One of our goals of travelling is to find our own piece of paradise, one of those Robinson Crusoe moments if you will. Whilst planning our journey to the Gili islands, and in particular Gili Meno, and realising there were no boats going directly there, we knew this could be our chance.
After a journey which involved taking a speedboat from Bali to Lombok, and then hopping across each of the Gili islands from Lombok to Gili Air and then Gili Trawangan, our boat had taken us as far as it could. We were on our own now for the last leg of the journey to Gili Meno. Finding some locals on the beach, and a quick negotiation, we had our ‘longtail’ boat that would take us to Gili Meno! We couldn’t wait.
As we approached Gili Meno, we were in awe of what we could see. Gili Meno is a tiny mound of land that just about creeps up from the depths of the ocean, surrounding itself with beautiful reefs and creating a beautiful mosaic of turquoise green waters and dark blue waters, all crystal clear. If you wanted to explore the entire coastline it would only take a couple of hours, and you could walk straight across the island in about 20 minutes. It’s small and perfectly formed.
Jumping off our longtail boat with the locals into the water and grabbing our bags, we had arrived on our desert island!
Doing Nothing On The Gili Islands
Gili Meno is laid back, and it’s hard to get going when you could just sit on the beach all day! We spent our week there walking along its deserted beaches, marvelling at the crystal clear light green and dark blue waters. We’d walk for an hour along the beach and not see another person, or take a stroll along the dusty track to a shack on the beach 10 minutes away, grab a fruit juice and read on the bamboo deck. We’d sit in one of the covered bamboo huts next to our hut and read, talk and listen to music.
It was absolute paradise, and might possibly be the closest we’ll get to our Robinson Crusoe experience. The island has no native fresh water, no roads, no cars, and no motorbikes. In fact, if you want to go anywhere and not walk, a horse and cart is your only option.
Along the coastline, bamboo shacks puncture the natural vegetation every 15 minutes or so, connected to each other via the beach or a small dirt track. Power cuts are frequent, and there are no hawkers on the beach pushing their wares, save for a few laid back friendly people offering a bracelet or fresh coconut/pineapple. There is no police force, there doesn’t really seem the need for one. You won’t find a bar blaring out music, but you’ll find Bob Marley playing out from almost every bamboo shack along the coastline.
Gili Meno is famous for its snorkelling, and with just cause. So good in fact that every morning we’d see a few small boats anchor offshore carrying people from the neighbouring Gili islands of Gili Air and Gili Trawangan to snorkel above our reefs.
We snorkelled once, and as we floated above the reef, Laura suddenly nudged me and gestured to look ahead. Could it be? Out of the green darkness the faint outline of a large turtle, moving effortlessly and graciously towards us, the swell of the ocean drifting it left, then right but always moving forwards, edging itself ever closer to us.
We couldn’t believe our luck! We lay perfectly still on the surface of the water as it came closer and closer. What should we do? We didn’t want to startle it so we stayed perfectly still as it glided underneath us on its journey. We turned around and followed it for a few minutes, in awe of what we were witnessing. And then, slowly, it turned to go into deeper waters. We stopped and watched it move slowly from the shallow turquoise waters to the deeper, darker blue waters. Slowly fading into the darkness until it was gone. Unable to top that, we swam back to our hut to reflect on a perfect snorkelling experience.
Other than snorkelling, there aren’t that many ‘attractions’ on the island. You could go diving, visit the turtle sanctuary on the east coast of the island, or take a stroll to the salt lake in the middle of the island. Otherwise, the sunsets are pretty spectacular.
Departing Gili Meno on our boat, we looked back as the island we’d called home for a week came into view in full, and we realised how lucky we had been to have experienced such a wonderful place. Landing back on the largest of the Gili islands, Trawangan, felt like moving from a small cottage in the highlands to the centre of London, and we were glad we made the effort to travel to Gili Meno.
Gili Meno is one of our most favourite places in the world. We loved its rustic feel, its lack of things to do, the lack of developments. We loved the people that worked there, the chilled out feeling they provided. But most of all we loved having no pressure to do anything, to go anywhere. Even though we didn’t have much choice in the matter.