Tuesday, August 16, 2016

[Bali, Indonesia 2014] Dolphins Watching @ Lovina Beach

Photo By: Elin Chow

We set off early in the morning at 2.30 am from our hotel in Kuta to Lovina beach, a famous beach located in the northern part of Bali. The entire drive from Kuta to Lovina took about 3 hours, where we drove across the mountainous regions of central Bali. It was a tough drive and ride. The road that leads to Lovina is extremely narrow and winding, allowing only a vehicle to pass at a time. Throughout the drive, the road journey was very bumpy and uncomfortable. I was already feeling terrible due to insufficient sleep. But the tedious car ride has made me felt even more terrible. I felt horribly dizzy and nauseous.

Away from the hustle and bustle of the crowds, Lovina Beach is a laid back town made famous by its wild dolphins sightings. The little town is less developed and less crowded than other areas in Bali. Unlike modern Kuta, no traffic jam exists in Lovina. It is a popular destination for budget travelers because it is cheaper and more relaxed. However, the dolphins watching tours remain one of the top reason why tourists visit Lovina.

Having said so, the wild dolphin tour was apparently, the main reason why we were willing to endure the tedious long drive from Kuta to Lovina. Dolphins in Lovina usually appear early in the morning, right at the moment when the first light of the sun rise over the horizon. The opportunity to see dolphins in their natural habitat is absolutely compelling.

We arrived at Lovina beach before 6 am and everywhere was cold and dark. The beach features black volcanic sands and calm sea water. Upon arrival, we were introduced to a boatman, who greeted us with a big smile.

The waters at Lovina Beach is very calm with coconut trees planted throughout the beach, which makes it a great place to watch the dolphins in its natural habitat. In order to see the dolphins, you will need to hire a motorized outrigger boat and head out to the middle of the sea before dawn. There are plenty of operators or boatmen offering their boats for dolphins watching tours in Lovina.

However, there is no guarantee that you will be able to see the dolphins in the wild. It is a matter of chance, and is hugely dependent on the weather conditions and seasons. Apparently, the better the weather is, the better the chance you will get see the dolphins.

Even so, dolphins sighting is usually a daily occurrence year-round in Lovina. The large shrimp population along the coast attracts the dolphins, thus the chances of seeing them is actually quite high.

As soon as the sky turned bright red orange, we boarded the motorized outrigger boat and left the beach well before dawn. Once we were aboard, we were asked to put on the life jackets for safety in case we fell out during the ride.

We managed to catch a beautiful sunrise while we sailed across the crystal clear waters to the middle of the sea. This was also my first time seeing a sunrise. It was breathtakingly beautiful.

To be able to catch the beautiful sunrise is itself a very rewarding experience. It was fascinating to watch the color of the sky change gradually as the sun slowly rise behind the mountains. The summits of the surrounding mountains appear softly and vaguely against the orange-red glowing sky.

Somewhere in the middle of the sea, we were surprised to see hundreds of other boats, all waiting to see dolphins. Slowing down, our boatmen carefully navigate the boat around while scanning the horizon for dorsal fins.

We encountered the dolphins right at the first light. "Look, dolphins", our boatmen pointed us to the splashing direction not far ahead. A dorsal fins appeared above the water's surface followed by a whip of a tail. But it disappeared quickly before I could capture it with my camera. Seconds later, it resurfaced again, but this time, it is joined by another one.

As the sun gradually rises over the mountains, the dolphins began to surface one after another, only to disappear quickly again under the waters right before I could press the shutter button on my camera.

As the morning progressed, the boatmen kept a close watch on the behavior of other groups of boats, waiting for more dolphins to surface. Once spotted, almost all the boats around us will start to accelerate towards the group of dolphins, trying to get a better view of them.

Suddenly, we were surrounded by hundreds of dolphins that seemed to appear from out of nowhere to play. I could not describe my excitement as I watched silently in fascination while the dolphins dive in and out the waters in sync, jumping and leaping gracefully high up in the air as though trying to seek for our attention. But it is apparent that the number of boats have outnumbered the number of dolphins. I roughly counted and noticed that there were probably as much as 20 boats surrounding the same group of dolphins at the same time, chasing the poor mammals around the area.

The dolphins are fast and are constantly moving around, so it can be very difficult and challenging to capture a perfect shot. I have to hold onto the side of the boat with one hand and try capture photos of the dolphins with another.

Make sure you bring a good camera with a fast shutter. You might want to set your camera on continuous shooting mode to get a sequence of the dolphins performing somersaults or leaping high up in the air. If you have a zoom lens, you might want to bring it along too. Most of the boatmen will take you close enough to see the dolphins, but not close enough to touch. Having a zoom lens will ensure that you will get the clearest shot possible.

Most of the boats generally keep a safe distance from the dolphins, allowing space for them to swim freely. But some unethical ones would approach the dolphins directly, often blocking their paths or got too close to them.

I am glad that our boatman did not get too close to the dolphins or chase them too much. Once we got nearer to the dolphins, he turned off the engine and used the oar to paddle closer so as not to scare them off.  The noise from the engine may cause stress and harm to dolphins, which affects their feeding, breeding and resting habits.

Expertly maneuvered away from the crowds, our boatmen got us closer to the dolphins. Jumping and playing on the waves, a dolphin came and swam alongside our boat.

There three common species of dolphins inhabiting this area - Spinner dolphins, Spotted dolphins and Bottlenose dolphins. The Spinner dolphins are the most common species seen in this area.

I have seen plenty of dolphins in the aquarium before, but there is always something magical about seeing them in the wild.

Dolphin watching tourism can have a negative or even destructive impact on the mammals. I actually felt bad whenever I see dolphins being chased and harassed by motorized boats packed with tourists. It is apparent that dolphin watching activities have created a disturbance to their routine. The high number of dolphins watching boats may not only disrupt their natural behaviors, but harm the environment by discharging pollution and emitting noise. Due to the presence of dolphins watching boats, the dolphins would spent more time traveling and less time resting, socializing and feeding.

Even so, I would not want to discourage anyone from participating in the dolphins watching tour in Bali. It was an incredible experience that everyone should get to enjoy at least once in their lifetime.

After probably an hour and a half, we started to make our way back to the shore. As we sailed back to the shore, we enjoyed a great view of the entire stretch of Lovina Beach. The waters were also so clear that you can see the ocean floor.

All in all, the dolphin watching excursion is a great way to start our day in Bali. It was definitely worth to sacrifice our precious sleep time just to catch a glimpse of these heavenly wild creatures. This was certainly one of my most amazing and unforgettable experience in Bali.

If you are interested to know more about our trip, you may want to check out our 6D5N Bali Trip Itinerary + Overview for the list of attractions that we had visited during our 6 days in Bali. Be sure to follow me on Facebook or Twitter  for the latest updates on my 6 days adventures in Bali! You might also want to check My Wanderlust page for some of my other travel adventures.


  1. It was opportune that I found your blog as I have been thinking of going to Bali soon. A well written post with good information. Keep up the good work.

  2. Do u still have the details of the boat u hired?

    1. Nope. Everything was arranged by my tour guide. But I believe you will find lots of boats for rental at the beach.

  3. This was a horrible experience and extremely cruel to the dolphins. Two hours of loud, smoky boats running at dolphins is not only nerve wracking but questions our impact on the natural habitat of these dolphins. Worst tourist trap I have seen in Bali. Dont waste your time or money on this please. Beaches are also filthy and many aggressive hagglers will approach you.