Most of the north coast falls under the regency of Buleleng, once Bali’s chief port. This long contact with the outside influences is reflected in the ethnic diversity of its population and as a starting place for new artistic developments which spread south. The ruling house came to power in the 17th century and conquered parts of Karangasem. The Kingdom of Buleleng rose to prominence in the 17th century and developed a vibrant culture quite apart from the rest of Bali.
The Dutch made Singaraja Bali’s first capital, which still has some colonial buildings and Chinese temples. The largest collection in Bali of “Lontar Palm- leaf” books is kept at the “Gedong Kertya Library” outside the city “the Sasana Budaya Art Center” is more central. Out west is the tourist resort area of Lovina, with quiet blacks and beaches. Exciting bull races take place annually in some neighboring villages. Here there are plenty of losmen (Inn), a nearby waterfall (Gitgit Waterfall) and a local school of dolphins.
Further along the coast is Bali’s only Buddhist monastery, “Brahma Vihara” just before the village of Banjar. There is also a beautifully landscaped hot spring (air panas) in the area. Continuing west brings you to “Celukan bawang” harbor with its fleet of graceful “Bugis” schooners and to “Pura Pulaki”, a recently rebuilt temple in the heart of Bali’s grape-growing region. The coastal road terminates in “Bali Barat National Park”, a huge reserve encompassing 70,000 hectares of rainforest and 7,000 hectares of coral reefs.
Two rare and endangered species, the Bali starling and Java buffalo, make for exciting game watching here, as do civet, leopards, rusa deer, macaques and feral pigs. Bali best diving is off the pristine reefs and coral grottos of “Pulau Menjangan” (Deer Island) which can be reached by boat from “Labuhan Lalang”. Simple accommodation is also available at Labuan Lalang for those planning to spend the night while the park’s headquarters and information center is located at “Cekik”, just over the border in Jembrana Regency.
West Bali has some spectacular nature walks but hikers are required to register at Cekik and take along a trail guide.