua – http://www.westinnusaduabali.com/

Bali Tourism – https://www.bali.com/

Author Bio: A member of the North American Travel Journalists’ Association, Carrie Dow is a freelance travel writer based in Lakewood, CO, whose work has appeared in International Living, Go Nomad and Interval World. She is the Local Editor of DrinkDenver, a part of The Drink Nation, a website devoted to finding the best happy hours in cities across the US. She is also the founder of What’s Pawsitive, a website covering animal welfare issues and animal-based travel around the world. An occasional football widow, she is mom to a Siberian husky and a Siamese cat.