Turtle Power on Gili T (Day 174 - 177 by Chris)

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March 8th 2016
Published: March 19th 2016
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Tuesday 8th March 2016

After a quick breakfast we headed to the mini bus with Nicole and after 30 minutes we arrived at a small restaurant by the port and were told to wait for 1 hour as the boat didn't leave until 10am. At 9:55am we were told to get into a horse drawn cart which would take us 100 metres to the port. As we were about to climb in I asked whether we had to pay for this and the driver said 'yes'. My South East Asia conning radar was now switched back on having been turned off in Malaysia. I told Nicole who was climbing into her own cart and 2 other girls getting into their cart. I told them that we should walk, but the sneaky horse men had left our departure until pretty much the last minute so that we couldn't make it to the port in time should we walk. Much to their annoyance we all walked as fast as we could to the port. When we arrived we actually had a 20 minute wait until our boat departed. We had booked a ticket through the hotel and they told us that we were paying £4 per ticket instead of £1 as we would be getting a boat to ourselves rather than being squeezed into an overcrowded boat full of locals. When we were directed to the boat, low and behold, it was the local boat which was then overcrowded with local people and all sorts of luggage. We have read that Indonesia is famous for trying to squeeze every penny from 'rich tourists' and after only a few days we'd experienced this first hand, a few times. Firstly with the taxi driver in Jakarta who didn't want to use the meter, then the taxi driver in Jojga who tried to charge us double what the meter was showing, the taxi driver from the airport, the hotel selling us an over priced ticket for the local boat and the men with the horse drawn carts. We felt like we were caught off-guard a little as Malaysia was nothing like this and Indonesia seems to be more dodgy than any of the other places we've been so far.

After a short 20 minute boat journey, which in hindsight wasn't actually that bad, we arrived at Gili Trawangen Island where we were booked in for a 4 night stay. There are 3 Gili islands, Gili Trawangen (Gili T), Gili Meno and Gili Air. Gili T is the largest and most popular. It is said to have great beaches and a good nightlife. Gili Meno is the smallest with amazing beaches and lots of great snorkeling spots for fish and turtles and then there's Gili Air which is meant to be a more laid back island. We would be visiting all 3 including 4 nights stay on Gili Air and a day trip to Gili Meno.

We were booked into stay at a homestay called Blue Moon. When we arrived we checked in (leaving Nicole and a French girl we'd befriended on the boat to find their own accommodation) and prepared ourselves to head straight to the beach. It was only 11am and we had the whole day ahead of us. We found a quite spot on the beach which to our surprise was not as pristine as we imagined. Still gorgeous, but unfortunately over years of tourists boats coming to the island, lots of coral that used to surround the beach has been broken and it now lines the beaches making the sand very difficult to walk on. The sea though was a turquoise green and blue and with the view of the volcano on nearby Lombok, we sat and had an enjoyable and relaxing few hours falling in and out of sleep under the shade of a tree.

In the evening we headed to a pizzeria and against our judgement ordered 2 pizzas despite knowing that this place did big pizzas. Suffice to say we both struggled to eat the whole thing and after our fill we headed back to the room to get some sleep. The room though was like a pizza oven. It was roasting on account of no having air con. The small fan only seemed to blow hot air around, i think we'd have been better off using a hairdryer.

Wednesday 9th March 2016

For our first full day on the island we went on the lookout for turtles. This part of the world is famous for turtles and there are various snorkeling trips that you can leave on, however we thought we'd try our luck snorkeling just off the shore. We found a nice spot on the beach and were only sharing this strip with about 5 other people. As the day progressed though the numbers increased, but not to an uncomfortable number despite Gili T being the busiest of the 3 Gili islands.

We attached our snorkels and masks and waded out into the shallow, clear and warm water. The water stayed the same depth for roughly 100 metres and after realising we'd swam that far out and being worried about an unexpected current, we decided to swim back to the beach slightly disappointed that hadn't spotted a turtle, but happy we had seen some fish. As we approached the beach we spotted something big on the bottom of the sea bed. It also saw us and then started to move. It was a MASSIVE turtle! Slightly camouflaged against the coral sea bed we were lucky to have swam into its path. We quickly got the underwater camera working and stalked the turtle for about 30 seconds before it got bored of us and sped off very quickly. We were in awe of the most beautiful creature we've ever seen. Nothing could've prepared us for the shock at the size, grace and beauty of the turtle which must've been the size of coffee table at least! We got back to our spot on the beach and immediately looked at the footage. At that moment we could've left Indonesia very content at seeing what we were both hoping for, but not really expected.

In the evening we took a walk down the main beach front and popped into a couple of bars and had some food before heading home for bed. The room was unbearably hot and we slept with the fan propped up as close to the bed as it go.

Thursday 10th March 2016

After the epic day of turtle spotting yesterday today was about exploring the island. The island is about 4km all the way around and is best explored by bicycle and luckily there are an abundant of bikes to hire. For a couple of quid each we hired 2 bikes and set off to see what the other side of the island had to offer. The part we were staying at, close by the pier was the busy part, full of bars, restaurants, dive shops and travel agents. As we traveled to the other side though, the crowds dissipated and so did the collection of bars and shops. We saw a more relaxing feel to the island and also many big, fancy resorts. Its fair to say that its an island of 2 halves.

After circumnavigating the island quicker than we thought, we found ourselves at the same spot as yesterday so decided to settle down on the beach, occasionally taking a dip to cool down and also buying the odd Bintang beer from the nearby restaurant. As the clouds started to roll in, we made our way back to our oven like room and popped out for dinner before calling it a night.

Friday 11th March 2016

For our final day on Gili T before moving onto Gili Air for 4 night we decided to take it easy (because the past few days have been very stressful....). We had breakfast at our homestay and made our way back to the same spot on the beach where we'd spent the past 2 days. We took our snorkels again hopeful that we might be lucky enough to see a turtle.

After swimming around for only 5 minutes we saw someone swim past us very quickly and noticed that she was chasing a turtle. We quickly followed and saw a much smaller turtle than that on our first day, but this was still big enough to take us by surprise. Again, we got the camera rolling and managed to swim alongside the turtle for at least a minute before letting it swim away from us. As we were heading back to the beach to watch the footage we spotted another one, but this one was HUMONGOUS!!!! It was nonchalantly swimming, but because of its huge fins, it was covering ground (or sea) too fast for us to keep up. We made our way back to the beach speechless that we had managed to find 3 turtles so close to the beach without having to pay for an expensive snorkeling trip. We then spent the rest of the day in the sun and drinking beer.

After returning home and showering we headed out to the Italian pizza place again. We discussed this at length and came to the agreement that this place does the best pizzas we have ever had and its a shame we wont be able to eat here again. We returned back to the room to pack our bags ready for our early departure the next day to Gili Air.

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