Lovina

If this is where the first boats landed in Bali, I understand why they stayed. Soft powdery black sand, palm tress, flat crystal blue water, spider boats waiting for fishermen, kids playing in the low tide, dogs chasing crabs on the beach… in fact it’s taken me at least half an hour to write just this sentence. I keep getting happily distracted by the view.

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Maybe it’s the black sand, which is just so different from what I’m used to on ‘my’ side of Bali and certainly in Australia. But for some reason I’m waiting for a pirate ship or the Dutch East India Trading Company to appear on the horizon.

So an hour on and this is still all I have written. The view is that good. There’s now a pink and orange sunset and a bonfire which over black sand is an incredible site.

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Really I should start by saying we are staying at Lilin Lovina Beach Hotel. It’s SO on the beach, I’m now at breakfast with sand in between my toes. Each villa has its own plunge pool and outdoor sitting area to take in the scenery. You look out to a communal garden and the restaurant then it’s beach as far as the eye can see.

Lilin Lovina is great value for money in location and what it offers. Easily the best location for sunset drinks on the beach. The rooms are a good size and the breakfast was great – every day was a new menu. They even packed a breakfast box for us when we had to leave early on our last morning. I would highly recommend staying here if you want a villa feel but in a small resort atmosphere.

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By now you know I’m a total foodie so this is where I’ll start. A must when in Lovina is Jasmine Kitchen – we went twice in 3 days. The best Thai food I’ve eaten outside of Thailand. Fresh ingredients and incredible flavours, the owner trained in Thailand and it shows. Complete food coma afterwards but totally worth it. And after a big lunch there’s nothing better than a nap…or a foot massage. Conveniently Bonita Spa is located right next door and it’s another ‘must do’ on my list. 45 minute foot massage with a cup of lemongrass tea was just 85,000IDR.

Lovina is almost 3 hours from Sanur so my advice is make the most of your time there. Look up things to do and places to go because the sites are spread out but not to be missed. Having said that we could have quite happily lounged around the villa all day long waiting for another stunning sunset.

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When you say Lovina, many people know it’s famous for the dolphins. I wasn’t sure what to expect and lately there has been a lot of bad reports about dolphins in captivity or living outside of their natural environment. But this was nothing like that. You can go out at sunrise to see the dolphins and apparently that’s what most people do for the photos. But I didn’t want to be with lots of other people so instead we booked a spider boat (traditional fishing boat) to take us out at 8am. And I’m glad we did because while there were only 3 other boats…there were hundreds of dolphins! We think there were 3 pods of spinner dolphins that just played and chased tuna. It was incredible seeing them in the wild like that – every time the water went flat, suddenly a ripple would appear elsewhere and then more dolphins. We even saw a few do flips out of the water. We paid 80,000 IDR per person to see dolphins in their natural environment. Worth every rupiah and more. I didn’t get any dolphin photos because I didn’t take out my iPhone – honestly I’m not very careful with phones at the best of times so I was worried it would end up in Davey Jones’ locker. But this photo is where we left from on the beach to see the dolphins – between the scenery and the dolphins I don’t think I talked much for several hours.

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That afternoon we motorbiked around Lovina and ventured into the hills of Banjar to the healing hot springs. There were several different pools of different temperatures and the water was heavy. I have no idea if they really are healing or not but there were equal numbers of tourists and locals so it must work. After we were healed, we went further into the hills and if you don’t like mind the altitude or winding roads, you need to go explore. The climate is different so you can see all sorts of things growing like grapes and mangoes and coriander. It was the cloves I couldn’t get past – the smell was thick in the air and cloves were drying on sheets on the side of the road.

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This is the part of the blog I didn’t know how to write so some lovely friends talkIMG_6541ed me through it. Lovina is not the Bali I know. In fact you could be excused for thinking you aren’t even in Bali at all. While they do have a busy 3 month tourist season, July/August European school holidays, November when 150 sail boats arrive, and then in December, for the most part it is beautifully quiet. So quiet you can sit on the beach at sunset with a wine and hardly see another soul. It’s not bustling with shops or bars and while there are the dolphins and some lovely scenery, if you are an action-packed holiday maker, this is NOT the place for you. However if you do like quiet and are happy to let the hours drift away on a deck chair with a book, then you will love it.

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The interesting thing about Lovina, the quiet can almost be eerie in places. We are all so used to the craziness of busy Bali, stepping outside of that seems foreign. Especially when you look around at the deserted villas or small hotels. We couldn’t quite work it out. In their heyday, these building would have been stunning and with TLC still could be now. Yet they sit empty. We asked a few locals and the reasoning certainly shocked me. The Bali Bombings. For so many people those words are a terrible and painful reminder of lives lost and the innocense of a beautiful country stolen. But I’m going to admit ignorance in that I never understood until Lovina, just how far reaching the effect was.

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Lovina was a busy little tourist spot but the bombings occurred and so many locals and expats who had invested in Bali businesses, lost everything. So many of them just up and left – financially they had no choice. One local we had a beer on the beach with, said when people started going back to Bali, they stopped going to places like Lovina – it was like tourism had to start all over again.

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So for me while Lovina was stunning and simple in its natural beauty and I loved the quiet, I also found it a sad reflection on how the atrocity of the bombings changed the lives of more people than I ever imagined, in so many tragic ways.

When choosing how you will get to Lovina, my recommendation would be to venture up through the hills of Wana Giri and see the twin lakes and temples in the mountains. There are wild monkeys here so don’t go too close to them or you may find yourself a victim of monkey theft or possible aggression as they can be frightened of people. And make sure you head through Bedugal. Take a jumper as it is cold but the strawberries are delicious and if they last the car trip to Lovina without being eaten, they’d be lovely with cheese and crackers and a wine at sunset on the beautiful Lovina beach.

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