NEXT time you’re in Bali for a few days of diving, you might also want to consider adding dolphin watching to your agenda. But wait, are there dolphins in Bali?
Absolutely! Bali does indeed have dolphins roaming about its waters. The island has whales as well, although the sightings are not as frequent as that of dolphins. There are at least 14 species of whales and dolphins in Bali, including spinners, spotted dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, Fraser’s dolphins, Risso’s dolphins and rough-toothed dolphins.
You’re likely to see a variety of dolphin species pretty much all year round. Dolphins are regularly sighted in the mornings off the southern peninsula, just half an hour by boat from crowded Denpasar via Benoa Harbour. Here, you typically find spinner dolphins doing somersaults, as they hunt food in the early hours of the day, although other species such as Risso’s dolphins and false killer whales may be seen as well, if you’re lucky.
If you’re in the north of this paradise island, or planning to explore this more tranquil region of Bali, you can head to Lovina or Bondalem in Buleleng for some dolphin sightings at the break of day.
Established around 1987, the industry in Lovina has grown exponentially, and it can feel rather crowded here when you have 40 other boats around you trying to catch a glimpse of dolphins as well. Bondalem, a village 40 kilometres east of Lovina, started the industry around 2001. Not as many boats operate in Bondalem, so the experience can be much more relaxing than Lovina. Spinners and Fraser’s can be seen off both Lovina and Bondalem.
As responsible tourists, we need to ensure that there’s an adequate distance between our boats and the dolphins. Some international guidelines suggest stopping the boat 50 metres from the dolphins and from there, allow the animals to swim towards you – instead of the other way around. We also need to ensure people don’t feed the dolphins, or worse, throw garbage in the sea. It’s easy for these animals to misidentify litter as food and ingest it.
Dolphins and other marine life have been found dead at beaches around the world with plastic waste inside their stomachs. We can help by doing our utmost to prevent littering in the ocean. And if you do find any stranded whales or dolphins in Bali, contact the national marine mammal stranding network for help – they are trained to assist and hopefully save the lives of these hapless marine mammals.