The exotic treasures of the Indonesian archipelago have been known for generations. It’s not only the world’s largest archipelago, 17,508 islands, but probably the most diverse, both geologically and culturally. But even Indonesia has its lesser known secrets. One such secret is the Gili islands.
Sitting in clear blue waters off the Northwest coast of Lombok are the Gilis, three very special islands with unique charm, unspoilt simplicity that beg to be explored. The two larger islands, Trawangan and Air, shadow the baby of the group, Gili Meno. At just 15 square kilometers, Gili Meno may be nothing more than a dot in the big picture of our planet, but within the archipelago of Indonesia, it’s a star.
Everyone, at some point of their lives, has dreamt of their perfect fantasy island; nature provides exactly that with Gili Meno. Contained within an almost unbroken peripheral ring of white sandy beach, the island sports natural beauty, arguably, unequalled anywhere in the world. Lush, fertile rain forest, mangroves and coconut palms all wrapped up in peaceful serenity await the explorer.
Getting to Gili Meno
Gili Meno’s miniature stature has not left it being overlooked as to accessibility. All 3 of the Gilis are well serviced from Lombok. Ferries and fast powerboats link the islands with frequent efficient services. The fleets of ferries are modern and crewed by qualified personnel that put safety and comfort of the passengers first. The fast boats are also modern vessels and extremely powerful, a crossing in one of these is an exciting, wind in hair journey worth the experience.
Accommodation on Gili Meno
It may be small, but the island accommodates all travelers, those on a budget and those that want five-star luxury. The western side of the island has been largely untouched, although there are now a few projects that have been approved to increase the island’s ability to accommodate travelers. It is along the Eastern coastline where most of the accommodation is to be found all of which is tasteful and in no way can be seen as a blight on the island’s beauty.
There are several top end resorts along the Western coastline of the island, none of which are in any obtrusive to their surroundings. All of these luxury resorts offer excellent amenities. Air conditioned rooms and bungalows, spas, gyms, Wi-Fi and superb international cuisine served in perfect indoor and outdoor settings.
The take up numbers in the luxury resorts are high, but it is the budget traveler that has the larger choice of accommodation. Thatched huts and bungalows on the beach, or surrounded botanical greenery, predominate. Across the board the quality and service offered to the budget traveler is high. Many locations have private pools and gardens, and with prices starting from around 240 Baht a night including breakfast, value for money is unquestionable. But, budget or 5-star they all offer the warmest of Gili welcomes.
Seeing and Doing on Gili Meno
Gili Meno has its treasures, many of them below the silky blue waters. There are no better physical activities on the Gilis than diving and snorkeling. There is an incredible world of marine life in the waters around Gili Meno supported by its many coral reefs. Getting below the water’s surface exposes a new world of shape and colour that simply must be explored.
Swimming in the colourful piscatorial paradise and amongst the greenback turtles is an experience not to be forgotten. Natures beauty beneath has been given a helping hand by English artist Jason DeCaires Taylor who has created the truly amazing underwater statues known as the nest. This circle of life size human effigies is now beginning to support new marine life and wonderfully compliments to Gili Meno’s underwater beauty.
Of course the wonders of the deep are not enough to satisfy everyone, some travelers also want to relax. The beaches of Gili Meno are second to none, the island is locked in by a perimeter of white soft sand, perfect to lay back and relax in the sun, perhaps sip on a cocktail and ponder on being enwrapped in the ultimate of natural beauty.
The perpetually active visitor will be equally at home on terra firma and find that exploring inland as equally transfixing as that of the warm depths of the Gili Meno’s waters. There are no motorized vehicles on the island, so exploration is on foot or by bicycle. The coconut plantations, mangroves and fertile forest are home to an amazing variation of fauna with an almost unbelievable collection of exotic bird life.
One site that must be seen is the salt water lake, almost central on the island and surrounded by lush green mangroves. Named Asin Lake, this is a one of the world’s most tranquil locations. Asin Lake is perfect to just sit a while, contemplate life an allow yourself to be swallowed up by the peace inducing sounds of nature.
Also not to be missed is the islands bird sanctuary. Watched over by an Australian ornithologist you can walk amongst many species of colourful parrots and majestic birds of prey. The green turtle hatchery is also a must visit. Learn of the valuable conservation work that is done by the dedicated workers and gush over the lovably cute youngsters swimming around their hatching pools.
Yes, Gili Meno is small, and yet it beats with a massive heart of all that is natural and unspoilt. There is no glitz and glamour or retail therapy, no throbbing night clubs, no rush hour and no traffic jams. But there is charm, peace, tranquility and masses of beauty that await every traveler.