Besides the surfing and diving, there is something else that Nusa Lembongan is well known for – seaweed farming. While the tourists are drinking their cheap beers and enjoying the phenomenal sunsets, the local seaweed farmers are busy hauling baskets of seaweed up and down the beach. Seaweed is harvested here for carragheen – a thickening and stabilizing agent that is used in the production of everything from cosmetics to ice cream all over the world, and the waters off Jungutbatu are rife with cultivated seaweed plots. The beaches are covered with tarps of seaweed left to dry in the sun before being packed up and sent on for further processing. Here’s a picture I took of a late afternoon scene right in front of the beach retreat where I was staying:
A little farther down the beach, I met this man who has been a seaweed farmer for ten years and whose English was surprisingly good. We struck up a conversation about the different types of seaweed he harvests and the different prices they fetch. Most of the local lot is sold to France, China and Japan. He said a small portion goes to Bali, where it is used in Balinese ice cream.