Watching the dolphins

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Singaraja, Bali – Lovina Beach – July 18, 2005

5:30 in the morning. My alarm clock is urging me to wake up. Unwillingly I give in and after turning off the annoying beep, I get out of bed. I have to, because if I don’t I will pass back into the coma that we daily need to recharge our batteries. It is cold in the hotel room. The air conditioner is set to 18 degrees Celsius but the drowsiness inside my head makes it feel much colder and my body reacts with a shiver. I enter the bathroom, a semi room that has a partial open roof. The temperature here must be at least 10 degrees higher. I hear the girl next door rummaging around in her bathroom, which is separated from mine by a wall, but the sounds travel through the open roof. I take a shower, and get dressed. It is 6 o’ clock, time to meet my colleagues.

Sunrise on the Java SeaA five minute stroll brings us to the beach behind the resort. We had a boat arranged after our arrival last night, and our “captain” is now impatiently waiting to sail away. A lot of the boats that where lying on the beach yesterday are now at sea, I can spot at least 20 of them on the water in front of Lovina Beach. We have to get our feet wet in the warm water of the tropical Bali Sea, to climb in the boat. While joining the rest of the fleet, we enjoy the beautiful sunrise over the Balinese northern coast, and listen how the boatman is telling us that this is the best season to go dolphin spotting. The boatman is actually a fisherman, during the trip, he tries to catch tuna.

DolphinsOnce in the open water, the chase is on. One of the fishermen spots a school of dolphins and starts moving towards them, dragging a fishing line with a hook and some hairy contraption as bait, through the water. Another one sees the first boat moving to a particular location and will immediately head in the same direction. Within seconds, the whole armada is moving to the same spot. Dolphins reluctantly wait for the boats to arrive and disappear from the site as soon as it gets too crowded, showing only their back fins and tails as they swim away from the scene. They reappear in another place, or a new school is spotted, and the whole sequence starts again. Sometimes, one of the dolphins is in a good mood, and does a leap in front of the audience, but during this trip, it is limited to only a few (maybe these dolphins are reaching their quota of leaps for this month).

Balinese FishermanThe whole show continues for about an hour or two, occasionally paused to haul in a tuna fish bare handed. The fish is killed by a single stroke with a wooden club and is dropped in a bucket near the fisherman. After straitening the bait with a toothbrush, the line is thrown back into the sea. I wonder if he uses the same brush for brushing his teeth in the morning.

We have been on the water for 3 hours now. The sun is obscuring the view by casting bright glares over the water. It also takes account for burning the skin of the unwary tourists that forgot to bring a high protection sun cream. It is time to head back to the beach and the hotel to get some breakfast and catch up some sleep.

Rudi Theunis

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