Donna Sue Robson is a freelance writer and essayist specialising in the arts, Latin dance; & natural & alternative therapies for people and pets. Check out her own energy-healing consultancy and boutique natural products at www.jamienatural.com
Published September 29th 2016
Black Sand is a Black Pearl
The sand at Lovina beach is black, which protects this area from Kuta madness. Experiment with your camera settings and opt for black and white pics- the black sand creates dramatic contrast.
To simply 'berjalan-jalan' (have a stroll) is regarded by the Balinese as either a tourist luxury or more often, proof of Western lunacy. Nevertheless, if you are on holidays in Lovina Beach, there is no better way to get to know locals and submit to the true vibe of this coastal community than to walk along the beach and let your feet uncover sandy secrets and traditional treasures.
Breakfast at one of the coastal bars and watch the fisherman come in from their morning catch. It's second-to-none in the relaxation stakes.
For most beach-spoilt Aussies, the black sand of Lovina falls short of an ideal beach holiday. Think again: once you get over the 'pearly-sands' expectation, Lovina Beach shines as a highly sought black pearl. In fact, Lovina's black sand protects her from the hordes of 'plait-hair' tourists that descend upon Kuta Beach. Lovina still retains her village authenticity, beach-note vibe and has prices much lower than in other parts of Bali-mania.
Lovina Beach lies in the north of Bali and the closest city is Singaraja (once the seat of royalty and an early Balinese capital) which is about 20 minutes by sepeda (small motorbike). From Ubud, you can get to Lovina Beach by private taxi, which generally costs between $50 and $60, or shuttle bus which costs around $12.50 per person. As the trip north is quite mountainous and shuttle bus-travel does not always run to strict timelines, it may be cost-effective to take a private cab if you are travelling in a group or have small children prone to travel sickness.
There are many top-end villas and resorts that back onto Lovina's beachfront. They are fully equipped with massage and spa facilities, as well as their own restaurants, cafes and pools. It is the quintessential image of a tropical beach holiday, to sit under one of the many banana leaved- eateries at these villas, soak-up the beach atmosphere and bask in splendour and opulence. These villas are still very affordable by Australian standards, from between $60-$80 per night, per room.
There are resort-style villas and accommodation units that back-on to Lovina's beach.
Generally though, the types of traveler lured to Lovina Beach are intrepid wanderers who seek both independent-style travel and water sports. Lovina's claim to fame is dolphins, including the Dolphin-Ocean Tours, as well as snorkeling, diving and other boating-adventures. Be it beachcombing, doing nothing, or adventure sports that grabs you, make a b-line for the beach to 'sus out' the scene and orientate. Lovina's life force is her coast.
The easiest access point to the beach is the dolphin statue at the end of Jalan Binaria ('Central'). Expect a bit of mayhem as here, drivers congregate to offer their services and small-shop owners promote their sarongs and wares. No drama: now you know how to organise transport and to shop you can always go back to these market-style havens.
If you want to experience Lovina spiritual life, call in at the temple but be sure to observe clothing etiquette (clearly written in English on the outer wall). Temples throughout Bali are fascinating for even though most are Hindu, they are still blessed with Balinese gods and mythological characters and are a literary testament to Balinese history and scared life.
Shops and sellers that line the beachfront near Jalan Binaria and can make your beach arrival a little crazy. If shopping is not your thing, walk on the shoreline.
Along this small beach beat are some spacious, modern and superbly shaded restaurants. Almost 'club-style', they serve pretty well any cup of coffee, tea or juice imaginable. Have a drink, enjoy the shade and beach-gaze. You can watch boats cast-in and out (it's busy in the mornings and this is a great place to watch fishing boats), the daily dolphin-tour scramble or just meditate on the sea's expansiveness. If you have children, it is also a great, safe and full-view 'playground' while you rest legs and escape sun-blasting heat.
If you think you know sate or even make it yourself- drop your pride and learn from the experts.
Walk across the bridge. At the base of the bridge on the far side is a warung popular with locals, famous for its first-rate Gado-Gado and sate dishes. If you think you know sate or even make it yourself, drop your pride and learn from the experts: here, the flavours are rich and the attention given to moulding and blending the paste is a hand-me-down tradition. Not only is the taste-sensation worth it, but more so the experience of stepping out of the tourist-eatery comfort zone and supporting local families who make a subsistence living from traditional food.
Make a U-Turn
Walk past the dolphin statue and the beach-side shops once again. Now, the real beach walk begins.
The beach offers several hinterland tracks that lead you to sawahs and paddies.
Lovina's beachline is often interrupted with low tide and there is a wall that protects villages and the hinterland. Don't worry, just leap or wade when you can, or follow the road back if you are blocked from sand-scuffing. Breaking the shoreline walk occasionally makes the adventure more interesting and the discoveries all the more surprising. The walled-off area is not a no-go-zone: it merely takes you to hinterland paths that are bordered by 'sawahs', rice 'paddies' (depending on the season) and other farming land. When you stand at the intersection of so many lifestyles and communities, you begin to see all colours of the Lovina tapestry. You will see traditional farmers whose physical workload at advanced life stages is truly astounding. Small huts and humble living quarters are the staple village way, which is a far cry from well-designed tourist shops just around the corner.
The most authentic way to experience Bali is to find a local with whom you can have a chat.
The wall that separates the beach front from village life is treated like a bit of a meeting place or 'park bench' for locals. Take your time here. Have a chat. Even if you come across someone who knows no English, or if you do not know any Bahasa (Indonesian), just sit down and make an effort to understand people's lives. Friendliness and return interest is absolutely guaranteed.
The beachfront walk is never-ending (because you are on the ocean's edge) so you can venture as far as your legs can carry you. When you get sick of it — or too tired or hot — you can quickly retreat into a bar or café or cut through one of the villas from the paved area or walled roadside. From the actual shore line, the next main street that runs parallel to Jalan Binaria is Jalan Kartika and is about 2-3 kilometres away from the dolphin statue landmark. The Jalan Kartika intersection, is 'signposted' with a prominent café and in the mornings before 11am, by boats taking dolphin tours and beach-sellers balancing giftware on their heads.
Down Jalan Kartika, away from the beach and warungs, cafes, drink spots, small supermarkets (stock up on essentials in a low-key way) a variety of guest houses (with broad price ranges) and massage spas are aplenty.
Greek food Lovina-style celebrates fresh seafood and flame-grill flavours.