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Published on August 21, 2014

Image courtesy of the Indonesia Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy

Dolphins are a regular, playful presence in Lampung’s Kiluan Bay in Sumatra. The bay is a regular migration stop for spinner and bottle-nosed dolphins, both of whom regularly jump out of the water in groups (scientists suspect this helps herd fish, which in turn aids in feeding). To see these dolphins up close, you’ll need to hire a boatman riding the traditional Lampung craft known as ketinting.

The ketinting is a dugout canoe used by fishermen all around Indonesia, not just Sumatra – equivalent craft sail regularly along East Java and South Kalimantan as well. These boats are carved out of a single tree trunk, outfitted with engines and bamboo outriggers called katir, then painted in bright colors.

These craft used to ply the oceans solely for the fishing trade, but no longer. Thanks to eco-tourism company Cikal, Lampung’s ketinting now regularly ferry visitors from the shore to the middle of the bay, where the guests can have an up-close encounter with these playful mammals of the sea.

Boats set off early, at 6am, to reach the dolphins when they’re close to the surface and feeding. After an hour’s commute to the target area, it’s a waiting game until the spotter sights a pod of dolphins leaping above the waves… then another… then another.

For the next hour or so, it’s a game of “tag”, where the ketinting chases one pod, then sees another and chases that one in turn. The lucky ones barely have to move at all before a dolphin pokes its head out just beside the boat!

Visit Lampung during peak dolphin season – between June and July – to get a guaranteed look at the dolphin pods. Ketinting can seat only between four to six people, so large groups will have to take more than one boat.

Elsewhere on the Web: Read Indonesia Travel’s official page on  Ketinting: the Unique Traditional Slender Boat of Lampung.