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The climate and landforms on the island's fringes and Bali's offshore islands differ drastically from the lush lowland plains.

The far eastern peninsula of Karangasem, surrounding Gunung Seraya, is arid and hot, the land difficult to cultivate. In the far south, the tableland of the Bukit Peninsula, with its scarce water and bushy thickets, is Mediterranean in appearance. The western and southern shores of this barren plateau are lined with rugged, 150-meter-high limestone cliffs and deep caves.

The islands of Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Penida in the deep strait between Bali and Lombok are as dry and inhospitable as the Bukit. On these austere islands of limestone hills, poor rocky soil, scrubby vegetation and open grassland, the inhabitants live in coral-walled villages and eke out a subsistence living growing maize, beans, and cassava. The reefs and clear waters of these sister islands make for spectacular diving.

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