Still good for snorkelling and diving

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September 14th 2008
Published: September 14th 2008
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Good morning, Mt. RinjaniGood morning, Mt. RinjaniGood morning, Mt. Rinjani

Sunrise on Mount Rinjani. That's Gili Meno in the foreground.
We spent a week out on Gili Trawangan in July. We arrived at around 6pm on the Perama boat, transferring off to a smaller transfer boat before arriving on the beach. Not calling ahead was a bad idea, and it seemed like most places were full. Feeling a little bit desperate, we took the first room we could find at a place called ABDI, which, in all my travels, was probably the nastiest dump I have ever stayed in (70,000 Rupiah's a night).

Vowing to find new accommodation in the morning, we decided to drink off our misgivings about our rooms so we headed over to Sama-Sama bar, where shot after shot after beer after beer arrived until 2am. Needless to say, there is no recollection of an uncomfortable snooze in our flophouse.

Sunrise Bungalows (250,000 rps) had fine rooms the next day, and after moving in, I grabbed by snorkeling gear and jumped in the channel between Trawangan and Meno. Never in my life have I seen such an array of fish. I was exhilerated, floored, and spent almost the entire morning and afternoon letting the current carry me down the coast of the island before hopping out, running up the beach, and jumping back in again. I have no idea about the names of those fish, but there must have been close to a hundred different species darting and floating about the half-dead coral. This experience was rendered even more otherworldly by the echoing "call to prayer" coming from the mosque inland. Every time I lifted my head out of the water I was treated to what I think is a beautiful song.

But the coral. Lonely Planet warns that the coral around the Gilis is basically dead above 18 meters, and that indeed seems to be the case. We took a glass-bottomed boat on to go snorkeling two days in a row, and as we plied the waters between Trawangan and Meno, Meno and Air, much of the coral looked bone-white dead. So sad because it's evident that 20 or 30 years ago (and before that, time immemorial) the hilly sea floor between the Gilis and mainland Lombok must have been a riot of brilliant undulating coral, a kind of paradise right here on earth. The sea life is still there -and we saw several turtles, one of which was about 6 feet from head
Gili MenoGili MenoGili Meno

We spent a couple of hours here having lunch, snorkeling around, and visiting the bird park
to tail- but you'll have to go down deep to see the coral these days.

Generally speaking, I enjoyed my time on the Gilis, but I could not help but notice just how much of the natural environment has been hacked to oblivion. Walking down the main road on the east side of Trawangan, there are derelict lots filled with tall weeds, garbage bags of trash, and goats and cats foraging around. I also noticed a couple of large tree stumps, proof that Trawangan was once home to towering trees that provided much (and much-needed) shade and ambiance. These have all been cut down now, replaced by scrubbier vegatation. Also, there's a lot of trash on the beach itself, along with piles of bricks, tools, and half-started building projects.

All in all, I think it's worth going to the Gilis. Spend as much time looking underwater as you can.

Additional photos below
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lovely islandslovely islands
lovely islands

looking across to Air from Meno

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