If you were to spend a day on each and every island of Indonesia, it would take you modest forty years. Now, if for some reason you don't have the luxury of time to visit all of them in order to choose your perfect tropical island getaway, your only option is to be extremely selective like a good headhunter. But don't you worry dear reader, we are about to share the location of a paradise with you.The three Gili Islands, affectionately known as the Gilis, just off the coast of Lombok, are the true pearls of Indonesia. Trust us, you could easily spend a small eternity on these tranquil islands of white powdery sand surrounded by clear turquoise water.
We begin our stay on the Gilis with Gili Trawangan, which is the furthest of the three islands as well as the largest. There are no motor-bikes or cars allowed on the Gilis. The islanders get about by bicycle or traditional ‘cidomo” (horse and cart). The complete absence of traffic related noises immediately puts a smile on your face. With hired cycles, we circumnavigate the island in about two hours, while stopping every now and then to swim. The first morning
we get reminded of the fact that we have now entered the land of Allah, as the island's mosque starts hollering the adhan, the call to prayer, at 4.30 am. The adhan goes on about 15 minutes and after a while it becomes quite hypnotizing, like a lullaby, and we fall asleep again dreaming of the paradise. In His wisdom, Allah has seen fit to require the believers to pray five times a day, hence we will be hearing the muezzin reciting the call to prayer before dawn, at noon, at mid-afternoon, at sunset and in the evening. One does not need a clock on the island to know the time, not that one really needs to know the time anyway.
Since it is the low season, none of the places are filled to capacity and we can drive a hard bargain on the prices. For about 20 euro per day we get a tradional A-framed bamboo bungalow almost by the beach. And what's more, the place is run by divers, who say 'on ne plonge pas pour la vie, on vie pour la plongeé', this slogan suits us perfectly, as Gili Islands are known for their colorful submarine
life. Before diving, some sacrifices are to be made to Poseidon - my long cherished mustache 's got to go. It's either a leaking mask, smearing my face with vaseline before each dive or introducing mr Gilette to my manly mustache. Moreover, booze and diving are not compatible, hence it' soda water from now on. Diving on Gili as easy as living in this paradise, you show up, you say you wanna dive today, and a place onboard a graceful wooden boat is yours.
We do 4 normal dives and two special dives, a night dive and a deep dive with sharks. Neither of us has done a night dive before, this will be something entirely new. Being under water in the dark, where you cannot see further than your light source is absolutely thrilling. It is like looking constantly around a new corner, a new world is being unveiled basically every meter. There is also a heightened element of sensory deprivation, whereby you cannot see far, hear much, smell anything or feel as you normally do. All senses dulled, your awareness is intensified to compensate. This heightened state of awareness is exhilarating. And there is a booming night
life, crustaceans such as lobsters roam around feeding, massive parrot fish sleep under ledges and coral polyps extend their feeding tentacles, bioluminescence, emitted by tiny organisms that glow when there is no light, is a mesmerizing sight. The night dive is truly a fantastic experience. Based on our first night dive experience, I would reckon a night dive is more psychologically demanding rather than physically, in the dark water your mind'eye can start playing some tricks on you if you are not fully focused. That said, experiences this enjoyable are usually illegal!
The following morning we do a deep dive at a site called Shark Point. We make a smooth fall into the blue of 30 meters. Even at 30 meters water temperature is 28 degrees and visibility is about 20 meters. To minimise the oxyzen usage, we let the underwater current drift us. All we've got to do is maintain neutral buoyancy and enjoy the show. It doesn't take us long before we spot the first shark, or perhaps it's more accurate to say the shark spots us, a small shy white-tipped shark swimming away from us. We learn, on contrary to the popular belief, sharks do stay
put as we observe one laying still on the bottom, maybe having a postmeal siesta. The shark is more inquisitive than the prvious one and takes a special interest in Nastya. It makes a few circles around Nastya, however once the curiosity satisfied, it goes back minding its own business. No reason for me to get jealous. We also see many big turtles, bigger than one meter, swimming about.
After five days on Trawangan and plenty of time spent underwater, we hitch a ride to neighboring island Gili Meno. We get dropped off on middle of a secluded beach and have quite a walk wih our backpacks to find some accommodation. Gili Meno is one the most sedated places we have been to. There are only 300 islanders living on Meno and a small bunch of visiting travellers. One can walk around the island in less than two hours, which is a pastime for many tourists. Needless to say that the most items on the menus in Meno restaurants come from the ocean, and they do arrive every day fresh and tasty. At sunset our pastime is to lie on the beach under a coconut tree, observing an occasional
turtle coming to the surface for a lungful before submerging again and listening waves breaking on the beach. This is as chilled out as it can get. We have discovered a place which we do not want to leave now or ever. Unfortunately we have only a few days to enjoy the newfound paradise before we have to do a reality check.
Man can now fly in the air like a bird, swim under the ocean like a fish, he can burrow into the ground like a mole. Now if only he could walk the earth like a man, this would be paradise. - Tommy Douglas
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