Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Discovering Lombok : Gili Islands

One should always leave an option to island hop to the Gili (read, small islands in Sasak) if they're in Lombok. The Gili are by no means like Bali (so I heard) but they do have their charm in terms of beach life (so to say). Laid-back definitely best describes the Gili collective, with a little edge of party scene and tourist concentration on Gili Trawangan, one of the trio of the more popular Gili (I need to clarify though, the trio are not the only Gili in Lombok but they are generally the more visited ones).

Lombok's Gili has been a concentrated destination to dive, snorkel and party. The charm of the Gili that intrigued me the most is that they are supportive of environmental focus - most notably the absence of motorized vehicles in the islands.

Senggigi Harbor
We chose to follow a privatized tour from our stay in Senggigi, and basically chartered a motorized outrigger to the Gili arranged by our hotel. The so called harbor from the Senggigi beach is minutes away from where we stayed, and we departed from the harbor instead of getting to the Bangsal harbor by land. Either way, the journey to the Gili took us an hour and a half to get there, it's really your choice to spend the hour on land (Senggigi to Bangsal) or sea (Senggigi to Gili)

Map of the Gili from Lombok taken from Wikipedia.
Our first pit stop was Gili Meno, after an hour odd of perceived seafaring. The snorkeling experience here is shy from the ones I had in Koh Samui, Thailand and Pulau Mamutik, Malaysia, maybe because of the location to where we stopped was just not up to par. Oh, if you're lucky you may see (and swim with) turtles but yeah, just fishes when I was there. By the way, we did not land on Gili Meno per se, as we only snorkeled from the outrigger in the middle of the sea.

We were then taken to Gili Trawangan for lunch/break/eye candying. Had pizza and the local's favorite beer, the Bintang.

Fave combo?
You can attempt getting your scuba diving license and lessons here, as there are ample dive shops here that could assist you (do check the rates online prior arriving so that you can gauge your budget when you are here).

Do note the 'Dive Sites' when you are here as well, we didn't cover those as we only visited the Gili as day trip versus those who are staying in Gili Trawangan itself.

The Turtle Conservation Centre (about 5 minutes away from the harbor) is where the locals raise and kept the young for about a year before releasing them to the sea (Apparently there is a big fiesta/ceremony when the release is being done here in Gili Trawangan, fitted with Lombok rhythms and dances). Oh, you can also donate to the conservation cause here to aid the release of the turtles.

Turtle Conservation anyone?
Dubbed the backpacker's party island, the scene here is definitely far livelier than Senggigi itself. Party responsibly though, as there are cases of drink spiking on the island (so I heard). Food ranges from western and local, and their prices are touristy reasonable (read : more expensive as this is after all a tourist area). Getting around, you either walk, use the cidomo (horse carts) or cycle by renting a bike there. 

Bicycle Ride or Cidomo Stride?
Our last snorkeling site was Gili Air, which is the closest island to the mainland. From the laid back beach here, you may spot Mount Rinjani, the tallest peak in Lombok. Speaking of which, throughout the boat rides, we also spotted Mt. Agung, and basically that was the closest I got to Bali (for now).

Shores of Gili Air
Massive Outrigger Derping
And there you have it, Lombok's Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air! If beach retreat is what you're looking for, I would suggest that a stay in Gili Trawangan is possible, saves the boat ride fatigue and more party/beach time. Otherwise, the Gili is definitely notable and must go, if you're ever in Lombok. :)

Smelly feet photo to end the blog post!