The seaside village of Kusamba in eastern Bali fronts a miles-long volcanic sand beach where traditional sea salt harvesting and fishing continue to be important to the local way of life. Although Kusamba is not one of Bali’s best swimming beaches—it’s scorching hot black sand makes lazing uncomfortable—it comes alive at night and in the predawn hours when prahu fishing boats patrol the nearshore waters and salt workers ferry buckets of seawater on bamboo shoulder-top slings from the shore. Fish are displayed in the town market, but salt making is a process that continues throughout the day. The saltwater is spread over sections of the black sand beach and allowed to crystalize in hot sun. The sand is later collected and rinsed with freshwater before being placed into sifters and eventually wooden vats and atop timber planks for drying. The coarse, iodine-rich salt is finally scooped into woven baskets for sale using coconut halves.
Kusamba also serves as the main access point to Nusa Penida, the largest in a cluster of three islands some seven miles offshore. Though it has limited tourism infrastructure, the Island is inhabited by some 40,000 people and is home to several endangered Balinese bird species.
To see the salt workers at their busiest and to snap stunning pre-dawn photos, plan to be on the beach before 6am. Later morning visits to Kusamba are often combined with visits to Goa Lawah, an ancient temple with onsite bat cave, in day tours encompassing the sites of eastern Bali from Ubud. Kusamba is 36 km (22 miles) northeast of Denpasar City and 27 km (17 miles) southeast of Ubud.