Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia – Still searching for the perfect tropical island experience, our next destination was the Gili Islands, which came highly recommended by a Canadian guy we met in Kuta. The Gilis are actually three small islands located near the island of Lombok. We decided on Gili Air, which is smaller and less crowded than the more popular resort destination of Gili Trawangan, but has a little more infrastructure than the smaller Gili Meno.
To reach Gili Air we took a bus from Ubud and then transferred to a ferry. For some reason the ferry company times their departure from the port on Bali so that they arrive at the Gilis just as the sun sets. The islands don’t have piers so we when we arrived at Gili Air we had to climb from the ferry into a smaller boat and then wade to shore with our bags, all in the pitch black of night. A task which, I can assure you, is fairly difficult even when I can see.
We had already decided on where we wanted to stay, so upon arrival it was just a matter of figuring out how to get there. There are no cars or motorbikes allowed on Gili Air, so we weren’t descended upon by hordes of drivers offering ‘transport’, although we did have to firmly brush off several people who were aggressively trying to get us to stay at their hotels. Because it was so dark, we decided to take the only form of transport available on the island, a horse drawn carriage.
In the morning we were awoken to the sound of some overzealous roosters and the 4.30 am call to prayer – no sleeping in here. We walked around the entire island in an hour and a half and decided that was enough exertion for a few days. We had an awesome porch with a hammock for Stuart and a loveseat for me, and we spent a lot of time making use of it. Gili Air was just what we were looking for; quiet – aside from the roosters and calls to prayer – good food, nice beaches, and crystal clear water.
The snorkeling around the Gilis is some of the best in the world so we signed up for a snorkeling trip that took us to several spots around the islands. We saw lots of cool fish including the clown fish from “Finding Nemo”. The trip also included a guaranteed turtle sighting – I’m not sure that anyone should guarantee that I will see anything- but I did see one.
Unfortunately, the turtle I saw was in the process of being harassed by a local guide and several Western tourists. Maybe they didn’t read the flyer that I did about how it is important to keep your distance from these shy creatures because they scare easily and are prone to heart attacks. With the guide leading the way several people dove under the water in order to grab the turtle’s shell, flippers and tail. The poor turtle looked distressed and tried to swim away, but it was surrounded, and it took a while for it to make an escape.
At this point in the trip we never bothered making onward plans more than a day or two in advance, which had worked out for the most part thus far, but finally caused a problem when we tried to book onward travel to the islands of Flores and Komodo. We had to fly and there were no flights available for a week, so we had to scrap that plan and travel to Java instead.
It turned out to be okay though. The reason we wanted to go to Flores was to hike a volcano, most of which had been closed off because it erupted a week ago. We wanted to go to Komodo to see its famous dragons and we ended up seeing one of those just hanging out right on Gili Air on our way back from lunch on our last day. Go figure.