When we’d first started planning our travels we had initially planned on heading from Australia straight to Singapore. It was an over-eager travel agent trying to get us to book flights with him for commission that sold me the dream of the Gili Islands.
There are three islands in total – the raucous party-island Gili Trawangan, the more laid back Gili Air and the least developed Gili Meno.
Thinking that perhaps the energetic atmosphere of Gili ‘T’ wouldn’t help in our quest for relaxation, we decided to spend the majority of our time on Gili Meno – the smallest and quietest island. Here, we were told, we would find the best beaches and best snorkelling of all the three.
Unfortunately it was quite clear that this island (which indeed has less visitors) also has the most litter. The island is not as developed as the others and doesn’t have any infrastructure in place at all for dealing with the rubbish generated by tourist resorts, hotels and restaurants. The walk around the island (which takes around an hour) revealed huge mounds of plastic bottles and other detritus which locals occasionally attempt to burn, generating coughing-fit inducing plumes of black smoke and half blackened remains scattered in the bushes.
There were some pretty sights to see too though…
One of the beaches in particular on Meno was beautiful…
… but the rest of the beaches were a bit of a disappointment, considering they were lauded as the ‘best’ the Gilis had to offer. Most were covered in sharp spikes of broken and bleached coral (and or rubbish).
It wasn’t all bad. We ate some great food (strangely, the Gilis are known for pizza…)
…and it was nice to relax for a change after six months of work.
The snorkelling was good too. Once you managed to get out into the sea (which was impossible at low-tide because you would end up cutting your feet on the coral and causing irreparable damage to the reef), a vibrant underwater world of colourful fish and coral awaited.
We even saw three green sea turtles while floating around the shallows.
Deciding to move on to Gili Air for our last few days, we found our favourite island. It is busier with more bars, restaurants and tourists, but it is also bigger than Meno and can accommodate them all! Here, you can easily spend your whole day relaxing on a pretty white-sand beach, maybe occasionally dipping into the water to cool off or spot some more turtles, while a waiter repeatedly brings you cocktails or fresh juice.
What can I say? This travelling thing is hard work!