Breath of Gili Air...

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September 2nd 2009
Published: October 5th 2009
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After having such a bad end to our week in Bali we really hoped that things would improve for our time on Lombok. We had been told from quite a few people that the locals on Lombok were much more friendly and not so greedy so we were quite looking forward to a more relaxed time not having to argue over every Rupiah.

In our haste to leave Bali we'd picked a really rubbish ferry time, this meant that not only did we get no sleep for the 3 hour journey across the water, but we also arrived at around 2.30am which is a really bad time for onward transport. Of course we were approached by the usual taxi & bemo divers as we ate out curried egg and rice breakfast (strange how good it tasted at that time of the morning!) but we refused and instead opted to wait for the public ones to start running. This meant around a 4 hour wait so instead of getting harassed to death for 4 hours in the port we walked up to the main street and found sanctuary by a newly built building and got our heads down for a few hours on the dusty road. We thought we'd get some peace and quiet but with this being Ramadan time the call to prayers at 3am followed by a steady stream of people made it quite noisy and we got some very funny looks which is hardly surprising!

As soon as the sun came up we found a bemo which took us North to Mataram, the main city on Lombok. From here Dale managed to score a free ride to Senggigi with a group of hotel workers who were keen for us to stay in their hotel. It was really nice but a bit over our budget and we really did want to go to the Gili Islands so we threw in the towel being tired of the hassles of public transport and got them to book us a taxi to take us the final 20 minutes to Bangsal, the harbour that leads to the Gili Islands. He took us on the coastal road which was stunning with white beaches and turquoise waters around every corner, we were tempted to make him stop at each one but decided to return at a later date to explore it for ourselves.

The Gili's are another of those places we've been looking forward to ever since our planning started many years ago back in the UK. They are a group of 3 islands, Gili Air, Gili Meno and GiliTrawangan just off the Lombok coast offering sun, sand and snorkelling to your hearts content. We decided on Gili Air to be our home for our stay there, it's the kind of halfway house of the 3 islands being in the middle for both size and range of accommodation & 'nightlife' (read restaurants & bars).

The accommodation here is pretty pricey for Indonesian standards but we managed to find a nice cottage for 150,000Rp which also included breakfast and was set just off the beach in pretty gardens so were quite happy as we'd expected to pay much more. We set straight off for a walk round the island which takes about 1 hour to see what there was to see! Gili Air gets a bit of a bum deal on the beach front because of the coral reef that surrounds it. Although beautiful at high tide, for much of the day the water is so low that 90% of the island is circled by exposed reef meaning you can't swim or get out to the water for around 20 - 30m. This is with the exception of one corner which is really beautiful but jam packed with all the people who are staying on the island. That said it is a really lovely place, still retaining a lot of it's local Indonesian feel with ladies carrying goods on their heads to and from the village and fisherman working on their boats all around the island, the people are also really friendly and made our stay one to write home about!

After relaxing on the beach and enjoying the unerwater activities here for a few days we booked a snorkelling trip on our last day to see what it was like on Meno & Trawangan. The trip went around the 3 islands stopping at various points with each being slightly different. We got to swim with turtles at Turtle Point.. there were loads there and we were so excited because before this day we'd only got to glimpse the odd one or two but today we got to actually swim alongside many of them which made our day. We saw coral of a million colours, shapes & sizes as well as the beautiful fish that swim in amongst them, the most exciting fish were the huge bump head parrot fish we passed, they were massive but harmless enough. We saw starfish of all colours and even a huge moray eel poking out his hole. The whole day was breathtaking and we never tire of seeing these wonderful things that live underwater. At times you look out and it's really like being in a huge aquarium when all you can see are fish all around, times like these you have to pinch yourself to realise you're not in a dream! We are kicking ourselves that we don't have an underwater camera too as we'd have so many more great photos to remember our time by.. this will definitely be on the list for any forthcoming trips!

We stopped for lunch on Gili Meno and both agreed that we actually preferred this island to Air, mainly because they have a beautiful beach which stretches on for as far as you can see. Here they also have a small turtle sanctuary so we got to see some baby turtles swimming around in their pools which were quite cute!

The Gili islands really are quite beautiful and the snorkelling here is amazing for the range of things you can see, we loved our time here and found Air had a perfect balance of relaxation, activities and enough places for an evening drink to keep you amused for a week or two. Sadly we didn't have this much time and were keen to make a move towards Flores so made a move the following day in order to spend one day in Senggigi to visit the beautiful beaches we'd seen a few days before.

We had to go through the usual ordeal of getting to Senggigi and took the inland road by Bemo which was also very beautiful passing lots of forests and cheeky monkeys on the way. As soon as we'd found a bed for the night we hired out a moto and headed for the coastal road to make the most of our final afternoon in Lombok. Our ride didn't disappoint and we had a fantastic afternoon stopping at various beaches which were all deserted apart from the odd fisherman getting his boat ready for the evenings fishing activities and the resident
Gili Air beachGili Air beachGili Air beach

with Gili Meno in the background
crabs. The scenery here is stunning and should we return to this part of the world we would be more than happy to spend a week or so visiting each beach because there really are so many!

This was the perfect end to our time here, so nice was our afternoon that even the call of prayers from the 2 adjacent mosques competing against each other did not annoy us! By the 5th hour and at midnight it got a little tedious though and we joined in the cheers as there was a 'surprise' powercut which ended the battle!

The following day we relented on our quest to avoid tourist transport booking and got ourselves 2 (overpriced!) tickets from Senggigi to Sape in Sumbawa, the jumping off point for Flores. Transport here in Indonesia is not cheap and we both had to pay $US25 for the privilege but we had to admit it was nice being driven to the bus station tickets in hand! So onto Flores to make one of Sophie's dreams come true and come face to face with a real live dragon...

Additional photos below
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7th October 2009

I am close behind you..!
Hey guys, I wanted to post a comment to thank you for the tips re. Gili, and now you have outdone me by posting before me on my Palawan entry :-) My three weeks in the Philippines are almost over, and I will be flying back down to Bali in a few days and will then head east , pretty much on the same route as you are taking, except that I am planning to go all the way to East Timor from Komodo and not north to Sulawesi. Palawan is really amazing, especially around El Nido - wait for the pictures in my next entry. It is amazing! Halong Bay times five I would say. Take plenty of cash as there are only ATMs in Puerto Princesa. Also, the 59 days visa is 60 US, so about 40 Euros at current exchange rates, not 50 as I wrote, I just checked it. Sorry for that. But 21 days is really not enough for this great country (transport is also super-slow due to the bad roads or the heavy traffic). Guess you will love it as much as I did!
21st February 2013

Amazing Island and Big Lizart
Hi, I Recently came across your blog through Google and found it to be informative and interesting article, Really it's a fantastic blog. Good job keep it up..... oh ya.. I have similiar blog like you about Komodo Dragon , I hope the article on my blog will be usefull for you… and we can share each other. thank you… :-) Keep up the great work!!!!!

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