Dolphins at dawn

A couple of weeks ago my sister (A) and I decided that after N, S and T left, we’d do a dolphin tour.

We’d seen a dolphin tour advertised when we went to Turtle Island and it sounded like fun. We saw it advertised again when we moved into our villa in Seminyak. When I spoke to the receptionist at our villa complex he told me that the price quoted in their brochure ($65) covered just the transport to the dolphin tour and not the tour itself (which made no sense to me). I asked Harry if he could recommend something for us and he told me to speak to the Puri Bagus Hotel in Lovina (on Bali’s north coast). I called them and they said their dolphin tours left daily at 6am from the beach and cost $15. Great – could they arrange to have us picked up and dropped back home? Yes, he said, but it would cost $65 each way. Thanks, but I don’t think so.

I searched the internet and found a Lovina Dolphin Tour which seemed reasonable. I called up the company and confirmed our tour. For $65 each, we would get:

  • transport to Lovina
  • the dolphin tour
  • snorkelling at Lovina Beach
  • breakfast
  • a visit to Gitgit waterfall
  • a visit to Ulun Danu Temple
  • lunch at a local restaurant
  • a visit to Tanah Lot Temple
  • transport back to our villa

So we decided to make a day of it. We took our swimsuits, change of clothes, towels, sunscreen, sunglasses, camera.

Our driver for the day, Gede (pronounced ‘G’day’), picked us up at 3.30am. I thought that once we were in the car I’d fall asleep as there would be nothing to see during the drive in the dark to Lovina. About an hour into the journey I opened my eyes and looked up at the sky – I’d never seen so many stars (‘Look at the stars, Look how they shine for you…’). I spent the rest of the drive mesmerised by the night sky.

At about 5.40am we pulled into Mandhara Chico Bungalows in Lovina. There were about 10 other people on the tour with us, all Chinese. It was quite chilly at that time of the morning and I ended up putting on my zip-up top before putting on my life jacket. I knew the sand would be cold and I was dreading putting my feet in the water. There were two traditional outrigger boats for all of us. I hesitated at the water’s edge but the ‘captain’ told me the water was warm. I stepped in – he was right! The water was much warmer than it was out of the water…

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A and I got in the second boat – she was right at the front and I was behind her. The boats are narrow – there’s just enough space for one person per seat. I had my bag on my lap as the floor of the boat was wet and my bag wasn’t waterproof. We set off into the mist just as dawn was breaking.

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I knew there was no guarantee we’d see any dolphins, but the early start was worth it just to see the sun rise.

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It was breathtaking!

As it got lighter and the mist cleared, we soon realised how many boats were out there! It reminded me of the Thames during the Queen’s Jubilee weekend!

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‘If I were a dolphin, I wouldn’t want to be here,’ I said to A. At that point I really did wonder whether we’d see any dolphins at all. There were at least 50 other boats out there, waiting.

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While waiting for the dolphins to show up, I tried to stay awake by taking photos of anything that seemed remotely interesting. I became fixated on the reflection of the boat as it glided through the water.

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The sun was higher now and it was finally starting to get warmer.

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And then we saw movement.

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Unfortunately, as soon as one boat spotted any dolphins, all the other boats would come racing up to the area the dolphins were in and they would soon disappear.

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For a while there was nothing again, and then they re-appeared but were too quick for me and my camera!

We got back to the Bungalows at about 8am. We were just about to get off the boat when the ‘captain’ told us to stay on as we were doing snorkelling as well. A wasn’t very keen as she had never snorkelled before, and I was just too tired to think about getting into the water. All I wanted to do was go back to bed. So we told them we were going to skip it.

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Back at the Bungalows we were given breakfast – we had a choice of tea, coffee or hot chocolate, and toast or banana pancake. I chose the banana pancake while A had toast with pineapple jam.

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We sat in the sun for a while and then left with Gede for the rest of our tour.

Our next stop was Gitgit waterfall. Our guide Nyoman asked us whether we wanted to see one or two waterfalls. I asked how long each one would take – one waterfall would take about an hour, and two waterfalls would take two hours. Neither of us was in the mood for a two-hour trek so we opted for just the one waterfall.

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We walked downhill most of the way to the waterfall.

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And uphill on the way back. We stopped to have a look at some sarongs on our way back up but didn’t negotiate very well.

After the waterfall, Gede drove us to the temple on the lake, Ulun Danu Bratan. The Shivaite and water temple complex is located on the shores of Lake Bratan in the mountains, 1200 metres above sea level – the difference in climate was astonishing. It was still sunny but much cooler than it had been in Lovina. The temple was built in 1663 and is used for offering ceremonies to the Balinese water, lake and river goddess Dewi Danu.

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There is also a Buddha statue at the temple.

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We walked around for a while – it was quite crowded being the Eid holidays.

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We then stopped for lunch at Kamandathu Resto – it’s not worth mentioning.

As we hadn’t done the snorkelling part of our morning, we were running ahead of schedule. Gede took us to a coffee plantation, where they showed us how they make kopi luwak, one of the world’s most expensive and low-production varieties of coffee.

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Our guide told us that the animal was a mongoose but it’s actually an Asian palm civet.

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The process sounds vile, doesn’t it? How did they even discover it? I have to say, however, that it tastes pretty good! A and I both had a cup of it.

Gede then took us to Pura Tanah Lot. I’d been there before, in 1993, and it was much more crowded than I remember. It’s a popular spot to watch the sun set but we were there at about 2.30pm.

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To get to the temple, you have to walk through a market selling almost everything under the sun – from sarongs to paintings to coffee.

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And then we finally got to the temple.

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We spotted a golf course on the next cliff! I’m quite sure it wasn’t there in 1993.

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On our way out we had to walk through the market again, but didn’t stop to look at anything.

It took us about half an hour to get home – it was an excellent day out and we saw all the sights we wanted to…

To read more about Bali, click here.

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