While the beaches of south Bali are justly famous, the northern coast of Bali is still a relatively well-kept secret. From Alta Vista Mountain Villa it is only a short distance to the coast either north-east to Bali’s second city Singaraja, or north-west down the mountain ridge to Seririt, in close proximity to the famous Lovina Beach. There are several routes going down the mountain to the coast and some of them avoid busy traffic to go through beautiful village scenery with commanding views of the lowlands and coast. A drive down to the north coast is an exciting exploration activity on its own. Further west are the sea sports centres of Pemuteran and the marine national park and scuba diving centre of Menjangan. The beaches of North Bali are made of luscious black sand and are wonderfully uncrowded and relaxed compared to the beaches in the south. Here there are opportunities for dolphin watching, fishing, boating, snorkelling and scuba diving in the calm and safe waters of the Java Sea. The famous scuba diving venues to the east of Bali, Tulamben (Liberty Wreck) and Amed, are also easily accessible via northern coastal routes accessible from Alta Vista Mountain Villa.
With a little over 125,000 inhabitants Singaraja is the second largest city of Bali. Singaraja is an old harbour town and the main city of Buleleng, the most northern district of Bali. Singaraja has been and still is an important educational and cultural centre. Today there are two universities here. Singaraja has well-preserved remnants of the times that the Rajas ruled and of the Dutch colonial period. The Royal Palace of Singaraja still exists and the descendants of the last Raja of Buleleng, Anak Agung Pandji Tisna, still live there. The Royal Palace has opened its doors to visitors interested in the history of the Palace. The architecture of Singaraja is typified by the old colonial buildings, especially in the harbour district. Close to the Royal Palace are an ikat factory and a museum cum library containing old Balinese “lontar” or palm leaf manuscripts providing a wealth of information on the history of Singaraja.
Banjar lies half way between Singaraja and Seririt. In the Banjar area are the popular hot springs ‘Air Panas’ which are located in a beautiful tropical garden amidst the jungle. It has several basins and the water is of a very comfortable temperature of 37 degrees Celcius. Another attraction of Banjar is the Buddhist monastery Vihara, where one can find a miniature replica of the famous Borobudur temple of Java.
Lovina Beach is the name for a number of beaches with a total length of approximately 12 km, located just west of Singaraja. The beaches of Lovina belong to the fisherman’s villages of Pemaron, Tukadmungga, Anturan, Kalibukbuk, Kaliasem and Temukus. Lovina beach is famous for the hundreds of dolphins that visit the coast every morning around sunrise. Every morning, outrigger boats take visitors to view the cavorting dolphins who are very friendly and playful. This black sand beach is the most popular one of its kind in Bali. The Java Sea off the north coast is calm and serene. The beaches here are not crowded. There is little in the way of tourist industry except for a few Balinese hawkers selling some white and black ‘pearl’ jewellery.
This is the third largest town of Bali and once it was a commercial centre in North Bali. Nowadays it is a dusty and sleepy town, however with a lively night market. You will pass Seririt on your way to Pemuteran and Menjangan Island, coming from Singaraja/Lovina.
Just off the northwest coast of Bali lies a small island with the name Menjangan island. This island is situated in the protected marine reserve of the Bali Barat National Park. The island is surrounded by hectares of beautiful coral reef gardens with a very diverse eco biology, which makes it a favorite destination for snorkelers as well as divers. The good drop-offs on Menjangan’s south side is a popular spot for local people and tourists wishing to explore the coral reef and its rich variety of fish life. There are no dangerous currents to contend with in this area. Apart from a high diversity of coral species and colourful, tropical fish there are also many kinds of sea birds and shorebirds frequenting the island. Also the Hawkesbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) is sighted frequently in the area. Menjangan Island is often referred to as Deer Island as it happens to be the habitat of the Barking Deer or Muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak).
Pemuteran Bay is a small laid-back village in close proximity to Menjagan which has become increasingly popular with visitors in recent years. In the background of the bay are majestic mountain tops while the sea is perfect for swimming. Pemuteran has the largest area of shallow reefs in Bali. Walking down the beach at Pemuteran Bay provides a glimpse into both the past and future of Indonesia’s coastal communities. One end of the beach serves as the mooring and launching area for the fleet of traditional fishing craft that have so long provided subsistence to the community. At the other is a community-driven Biorock reef restoration and conservation project started in 2000 that has changed not only the reef itself, but also the attitudes, livelihoods and economy of the entire region. The reefs in Pemuteran are very colourful with great looking hard and soft coral, table coral, sponges and gorgonian sea fans mixed with lots of reef fish. The sea has moderate currents and very safe for all divers and snorkelers. Close to the village of Pemuteran lies the Pulaki temple which is famous for its colony of monkeys who live there.