The Buleleng Tourism Office is in the process of overhauling the dolphin-watching tour operation in Bali’s northern beach resort town of Lovina. The drafting of new regulations comes after meetings last month to discuss the urgent need to regulate the local industry for the good of both tour operators’ and tourists’ experiences. The news of efforts to improve operations come as the dolphin tours in northern Bali draw more criticism online for chasing and circling pods of dolphins to guarantee visitors a sighting.
The Tourism Office of Buleleng Regency has confirmed that they are working on establishing a series of Standard Operating Procedures to best manage dolphin-watching tours from Lovina Beach. The first priority has been to improve health and safety during the tours. The Tourism Office of Buleleng Regency is working with the Buleleng SAR Post, Balawista Buleleng, PHRI Buleleng, and Bali Province Coastal and Marine Resources Management Agency (BPSPL) to draft the new regulations.
@tukangcicipp Mendaki gunung lewati lembah demi liat lumba2 di Bali #dolphin #lovinabalidolphin #lovina #lovinabali ♬ FEEL THE GROOVE – Queens Road, Fabian Graetz
The Head of the Buleleng Tourism Office, Gede Dody Sukma Oktiva Askara, told reporters that the new standard operating producers would include terms of service and a code of ethics for tourists to enjoy the dolphin tours. Askara said that the next step would be to present the draft regulations to the boat operators for their feedback.
@backpackersasia Please be careful with what you see on Instagram. We regret having participated to this awful trip. Poor Dolphins… 🐬 Sorry to have bothered you so much. KEEP NATURE SAFE ❤️ Tourist activities don’t mean good activities… #lovinabeach #dolphins #activities #awful #disrepectful #naturefirst #instagramvsreality #becareful #tourist #bali #boat #foryou #fypシ #france #tiktokfrance ♬ original sound – Matthew Rincon
Askara said, “We will try to refine it a little more. After that, we will try to hold a meeting with representatives of dolphin-watching tourism groups around Lovina.” He told reporters that the regulations include rules that state all tour boats must have first aid equipment, emergency lights, whistles, and life jackets.
Each boat must also be fitted with sufficient ropes, buoys, and floating tires. He continued, “The plan going forward, after the group of service provider operators is formed, we will hold safety training. This is also important to increase the capacity or ability to [monitor] dolphin operators.”
@stasiaraetravels The dolphin tours in Lovina, Bali. What was your experience like? This was mine🐬💔 #lovinabali #lovinabeach #lovinadolphins #balireality #travelrealities #balitravel ♬ original sound – faisal
In terms of the ethics of watching wildlife, Askara assured reporters that the regulation includes considerations for the welfare of the dolphins and their natural habitat. He said that the Bali Coastal and Marine Resources Management Agency (BPSPL) recommends that all boat operators must turn off their engines if they are within 25m of the dolphins.
Boat operators will also be prohibited from interrupting the movement of the pods of dolphins. He also explained that torsos much watch from the side or the back of the boat and not hang over the side of the boats to get a closure encounter. Aksara said that these are all ways that dolphin tour boat operators can help preserve both the health of the dolphins and their ecosystem.
He said, “These important points are contained in the governance rules for watching dolphins. Other regulations also exist and will continue to be refined when meeting with groups of boat operators or fishermen later.”
As for the conversation around the standardizing of the tour costs, Askara said this, too, is a work in progress. During a meeting on the 30th of January, operators agreed that set tariffs would be beneficial for all. At the moment, tour operators and even fishermen or locals with a boat and a side hustle offering dolphin-watching experiences for anything ranging from IDR 50,000 to IDR 200,000 (USD 3-14) per person. Aksara said that the tariff rates are still up for discussion but will likely have a high and low season variable rate.
There have been an increasing number of videos on TikTok showing the ‘expectation vs. reality’ trend for the dolphin-watching tour in Lovina. During the ‘reality’ section of the videos, boats can be seen chasing and circling pods of dolphins, which is proven to cause the highly intelligent creatures stress. Some videos also show trash in the water. Some tourists say they regret participating in the experience of the stress it puts on the dolphins.
Last year during Sunfish (Mola-Mola) season in Nusa Penida, marine conservationists updated diving regulations to protect the migratory fish and the fragile ecosystem. The rules were readily adopted by dive centers and tourists, and there were no reports of issues regarding the welfare of marine life during the peak diving season.
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