Gili Meno – Our week in paradise
The Gili Islands – Islands with clear turquoise waters, white sandy beaches and a tropical island vibe! You can find these islands just off the coast of Lombok, close to Bali.
There are three islands. The main island, the furthest from the mainland, is Gili Trawangan. Also known as Gili T, the island is THE party island with great night-life, lots of restaurants and plenty of hotels. Closest to Lombok is Gili Air, still busy with upcoming hotels but a more relaxed vibe than Trawangan. In-between is Gili Meno, the island we chose, which is known for its slow-paced lifestyle and for having the best beaches of all the islands.
What a ride! The Fast-Boat to Gili
There are many companies in town offering fast-boat tickets, Gili-Cat, Marina Srikandi and Wahana to name a few. We spoke to an up-beat local in a small office just off of Legian Street, who recommended Wahana to us. As I’ve worked with them in the past during my time at Perama, we haggled over the price, and agreed on 400.000 IDR or 25 EUR per person for both ways including pick-up and drop-off at the hotel.
We got picked up from our Kuta hotel around 10am by a mini-van and we hopped on the boat at 1pm. As we used the fast-boat several times before we knew what to expect (usually a bumpy ride) but nothing prepared us for what happened next.
It started off pretty relaxed, people were jolly, drinking beers and sat on the roof of the boat. Things turned south real quick about half way, at open sea, where the people up top and their luggage got completely drenched by huge waves. Then the left-front hatch of the boat broke open, allowing huge amounts of water to get into the fast-boat! Anna-Lena was quick to lift our bags from the floor, otherwise our stuff, including cameras, would have been worthless! One of the crew got tossed against the wall like a rag-doll when the hatch opened a second time. As the boat slowed down the crew got the hatch back under control and tied it closed with a thick rope. To make matters worse, the engine had a major oil spill and the whole boat was now engulfed in the horrendous smell of kerosene. The depleting oxygen and massive waves created perfect conditions to make even the most die-hard traveler close to throw up. As the waves were huge we couldn’t open the windows to get some air in the boat. Saying the ride seemed to last forever would be an understatement. Under loud applause by some of the terrified tourists we landed in Gili Trawangan over an hour later than planned. What a ride!!
We then waited for close to an hour for the public ferry to take us across the straight to Meno.
Finally in Paradise! Gili-Meno
Our hotel, Turtle Meno Bungalows is only a short stroll away from the harbor and a perfect beach is never far away! We were warmly greeted by Adi, the host, who was quick to offer us a welcome drink and to check us in. We booked a cuter than expected bungalow with a large patio overlooking the garden – perfect conditions for a relaxing week.
We woke up early the next day to blue skies, a welcome change to the last couple of days, and we immediately decided to grab our towels and head to the beach. Just as we remembered, the Gili Meno beach is incredible, blue sky with turquoise waters overlooking Rinjani in the distance (Rinjani is the largest volcano on Lombok). We chilled at the beach for the better part of the day and spend our afternoon hanging on the patio. If you’re looking for a place to chill and get away from it all, Gili Meno is the place to be!
Every morning we had a banana pancake breakfast and made our way to the best part of the Meno beach, in front of Kontiki Bungalows. Soft, vanilla-colored sand and small trees make up the perfect setting for a beach day. We tried to avoid the hottest part of the day as we didn’t want to become lobsters and mostly enjoyed some snacks with a young coconut in the shade. Living it up in paradise!
Walking around the Island on foot
We spend an afternoon exploring the island on foot. You can walk around the entire island in about two hours. There are several tropical bars on the far side of the island, secluded from the rest from the island. You won’t find many people there. There is nothing more relaxing than hanging on a swing on a perfect empty beach listening to mellow music. As you walk on the beach you come across beautiful shells, coral and little crabs. Close to the harbor there is a small turtle sanctuary upheld with dedication from a local named Bulong and donations from tourists. Well worth a visit when you’re on Meno.
Exploring the Gili Islands
By far the best way to explore the islands is by boat. On the island many locals offer glass bottom boat snorkeling tours. Usually the tour takes about three hours taking you to the best snorkel spots at each island. On a good day you can see turtles, stunning coral and colorful fish. We saw all three and more! We started our tour around ten in the morning at a spot called “The Wall” off the coast of Gili Air. It’s named like that because of an enormous wall of coral, stretching for about a kilometer. Here we saw our first turtles hiding in the deep browsing through the seaweeds and coral. They are definitely one of our all-time favorite animals. The coral came in all sorts of colors, shapes and sizes. We got back into the boat and went back to Gili Meno. Off the northern shore lies a spot named “turtle haven” as its famed for being the best spot to see turtles up close. Our guide of course told us that there is always a chance that you won’t see any, but we saw many! In all shapes and sizes! They were so accustomed to humans that they simply do their thing, even coming to the surface right next to you! The most magical moment we had, looking at one of the turtles in the shallows, not bothered by my camera at all. In this area we also saw the most colorful fish and breathtaking coral, making it the best snorkeling spot of the day! Ecstatic we hopped back on the boat, which took us to another spot of the coast of the third island, Trawangan, where we had another scenic snorkel adventure. Our last stop of the day was on the other side of Meno, where they created some statues in the water, although interesting to some, it wasn’t really our thing. However, getting on a boat is definitely the way to go and explore these islands!
We can really recommend the Gili Islands to anyone! Each island has its own character and has something to offer for everyone. The friendly people and amazing food are worth a visit. We really enjoyed chilling at the beach and snorkeling. The relaxing island vibe rubbed off on us, so no rush!
Stay tuned for our upcoming post about Bali – Island of the Gods 😊