Much as I enjoyed Ubud I wasn’t sad to be moving on. I was very disappointed in the town. In theory it has everything I enjoy: an abundance of spas, yoga, lots of healthy food and plenty of Balinese culture to go seek out. However the growth in popularity over the ten years since I was last here has rendered it just too crowded and very far from the restful retreat I’d been hoping for.
Bali certainly isn’t unique suffering from over-tourism. Places like Barcelona, Amsterdam and Porto have been besieged by tourists in recent years, leading to dissatisfaction for both visitors and locals. We’re all travelling too much now, and places are becoming swamped. Throw in a Hollywood movie, a celeb endorsement and a few Instagram ‘influencers’ and you have a recipe for disaster.
Anyway in search of this elusive paradise in Bali I headed North to Lovina.
Lovina is actually the collective name for seven small fishing villages that dot along the coast road to the West of Singaraja.
Tourism is certainly proving far more lucrative for them than fishing ever was, and there is a small collection of vendors selling jewellery, fruit and sarongs down by the beach, although they are not anything like as pushy as you would find on the southern beaches.
It is a small, low-key tourist town with just a couple of streets of restaurants, bars and dive centres. There are a smattering of hotels dotted along the main road, many backing directly on to the beach. A lot of the accommodation options are budget/backpacker friendly.
It can make a great base for exploring the North of Bali.
The beach is volcanic black sand and the water is calm for swimming; If you want to surf then the surfer’s beaches are on the south of the island.
Lovina’s main claim to fame is dolphins. Every morning at 6AM around a hundred little fishing boats head out to sea, each one carrying from 2-4 tourists and all looking to spot dolphins frolicking in the ocean. Dolphins are not guaranteed of course, although on the day I went we did see some, playing a strange game of cat and mouse with the boats.
It wasn’t really about the dolphins though – in reality there are far better places to go if getting a good view of dolphins is your ambition – it was simply a nice little trip out.
The trip costs 100,000 rupiahs, which is around £5.50/US$7, and this is set as a fixed price whichever boat you chose. Don’t worry about looking for a boat owner; they will find you.
Lovina is quiet; broadly speaking the further north you go in Bali then the less tourists you will find. I wouldn’t describe it as paradise exactly, however it is a nice place to spend a few days.
As for paradise, I suspect that the Hyatt/Sheraton/Hilton et al have bought it up, and that’s where you will find the paradise island of Bali: hidden inside the private beaches and ‘resort’ hotels. But that doesn’t matter; I have still enjoyed my travels here and I do think paradise is overrated anyway. Sometimes it is the supposed imperfections of a destination that make the best memories.