On Saturday 10th October we drove on our shiny Scoopy moped from Ubud up to Lovina. The drive was spectacular, scooting through pure green rice paddy fields and the windy roads up the mountains, with a gorgeous view of two huge lakes as we got to the top. (Sadly we don't have any pictures of our drive around the north of Bali as we were too busy clinging on to our luggage and concentrating on directions to think about getting the camera out). The drive back down the other side was fun with Jordan hardly needing to use the accelerator at some points. When we eventually reached the bottom we were a bit disappointed with the look of Lovina, but we were tired from the long drive so we found a place to stay - Tama Lilies - and were quickly encouraged into booking a scuba diving and snorkelling trip with a company called Malibu Dive Centre. We were completely ripped off with the price as we paid roughly 3 million rupiah, which is the equivalent of £140. However we had no idea at the time as we didn't have time to research how much diving normally costs around that area, and they made it sound like we were getting such a good deal as we had one night’s accommodation thrown in, lunch was included, and it also included the entrance fee to the Menjangan Island National Park so what did we know!? We said yes, paid for Jordan to do two dives and Natalie two snorkels and went off back to the room for a snooze. That night we explored the small road that led down to the beach that seemed to be the only area that had restaurants and bars with tourists in. We ate dinner at a restaurant near the beach and listened to the live band in the restaurant opposite. Then it was time for bed. There was nothing much really to do there at night, and we were both knackered. Driving on the moped for hours actually takes it out of you, especially up and down windy mountainous roads. It hurts your back being on the bikes anyway, let alone with luggage on your back. We left one of our big backpacks at our hostel in Ubud as there was no way we could drive for hours with two of them on the bike. One fits snuggly in between Jordan's legs at the front of the bike, but the second would have to go on Natalie's back and it's too heavy for her to keep control when Jordan has to quickly break or accelerate due to the crazy driving of the Balinese. So luckily we didn't have to deal with that, but it still kills your back sitting down without a back support for hours and it can get quite uncomfortable. We had a break every hour or so to have some water and stretch our legs.
So Sunday was our big expensive snorkel and scuba diving trip. We got picked up at 8:30am from our Homestay and went to the dive shop to pick out our equipment and wait for the others to join our group. Originally there was supposed to be 11 of us - 7 divers and 4 snorkelers - but a group of 7 cancelled so it was just 4 of us - 3 snorkelers and 1 diver which was Jordan. It meant that he had the dive master to himself though so he could point everything out to him and they could finish the dive when Jordan’s air had run low. The drive to the boat port to get to Menjangan Island was about 2 hours long (which they never told us when we booked it!). We arrived at the harbour and were made to wait there for 20 minutes for God knows what reason! Finally we were allowed on the boat which took about 20 minutes to get to our first stop at Menjangan Island. Jordan went down with the scuba instructor and Natalie snorkeled around the area. There was quite a few boats with people snorkelling and scuba diving but most of them had stopped for lunch already so we pretty much had the ocean to ourselves - plus the fish, obviously! The marine life was beautiful there. So many different kinds of fish that we can't recall all of the species we saw. Brightly coloured and varying in size from teeny tiny to quite large. Jordan’s scuba dive was great but he said it was the next dive that was truly the best he's done so far. The second one was a wall of coral and he said it was like being in the film Avatar. Every single piece of coral was brightly coloured and in tact. It was like a huge colourful forest under the sea, with incredible sea life. He even saw four black tip reef sharks swimming along. One roughly 2 metres in length! And a huge grouper fish that almost made the shark look small in comparison. This was also a great spot for snorkelling. Natalie swam from the boat to a port on the island with the two German girls from our boat and watched the amazing marine life swimming around, floating with the waves crashing over them. The coral was also quite colourful here, with some parts bright pinks and blues. And again so many different kinds of fish. All in all, the trip was actually really good. It's just a shame that we paid about £40 too much! The girls on our boat paid less than we did for Natalie's snorkel, and they had a dolphin tour the following morning included in the price. So we tried to make out that we were told we had a dolphin tour the next day as well, but no one came to pick us up the following morning, and when we drove to the dive centre it was closed!
The evening after the snorkel and dive trip we walked down to the main beach where we were staying and watched some locals play volleyball. That time of evening is normally when the locals go down to the beach as it’s not too hot and they like to watch the sunset with their friends and family. We walked along the beach some more, spoke to a local about his handmade jewellery from pieces of shell and coral he finds (obviously Natalie had to buy one or two as they we so nice and jewellery is her weakness!). There was also a school dance and martial arts production on the beach front which we watched for a little while before walking back inland to have dinner at a popular Warung.
On Monday 12th we hopped on our moped again and drove 3 hours to Amed, another location in the north of Bali. Again the drive was beautiful, this time driving through lots of very pretty and quaint villages and scenic coastal roads. All in all, we travelled over 200km from Ubud to the north of Bali and back again and it was a trip we will never forget. On the way we stopped in a restaurant for lunch and spoke to a couple who said that Amed was supposed to be really good for diving. But as Jordan had already dived in Lovina (and we spent a fortune on it!) he gave it a miss. We arrived in the afternoon and found a little Homestay with only a few bungalows for 150,000 a night without breakfast. Most of the accommodation there was very expensive as they were on the beachfront with swimming pools. Amed was a cute little village, with black sand beaches and amazing views of Mount Batur volcano. Other than diving, there wasn’t much else to do so we only spent one night there in the end. But we liked the chilled out, cool vibe we got from there. We shared a light meal in a restaurant on the beach and walked along to watch the sunset before heading back to the room to relax after the long drive. At about 9pm we went out for some dinner at another nice restaurant on the beach where you could actually sit on the sand.
The next day we had breakfast in the hotel next door as no one was about at our restaurant and then started our drive back down to Ubud. The final drive had amazing scenery of green rice fields, huge mountains and pretty villages. It was lovely to watch the locals getting on with their everyday lives, seeing the children come out of school and walking home.