The sound is deafening. All of a sudden, we are met with the flapping wings of a bird with striking yellow feathers with black stripes. In less than three seconds it disappears into the lush forest, and everything is quiet again. The Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis) is a bird that often appears on children story books and songs, but I have never encountered one in the wild, until now. Unfortunately the high demand from the pet trade has lead to a steady decrease of their population in the wild, but not in Nusa Ceningan.
“Let’s do some bird-watching!” I suggest to Alexander, inspired by the beauty of the Black-naped Oriole.
To get to Nusa Ceningan we must cross a narrow yellow bridge which provides the only land access connecting both islands. At one side of the bridge an iron structure fell onto the sea, replaced by woven bamboo to ensure the bridge remains passable. It’s truly a daunting sight, particularly for those who are not used to crossing a bridge on a motorbike.
Our exploration of the tiny island of Nusa Ceningan brings us to the Blue Lagoon, a small cove well-hidden from the main road by bushes and trees.
“That jumping platform didn’t exist two years ago,” Alexander recalls upon seeing the newly built structure to cater for adrenaline junkies.
We walk further along the edge of the cliff, tiptoeing amid the sharp rocks beneath our feet while the vast expanse of the blue ocean sprawls into the distance.
At the other side of the island, close to the tip of the headland jutting into the Indian Ocean, lies Secret Point, which is no longer a secret judging by how many people there were. A world-class surf break beckons surfers to ride the waves, with free divers jumping off a platform hanging on a cliff.
We venture deeper into Nusa Ceningan’s forests, and stop. The commotion of different species of birds catches our attention, and bring back my memories of visiting bird markets many years ago. We don’t take any photos of birds here, as they hide behind the trees. However listening to them singing is such a delight; it is so beautiful when animals sing freely in the wilderness.
We continue our exploration and reach the highest point on Nusa Ceningan where the yellow bridge is clearly visible. Sooty-headed Bulbuls fly above our heads, moving from one tree to another, too busy to care about us. Meanwhile other smaller birds perch on higher tree branches, easily disguised among the foliage.
When we are walking around, a chicken-sized bird suddenly flies low above the ground, hiding behind the trees. Curious, we look closer to investigate, but it is too shy to show itself. We only manage to capture some obscure images of the bird, which turns out to be a junglefowl.
Our hunt for bird pictures is over, such an impromptu idea without using proper telephoto lens. We are ready to go back to Nusa Lembongan, crossing the same yellow narrow bridge. Just before we get on the bridge we stop by a small food stall to have kelapa muda – young coconut – to refresh ourselves from the heat and humidity of the island.
We enter the stall, and discover images not commonly found in houses in Bali.
“What happened to the bridge?” Alexander starts the conversation.
“That bridge,” the lady points out, “one of its parts were blown away by the strong wind earlier this year.”
“I’m sorry, but are you a Catholic?”
“Yes I am,” she replies, “but I’m not native to this island.”
Even though the locals are living a very modest life, it turns out there are some who speculated by coming to this island in search for a better living. It’s the very same reason that drew people from faraway lands to venture halfway around the world.