Gili T let me be your fantasy

Posted: April 10, 2011 in Indonesia
Tags: , ,

We’d heard about the Gili islands from many people we’ve met on our travels and also from friend on Facestalk. The Gilis consist of three tiny islands of the north west coast of Lombok, the island that lies at the western tip of the Nusa Tenggara in Indonesia. I did some research on the travel forums but all I found were lamentations about the rapid surge in tourism that has converted previously Robinson Crusoe hideaways into beach retreats for the bros and bro-hos. One particularly bitter thread posted the comment “The Gilis in the 80s were wonderful but now they’re just full of bloody tourists”. We thought we’d add to the swelling numbers of sun seekers.

We swept rapidly through Bali, landing in Denpasar on April 7th and heading direct to the tranquil port of Padangbai by taxi. We opted to spend 1 day enjoying snorkelling at Blue Lagoon (hugely over-rated though) and wandering town talking to the locals. Indonesian people are so friendly and happy that it’s really nice to just hang and chat with them for a while. Most of them speak very good English as English is like an unofficial second language on most of the islands.

Through our guesthouse we booked the fast boat out to the Gilis for Saturday 9th and headed out early with a large crew of eager tourists.  The boat takes about 90mins and en route you pass along the coast of Bali and over to Lombok before heading out to the Gilis. We were fortunate to see many dolphins swimming along with the boat, always a privilege.  The approach to Gili Trewangan, the largest of the Gilis, is fantastic; the boat arcs around Gili Air and Gili Meno towards a sun-kissed stretch of sand surrounded by palms. The backdrop is the rugged coastline of Lombok with its verdant slopes and moody clouds hanging at the peaks. It is the paradise I’ve long been looking for.

Lombok coastline

I thought fondly of the bitter forum posters when the latest rabble of gringos dropped down on the shores of Gili T to invade the island.

Saturday night fever

I was encouraged by a local tout to check out a new bungalow resort away from the beach strip called Woodstock. About a 5min walk from the boardwalk, Woodstock lies in a peaceful village surrounded by local homes. It’s more like being in the middle of a farming community than on a beach island. It opened 2 months ago and is run be a lovely Indonesia man and his team of super friendly staff.

Initially I was annoyed because the tout has misled me about price – it was 250,000Rp instead of the 150,000Rp promoted at the jetty. The manager was sympathetic and said he could give me the room for 200,000Rp with breakfast included. I was sore that I’d been lied to and said I needed to speak with my wife. Muneeza at this point was en route having been picked up by a horse driven cart. When she saw the room we both agreed it was a cool place so we would pay the extra.  It has proven a wise decision because it is away from the noise of the bars and free of irritating booze-fuelled kids. There is a lovely retired Dutch guy here who is travelling with his mid-20s Indonesian wife; she is tiny and stunning. He has done well!

Woodstock bungalows Gili Trewangan

We decided to do nothing on Saturday except book our Komodo trip. After some haggling we managed to get the 4-day trip down to 1,400,000Rp per person, saving over 600,000Rp each from the prices in Bali. Ever since I first saw Komodo Dragons on a BBC wildlife documentary produced by Richard Attenborough, I’ve wanted to go looking for these giant lizards. Now I finally have my chance and we leave on Monday 11th.

In the evening we tucked into a wonderful beachside fish BBQ – I tried Grouper for the first time and it was superb. Muneeza had a red snapper (I leave the gags to you). We then hit Sama Sama bar, which has live music every Saturday. The staff are really lovely and know how to have a good time. As the local band plays its mix of Indonesia blues and reggae, they dance behind the bar. The crowd started to swell after 9pm and a Canadian lady who is living here for a while got on stage and started to perform her own songs. She was excellent though she smelled a bit wrong.

Sama Sama club Gili Trewangan

Happy hour broke us both. Muni hit the vodka and I indulged in some sharp Jamaican dark rum. It just so happened that we got talking to a half Jamaican chap who lives on the island and he was most entertaining. A few sheets to the wind, we decided to head home before we really ruined ourselves; a rare moment of savvy judgement.

Around the island by foot

I awoke on Sunday morning with a dry mouth and pounding head. The joys of middle age drinking. After breakfast we hired snorkel equipment (a bargain 45,000Rp for everything) and set off on our intended around-the-island walk and snorkel mission.

The first place we jumped in was rubbish as there was no reef and no fish, so walked further and bumped into a Finnish lady who snorkels here a lot and she showed us the best place. Though the reef was average and much of it dead or dying, there was an abundance of sea life. We saw large shoals of fish and lots of bright colours. It was a pleasant place to snorkel but the current was really strong. We had to get out about 500m further down the beach and walk back because it was near impossible to swim against the current.

Snorkel beach

After a quick rest we set off around the island in search of the next snorkel spot.  Alas the weather changed fast and soon the dark clouds descended. The waves picked up and the tranquil waters churned with sand. Visibility deteriorated and we decided to call it a day. We enjoyed the walk around the rest of the island before heading back to Woodstock for a power nap.

And here I sit on Sunday evening, rain cascading from dark grey clouds. It’s not the tropical paradise you dream of but tomorrow we head off on the eagerly awaited 4 day boat trip to trek for Komodo Dragons on the islands of Komodo and Rinca at the eastern tip of Nusa Tenggara. The next post will hopefully include pictures of the beasties, fingers crossed.

Love jamer & muneeza x


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