22 September 2013
The dolphin chase
Would I get to see them? Dolphins were known to be more visible at dawn. Ten minutes before six o’clock in the morning had been the time given for meeting up at the hotel reception. The beach of Lovina, in northern Bali, was a mere thirty metres away; the fishing boats we would use for our adventure at sea were patiently waiting for us in the darkness of the night. Kitted out in our life vests, we set off in those spider-looking wooden boats. The six of us were seated in a single line for the boat’s width did not exceed a metre. Would the sea have not been as calm as it was that day, I’m not sure I’d have felt very secure.
Dawn broke over the horizon. I thought at first we were alone along with the two or three other boats around ours. As we went further asea, what were initially small dots became larger: dozens of similar small boats with their loads of tourists were sailing in the same direction. Their parallel motion wasn’t without reminding me of the helicopter approach in Apocalypse Now with the mesmerising Ride Of The Valkyries as background music – check out this well-known scene Apocalypse Now/Ride Of The Valkyries. I however strongly encourage you to watch the entire 1979 movie, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Marlon Brando: it’s easily one of the best, not only in its filming but also in its particularly astute original adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness which is a novel to be read during your lifetime.
And then the chase began. We didn’t have machine guns like in the movie, but cameras (duh). The second someone spotted a dolphin, all boats started racing towards that spot, to the point that some boats actually went right on top of where dolphins were swimming… oh well, that wasn’t really smart, was it? The chase lasted for a short hour, a few dolphins being spotted here and there. I could have easily stayed out at sea longer but that was part of the deal, a deal that was surprisingly tightly regulated by the local cartel of fishermen which disallowed negotiation. I sneakily did try to shop around and discussing a bit with the locals made me realise how they had firmly locked things down – in the background, imagine the theme song of The Godfather, another film by Coppola while we’re at it, The Godfather Theme Song, hahaha (to be fair, the music that was played in the beach restaurants was... reggae, however unlikely that would be in Indonesia).
Some extra time had however been paid to the (Sicilian) Balinese clan to do some snorkeling closer to the shore – not the most astounding snorkeling experience but it was still pretty nice, if not a little awkward to dive into the warm water so early in the morning. This is by the way where I discovered the obvious technique of throwing biscuit or bread crumbs into the water, myriads of little colourful fish rushing to grab them. It was time to go back to land, where my scooter was lazily waiting. Further boat trips would be experienced later on: they wouldn’t necessarily be as smooth as the one I just wrote about, far from it – to be continued.