Bali: wet, but not that wild

The owner of my guesthouse in Jogja suggested I head first to the quieter northern section of Bali instead of the much more heavily touristed Denpasar/Kuta area. I didn’t really know much about either place, so I just took his advice and hoped his advice was sound.

So after my narrow escape from Bromo and an overnight bus ride later, I wound up in the sleepy town of Lovina. The main road running through the city served as a major east-west axis; from there smaller streets with hotels and restaurants splintered north to the beach, while the south side featured plots of farmland stretching away toward a distant mountain.

Once I was settled and took a few hours to rest, I headed straight for the beach, but what I found was a big disappointment: a narrow strip of rocky black sand, littered with a wide assortment of trash. Needless to say, it wasn’t appetizing at all, so instead of hanging out by the ocean I found a hotel with a pool and relaxed there - thanks to the nice girl at the public library that agreed to lend me a book for the day!

Since Lovina wasn’t offering much, I was packed early the next day and off by minivan to the village of Amed, tucked into the far eastern side of Bali and reputed to feature excellent snorkeling. Although I got some afternoon rain (which was frequent during my entire visit to Indonesia), there was enough of a window to see if the marine life was really all that. I put on my gear and headed straight out from the hotel, then gradually worked to my to the right toward the area known as Jemeluk. The clarity was good, the coral was some of the best I’ve seen in years, and the fishies were abundant and delightfully colorful. I also happened upon two squids, who wriggled their bodies at me furiously and kept wary eyes on my every movement: if I got a little closer to them, they would glide slowly backwards to maintain an acceptable distance. Overall it was a really good snorkeling experience.

At the same time, other aspects of traveling in Indonesia were wearing me out: having people asking me where I was from and whether I needed a ride or a tour all the time, the exercise of arranging transportation to every new place and then arriving and having to find a place to stay, and the feeling of being soaking wet all the time from the heat and humidity. I also felt like I was spinning my wheels at that stage in my travel; it was in Amed that I made the decision to come home.

I did make one final stop in Bali, near the notorious Kuta area. I was expecting it to be dirty and sleazy (maybe sort of like my worst fears about Bangkok), but I really didn’t get that vibe. The beach was wide and predominantly clean, with many surfers in the water even though the waves were pretty puny. If I had arrived there at a different stage of my trip, I would have liked to test those waves a little…

We grabbed snorkeling gear and headed to the bay. The sand here isn’t really sand – instead it’s a mixture of smooth river rocks and pebbles. Under the sun, these black volcanic stones get hot as magma and roast your feet. But once you’ve made it to the water the smooth stones feel amazing. The reef starts about 15 feet off shore, and becomes more impressive as you continue swimming out. The usual reef suspects were present – Barricuda, Crabs, Parrotfish, Trumpetfish, Angelfish, Pufferfish, Starfish, and hundreds of other species we don’t know by name.

Photos c/o Frances Shaw’s super-amazing iPhone!

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