The Gili’s. Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan. The beautiful archipelago of three islands, Lomboks thought bubbles. We stayed on Gili Air, hoping we would find it as Goldilocks did, “just right.” A balance between more developed Gili Trawagan and quiet hideaway, Gili Meno.
The clouds hung moodily over the islands our first day but it remained warm and humid. We had a lie in recovery and a decent meal before exploring the island. The islands lie not far from Lombok with its mountainous landscape in the distance and the turquoise waters and white sands of Gili Air make it a beautiful picture. The island is the most populous of the three but the basic wooden huts and gentle lifestyle give it a very laid back feel. There is no motorised vehicles on the island, just horse and cart but the island is only 10km round so you are never far from anything. We took a walk along the beach. The guesthouses and bars congregate on the south and east sides so you don’t have to walk far to find serenity and picture yourself stranded on a desert island.
We walked the entire way around the island stopping for several dips in the sea to cool off. Ending up back where we started we enjoyed the luxuries of accommodation with a pool!
The Gili’s are home to some fantastic wildlife and dive sites and we decided to do the Advanced open water qualification. With homework now to do we headed to a beachside shelter for food and theory watching a storm blast
We took an early start to the dive school and went out on the boat to Sunset reef. Our first dive had a few more skills to master and we found ourselves descending to 20 metres below. First challenge being the backwards roll off the boat into the water! The thrill of being back in the water is amazing and we saw lots of colourful fish and coral.
Despite walking around the island the previous day we hadn’t located the village. Our instructor directed us into the centre of the island to where the locals live and eat. Here we got some delicious food and plenty of hellos and we weaved through houses and communities of the islanders.
After lunch we were ready for our second dive. We had to practice underwater navigation first and then we began exploring at Hans reef dive site. We saw some incredible sites including a giant puffer fish and a blue spotted stingray which was on the hunt, burying itself to catch some dinner. Right at the end of the dive we saw two green turtles sleeping amongst the coral. It was a real wow moment for us, and a not so overwhelming moment for the turtle who opened one eye and went back to sleep! We thought they were massive, but apparently not so big as some grow to two metres. It was an amazing end to a great day.
In the evening we went to an makeshift open air cinema on the beach and watched the emotional 12 years a slave.
Day 2 of the advanced course started with a deep dive. We went out to shark point on the boat which lies on the other side of Gili Trawangan. We descended straight down to 25 metres and the surge under water was incredibly strong. We were in a rift and we were being pulled hard through, we went as far as 31 metres down. Due to being lower and fighting a current our air went down a lot faster, we were only under about 25 minutes but in this time we saw turtles swimming! Our guide also thinks I got Nitrogen Narcosis, an effect from deeper diving in which the nitrogen in your blood makes you act like you are drunk. I felt like I knew what I was doing but was struggling to do things as easily.
After lunch we went to Bounty Wreck to do our wreck dive, the “adventure” we had chosen. The wreck was a pontoon which lay between Gili Trawangan and Gili meno and used to transport passengers between the two islands. It is said to have been sunk 30 years ago by passengers angry at price raises. Alongside the wreck is three bicycles which along with the wreck have become home to new soft corals and lots of beautiful fish and flat rock crabs.
We had a walk inland late afternoon on a path which dissects the village. We passed the schools and settlements of the islanders and ate at a local cafe.
We were back at the dive school at sunset to prepare for our night dive. After theory and preparation we entered the water from the shore as we were going to dive nearby Gili Air. The sensation of diving at night was very different. The fish hang in the water asleep which is so strange and new creatures come out to play. Everything else is harder as well as you try and stick together but often end up grouped too close together for fear of loosing each other. It’s also hard to judge distance and stay as buoyant! We saw lion fish, decorated crabs and nemo, as well as sleeping parrot fish. It was a really exciting dive!
We returned to land qualified Advanced open water divers which means we can now go to 30 metres, and also exhausted from an energetic day!
Our last day on Gili Air was very relaxed. We took breakfast in our usual spot, enjoying the view of Lombok and the crystal clear waters. After a short stint on the beach we returned to our pool to shelter from the heat of the sun and this is where we spent most of the day.
In the afternoon a young Indonesian girl joined in the pool. I befriended her with a game of aquatic “it” as we took it in turns to be the shark. After possibly 30 minutes of playing with no words she came out with perfect English which was very surprising.
In the evening we returned to the beach cinema to watch Captain Philips and enjoyed the warm evening with a breeze, a short respite from the heat! It has been a beautiful few days and we have enjoyed island life but I am looking forward to returning to aircon!
Next stop, Ubud, Bali!