You have to come here!
Now I’ll explain why…
My alarm went off at the horrid hour of 6am on Tuesday so that I could leave the beautiful Ubud and head off for the even more beautiful Gili Islands on the western coast of Lombok.
I’ve wanted to go to the Gili’s for years, I didn’t even know of their existence until my hypnotherapist friend told me about them. I was mid hypo session when he mentioned them, we were talking about places I wanted to visit, I was actually having a hypnotherapy session to help me save money, pay of my debt to enable me to save up and go travelling. Guess it worked!! Anyway, my friend, Anthony Hilling, mentioned these tiny islands that he had been to and said they were beautiful. That’s all I needed to start researching and work them into my future plans.
I arranged a ferry from Bali to Gili T through Praety’s Homestay for 250,000 rupiah including collection from my hotel in Ubud, drop off at the very pretty pier and the ferry, all included in that price.
The ferry itself was really nice, small but very comfortable, kitted out with comfy leather seats and plenty of leg room so that you could relax.
Near to Lombok the captain tooted his horn, when I looked out of the window there were loads of dolphins right next to the boat, they then began jumping and spinning out of the sea all at once. I’ve seen Dolphins in the wild a few times before and every time it gets me, they are so magical to watch in their own habitat and so playful.
It’s felt like a good sign to see such sensitive animals like Dolphins here, to me it meant that it must be a healthy place for then to live with plenty of food and safe conditions. Which hopefully meant that other sea life would be doing the same!
We arrived at Gili Trawangan around lunchtime, the ferry just glided up onto the soft sandy shore.
I climbed around then outside of the boat and jumped down onto the sand. Out backpacks were unloaded onto the beach and I set off in search of my hotel.
There are no cars or scooters here, you walk, or you cycle (bike available to hire everywhere for around £1.50 a day) or you hire a horse and cart as a taxi. Again being all pro animal welfare, I would advise against it. The horses are scrawny and overworked, ill tempered probably because they are actually ill!
My hotel, 3 Birdy’s Homestay was in from the beach in a more villagy area. It looked nice! Only, they had double booked my room and they were now full. Great. So I was taken next door to Bukit 2, a small basic homestay run by a man and his wife who live in the tiniest of homes, maybe no bigger than an English garden shed. It makes you realise how much we have in the UK and how much we take for granted. They had one room left, it looked okay with two beds and a very basic bathroom, but it was only 130,000 a night with breakfast so i took it. The room is nice enough but the only thing was that the bathroom stank and was pretty dirty. I always carry a bottle of detol so that immediately got swished about and left to soak in.
The island itself is almost split in half, on the eastern side there are tons of bars, restaurants and shops, ATM’s, even a Billabong store, on the western side it is pretty untouched, just a few decent hotels scattered here and there. Gili T reminds of a bigger version of the Maldives, there’s more to do and see but it still has the stunning views and rich sea life.
Snorkelling around the island isn’t as spectacular as the Maldives or Egypt, the corals are mostly dead or bleached, however the turtles love it and you can easily swim out and it minutes be metres from a magnificent hawksbill or green turtle. You are also likely to see rays whilst out snorkelling but they are a little more shy than turtles so will swiftly glide away.
The diving here is supposed to be great so I went to a dive school that I had researched online called Aquadiction. I wanted to dive with a small, friendly yet professional school rather than going with one of the bigger sausage factory style places. Dives cost $35 a dive, so I signed to for the next morning at 9am.
I arrived at 8:30am to set up my tanks and kit and we jumped aboard the dive boat to set off for out dive site, Shark Point. Just 10 minutes later we were backwards rolling off into the sea and off we went into the blue.
We descended only to about 18m and started to fin, I looked down at my dive computer and when I looked up there was a big turtle right infront of me that had swooped down from the surface, it nearly swam into me it was that close! As we swam on you could see turtles all around all non fussed about us being there invading their world.
Our Divemaster and guide Jo lead us on, the current taking us at a nice pace along the corals. I saw lots of sea creatures that I haven’t seen before on that dive, a sea snake, an octopus, obviously an abundance of turtles and one so massive it must have been the size of a lorry tyre! Out of the blue came a herd of 10 big bumphead parrot fish. Pretty cool to see.
On the next dive at the site Deep Turbo, at around 30m we got to see a stunning white tipped shark, about 6ft long that that swimming along the reef. As we approached it came to a rest on a sandbank, so I also slowly rested on the sand to get a better look. I must have been no more than 4-5m away. After a minute or two the shark sprang to life and swam off, but just around the corner there was a big eagle ray, effortlessly gliding through the water. So wonderful to see! After around 45 minutes we ascended back to the surface and relaxed on the boat.
I stayed an extra 3 days on Gili, the sweater was great, the views beautiful and the whole island had an ease about it. I spent many days just cycling about, exploring the small village, the coconut farm, looking for nice spots etc.
I found a gorgeous hotel in the North West side called Le Pirate, brand new, only open 10 days and only from 325,000 a night. The rooms were all in the style of English seaside beach huts, painted prettily in white and blues, well chosen decor, big doors opening out onto the beach and a cool outdoor bathroom. The bath even had a mini garden and decking surrounding it. Loving their work!
Another place I regularly visited was the Kayu Cafe, packed with lots of healthy salads, smoothies, fresh juices and homemade cakes. Oh and good coffee!
I spent a good amount of time relaxing on Gili, watching the sunset over the volcano on Bali and snorkelling with the turtles, but I then moved onto Nusa Lembongan, about 2 hours away by boat. I bought my ticket from the Scoot office on Gili T, more expensive than buying your tickets on Bali but they did include a few extras. For 500,000 I got my ticket from Gili T to Nusa, then a free ticket to Sanur from Lembongan and a taxi to the airport! Pretty good all in!