It’s day break. The sun peers over the hills behind the Balinese town of Lovina as you rock gently back and forth in a wooden fisherman’s boat on the calm waters of the Bali Sea. A fin appears out of the water, then two, then three and all of the sudden a dolphin playfully leaps out of the water.
The perfect way to start our last morning in Bali.
Or was it?
Lovina dolphin watching seemed like the ideal end to our trip on the Island of the Gods. We love whale watching and assumed we’d also love a Lovina dolphin tour when our driver recommended it to us.
Our experience on our Lovina dolphin tour was less than ideal – and made me wonder, is this OK to do?
We booked our tour through the hotel we stayed at in Lovina – I should mention we booked this hotel because it was the first one we saw when we arrived in Lovina at 10:30pm – and in hindsight, perhaps this wasn’t the perfect recipe for a good tour. The tour cost us around €7 per person.
Our tour began at 6am sharp. We walked from our hotel to the Lovina Beach, and our “captain” took us to our tour boat. It wasn’t exactly what I expected – but it looked pretty romantic. We set off at dawn with one other couple and our captain in a typical fishermen’s boat.
In the beginning it all seemed fine. The waters were calm – nothing like my past boat experience in Indonesia – and the Lovina dolphin tour seemed like the ideal way to begin our last vacation day.
After several minutes though, I noticed we weren’t alone. Suddenly there were dozens of other boats (each just like our own) surrounding us on all sides. All of these tourists were also out in the morning to catch a glimpse of the dolphins. We didn’t expect to be alone, but it was a surprise to see so many boats around us.
We waited and waited – and suddenly we saw dolphins! They were small, much smaller than the bottle nosed dolphins I’d seen in Hawaii, and were swimming in groups of 5 or 6, leaping out of the water.
All of the other boats saw the dolphins too, and before we knew it, all of the boats revved up their single engines and began following the dolphins. It felt more like a chase. At this point there were more boats around us than we could count – it seemed like 50 or 60 other boats all filled with tourists. All chasing dolphins at the first sight of them – until boats were circling around the packs of dolphins.
Lovina Dolphin Tour Boats
The fishermen’s boats were all powered by a single engine on the back of the boat. Imagine 50-60 single engine fisher boats revving their engines at the sight of dolphins, charging toward them.
It made me wonder – how safe is this for the animals and the environment? Do the dolphins feel scared or overwhelmed by the boats surrounding them? Is this dangerous for them?
What about all the engines and pollution in the water?
Our boat was actually leaking gasoline. A lot of gasoline. It stunk. This wasn’t the way I wanted to wake up in the morning. Not with a gasoline induced headache. The bottom of our boat was filled with gasoline. I know, because my boyfriend dropped his flipflops in the bottom boat when we boarded, and after we returned to our hotel, we ditched his flipflops (with fabric straps) because they absolutely REEKED like gasoline.
If I had a headache, and if we had to throw away his flipflops just from one boat ride – what could the impact of these Lovina dolphin tours be on the environment?
After 45 minutes of dolphin chasing and the stench of gasoline, we were ready to go back to shore. The dolphins were within hand’s reach from our boat, but to be ho
nest, it was hard to enjoy. The whole Lovina dolphin tour felt disrespectful to the animals and environment. With dozens of boats chasing these animals I felt sick to my stomach. Why had we agreed to go on this tour? Had we not learned better from how we saw animals treated on Gili Air?
I don’t want to be negative, but…
I think Lovina dolphin tours are a “no-no.” I couldn’t recommend anyone to do these tours in good conscience.
I hope that I’m wrong – but from what I saw in Indonesia, unfortunately there is still a long way to go to reach understanding on how to respectfully treat the environment and animals.
If you really want to see dolphins, please choose a location that has an ethical experience. Dolphin tours in Lovina don’t seem sustainable by any means.
Does anyone have a positive experience from this? Or know of any projects to educate locals on safe dolphin tours?
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Gabby is a native (Northern) Californian who spent the majority of her 20’s living the expat life in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, exploring Europe and beyond. 27 countries later, she’s relocated back to her home base in California where she explores her passions for the travel and the outdoors.