Bali boasts of being the best vacation destination in Indonesia thanks to its coastline full of impressive beaches, entrancing natural landscapes, rich cultural traditions and strong religious roots.
Attracting travelers to flock to the island of the gods throughout the year, Bali offers the tumult of Kuta for those seeking out frenetic crowds and heavy partying.
But if you travel up to the north to the region of Buleleng, tranquillity and idyllic fishing villages will offer you a refuge for a quieter retreat.
Stretching along the island's northern coast to the west of Singaraja covering seven traditional villages, Lovina may not be the prettiest beach in Bali; but its gorgeous sunrise and a pod of dolphins swimming freely in the open sea surely make up for the lack of postcard-pretty white sandy beaches.
Compared to the bustling Kuta, Lovina offers more reasonably priced accommodation and this coastal fishing town can be reached by a three-hour drive from Ngurah Rai International Airport.
Food is also considerably cheaper than Ubud and other parts of the south coast.
As you arrive in Lovina, you can see that the coastline consists of quite narrow stretches of black sandy beach. The seabed softly slopes down toward the open sea and the current is relatively calm which makes Lovina a perfect spot for snorkeling as well as scuba diving.
The best way to be able to see the wild dolphins out at sea is by arranging an early morning dolphin sightseeing trip and renting a jukung (traditional outrigger boat) right from your cottage's waterfront.
Ask your hotel staff or the friendly townspeople to arrange this trip for you a day in advance. The trip will cost you from Rp 75,000 (US$6.17) to Rp 100,000 per person depending on how many people will board the jukung.
Usually, the boat skipper will pick you up to head out to sea with the jukung before the crack of dawn. The air is cooler at this hour of the day and the tangerine sunrise coated in mist seen from the open sea is indeed a splendid view.
After around 15 minutes of sailing in the open water, you will realise that you are not the only one looking forward to seeing the friendly sea mammals. During high season, up to a dozen or more jukungs can be seen in the water.
There are actually three species of dolphins inhabiting this area; spinner, spotted and bottle-nosed dolphins, but it is the spinner dolphins that are mostly spotted around Lovina.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to spot around three pods of dolphins surfacing around my boat. It took a few minutes before I spotted one of them leaping above the surface followed by a few others. What a pretty sight.
With the dolphin's surfacing and leaping uncertainty, taking pictures of them is somewhat of a challenge. You might want to set your camera in continuous and speed-priority mode to better capture them performing somersaults and leaping swiftly.
The number of boats approaching the dancing pods of dolphins can also cause them to swim away from us. My boat's skipper had to steer away from the crowd a few times trying to sight other pods and not to stress out the dolphins with too many spectators.
After the excitement of being entertained by the leaping wild dolphins for approximately half an hour, my boat turned around and headed back to the shore and I was ready for a cup of freshly brewed coffee and a hearty breakfast.