The Gili Islands are essentially three tiny blobs of sand just off the North West coast of Lombok, the most westerly island in the Nusa Tenggara archipelago. They have only been inhabited since about the 1960s, and despite the substantial development on Gili Trawangan (Gili T) all three still retain a great deal of rural charm. There are no roads, cars or mopeds allowed on any of them, and the only express transportation available is by horse-drawn rickshaws known as cidomos. There is variety of accommodation available on all three, but it is Gili T, with by far the biggest choice of hotels, that is the most popular. Indeed, it has become Indonesia´s fastest growing tourist destination, and with good reason.
Imagine a tiny island, fringed with white sandy beaches and turquoise water, sporting a range of incredible snorkelling, diving and surfing spots, encircled by a path lined with all manner of funky, rustic and chilled out bars, clubs, restaurants and hotels, each with their own convivial beach area out front. Now add a perfect number of travellers (not too many; not too few), very cheap yet very high quality food, an abundance of cheap cocktails, magic mushrooms and live music, a few hundred cats, and a bunch of extremely chilled out and welcoming locals. It´s probably one of the best places I have ever visited.
The trip was certainly made 1000 times better by Charlotte coming out for a cheeky week-long escape from work and college in Sydney, and we definitely spoilt ourselves. We stayed at the quiet North end of the island at a place called Karma Kayak, but we headed into the main strip most nights to eat and drink. The seafood on the island was amazing, and you cold often just pick out what you wanted from the catch of the day and they would barbeque it right in front of you. One night we had a whole fish, a whole squid and a few giant marron-sized king prawns, plus salad etc, for 15 bucks, all in. Ridiculous!
We spent most of the time on Gili T, although we did a day trip to Gili Meno, which is much more rural and deserted, and has much better beaches. The snorkelling on Gili T was amazing though, with massive reefs full of coral, fish and turtles just metres off the shore. During one swim I saw about eight Hawksbill turtles of various ages, plus a Moray eel and a whole bunch of massive puffer fish. amongst thousands of other species. Obviously the turtles were awesome, especially since this was the first time I´d ever seen Hawksbills. There is also a turtle sanctuary on the island, where they keep Loggerhead and Hawksbill hatchlings in tanks until they are ´big enough´ to be released. I have to say that I don´t really understand the logic behind these kind of projects; presumably the idea is to protect them from being eaten during the first few months of their lives, when they are most vulnerable, but it must really monkey around with their navigation. I wonder how many of these turtles actually come back to nest where they were born.
My friends Ed, Laura and Super Hans were also the island, so when Charlotte headed back to Sydney I went out with them for one last night of debauchery. This was the first time that I´d been out late at the party end of the island, and the atmosphere was fantastic, with great music and lots of very crazy and hilarious bars. Super Hans and I spent most of the night in this bar laughing our arses off watching completely wasted people trying to walk a tight-rope. I´m sure there was a midget there too, but maybe I´m imagining that... very trippy place anyway :) Too funny, as the Aussies would say.
So, after Gili I spent two nights in Udud (see Bali blog), after which I headed into Java, where I discovered another world entirely.