1. Dec 4 (Day 58), we took a drive to north Bali to see dolphins at Lovina Beach and Lake Batur on the way back to Ubud, after we met David and Jeev (hope I got the spelling right) from UK. Like us, they were hotel guests at Garden View Cottages at Ubud and they had a wonderful time watching the dolphins at Lovina Beach. We struck up a conversation as they were curious about what a Singapore car was doing in Bali. David was obviously a competent photographer as some pictures and videos taken of the dolphins at Lovina Beach were really good. David and Jeev had been on the road on holiday for 4 months, including a trip to Tibet and Nepal and sharing with us their interesting experiences.
2. Yeow Pheng had earlier suggested making a trip to Lovina Beach to see dolphins but given my rather uneventful boat trip in Laos to watch the Irrawaddy dolphins I was not enthusiastic and was too quick to pour cold water over the idea. We did see quite a few dolphins at Lovina Beach.
3. Traveling north for about 2 hours from Ubud and turning west at the north coastal road, and after checking a few hotels, we booked into Aditya Beach Resort for 600 000 Rp (about US$ 65) at about 4 pm. Certainly one of the better hotels on the strip, there was also more buzz. We booked ourselves a boat to see dolphins the next morning for 66 000 Rp each (US$7), with boat leaving at 6 am.
4. The beach next to the hotel was so-so, with fine black sand, broken coral bits, fairly clear water and we can see small fishes scattering in different directions as we waded through the shallow water. The hotel had a nice pool and we took a dip before dinner at the hotel.
5. It was still dark when we boarded one of the traditional wooden boats with an outrigger on each side. There were already boats ahead of us. As we traveled out, sun was just arising above the gunungs behind us, and I could count 32 boats (or dots) racing out to the more open sea, presumably to see dolphins too.
6. We did not get to see dolphins until about 7 am and nearly all the sightings were between 7 to 7.30 am, when we headed back to the shore. We were all very excited when we saw the dolphins leaping out of the water, as if they were playing in the morning, leaping out in pairs at times. I was only able to catch the dolphins in videos and here is one of them.
7. What I was not certain about was the impact that we, observers in fast boats, were causing to the dolphin habitat. Each time, when dolphins were observed, the boats would speed towards to the dolphins to get a closer look and to take pictures and videos; at times almost going over them. There were about 30 boats and this was low season. Can't imagine how the scrambling would be like during peak season. This is no better than paparazzi stalking celebrities. And we get unhappy when peddlers become aggressive pushing their wares and services at tourist sites. I left feeling great sympathy for the beautiful and graceful creatures.
8. After breakfast, Fangping and I decided to take a dip in the sea.
9. After checking out of Aditya at 12, we traveled eastwards along the north coastal road, turning south at Singaraja up the mountain towards Kintamani for Gunung Batur (1717 m), an active volcano. Gunung Batur and Danau Batur are located in a 18 km wide spectacular caldera northwest of Gunung Agung. The rim of the caldera has a number of favorite spots near Kintamani where tourists would stop to take pictures of the spectacular views. And there were many tour coaches and vans there when we passed them.
10. We decided not to stop and took the road down to the lake and turned left towards Toya Bungkah which was at the end of the west route. The narrow road was flanked by dark volcanic rock formations, probably solidified from lava flow down the slopes from various eruptions, the last 2 eruptions about 100 years ago, in 1916 and 1927. At the end of the road was Toya Devasya Resort & Spa, where the water for the 3 pools was from natural hot spring. We decided to pay 150 000 Rp (US$16) each for lunch and for the use of the pool. From the resort, we had a great view of Lake Batur and the rim of the crater. When Fangping saw this picture, she exclaimed, "I never thought I looked so much like pa".