Gili Meno – 10 days of bliss.
“…a series of swims, naps, novels, games, walks, talks and snorkels with turtles…”
We could end it there, but hopefully some elaboration will convince you that Gili Meno is really worth the effort.
The Gili Islands
When people talk about ‘The Gilis’ they are generally referring to the three tiny Gili islands off Lombok’s northwestern shores (between Bali and Lombok). Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air have become a tourist hub for those searching for a slightly different experience than what mainstream Bali has to offer.
Gili Trawangan (furtherest from Lombok) is the main destination for those party-seeking young backpackers looking to get lost in the endless sounds of deep bass reverberating off the gentle waves. Being the gentle travellers that we are, looking to enjoy natural beauty and soak up God’s amazing creation, Gili Trawangan was the only one of these three that we did not spend time exploring.
Two night on Gili Air, a mini-version of Trawangan (closest to Lombok), was definitely still relaxing and the snorkelling was lovely off the north shore. The Matahari Bungalows did not have a sea view, but were still beautifully finished and well worth 300,000 IRP (including breakfast). Turtles, eels, a ray and a living cowrie were just some of the spots snorkelling off the northern beach (near the Gili Air Wall).
Please note: The management photo on TripAdvisor does not reflect the Matahari bungalows (it shows the beachfront Gili Air Hotel pool with umbrellas which is on the northeastern side of the island).
There are also countless other Gili islands all around Lombok, some inhabited by local Sasak tribes and others not. We did not have enough time to explore these other Gilis or find ways to get there, but it certainly would be off the beaten track from regular tourists.
Meno is awesome
Gili Meno is the middle island, the quietest and the smallest of the three Gili islands. It is difficult to describe how much we loved Gili Meno – so much so that we decided to spend a full ten days here right off the bat. Tranquil island life surrounded by natural beauty and the most stunning coral reef almost right around the island, easily within reach from the beach on every side.
Focussed on preserving its natural assets, Gili Meno boasts a shallow lake (a mangrove conservation area teeming with birds, monitor lizards, Fiddler crabs and golden orb spiders), a turtle sanctuary, a tiny port and a handful of laid back locals and their horse carts. The few lodges, resorts, bungalows and homestays dotted around the island are far enough from each other to give some privacy, but close enough to take a quick walk to find meals. The beach is at most a 10-minute walk away, in any direction.
As on the other islands, and mainland Lombok, the mosque leads prayers five times a day (if there’s electricity); and most times on Gili Meno it’s the island’s children that take turns at the microphone to practice their chants. The islanders are friendly, hospitable, hard-working and always ready for a chat about life in Indonesia. Enterprising and proud of their island, the people are invested in protecting the environment and using tourism in a responsible way (always great to see). It was also interesting to hear mention of an aquaponics documentary that was filmed at the Gili fish farm (somewhere out in the ocean) that the locals go to about once a month on rotation.
Life on Gili Meno is also slightly cheaper for tourists than the other two islands. We were spending about 175,000 IRP per day (for two of us) including accomodation (with breakfast), one other meal and activities (which were free, because we snorkelled right off the beach).
Adem Ayem Homestay
We had an awesome stay at Adem Ayem Homestay (the neighbouring plot to Nura Homestay) in the middle of the island. For only 150,000 IRP a night (low season) there is a wonderful air-conditioned room with en-suite bathroom, free WiFi and porch (and this includes a delicious breakfast from Mama Nura, too).
Nura Homestay is right next to the Mosque, so you’re up at sunrise, however, being a quiet island, we were in bed early too so our days in the sunshine were longer and fuller to enjoy.
Restaurants and Resorts
Gili Meno has quite a large range of restaurants for such a small place and we ate like kings. Indonesian fare is common but there are also a few other types of cuisines on offer. For both cost and authenticity, we stayed with Indonesian dishes and enjoyed curries, nasi goreng, mie ayam and other tasty food – read about Indonesian cuisine here. Our favourite restaurants for the week were Pojok No.5 Star, Two Brother’s, Warung Gratis and Warung Be Family, none of which are on TripAdvisor (these are mostly in the middle of the island as the beach restaurants cost slightly more). On average, we paid about 25,000 IRP per meal per person.
Each day we went out to explore the island and find a perfect spot for the day. Armed with some of the Travelinds Top 10: Beach Travel Items we found a few fantastic places to plonk down and delve into our books, naps and snorkelling hours each day. Life on the island was a series of swims, naps, novels, games, walks, talks and snorkels with turtles – as it should be. Fantastic!
The one spot is a bit of a secret, but we’ll happily share it so you too can enjoy the peace and quiet of Gili Meno under a shady spot, at the perfect entry point for the stunning coral reef, where we saw turtles every single day! Head along the beach towards the Mahamaya Boutique Resort from Diana Cafe.
Just before Mahamaya, you’ll see a huge bush on the beach with a shady spot inside it. Tucked away from the sun and the tide line here, it is possible to spend hours and hours reading, sleeping, relaxing and swimming – and hang up your snorkels and sarongs on one of the tree branches when you’re done.
Getting to the Gili Islands
The Gili Islands are relatively easy to reach from Bali or Lombok, but you will need to set aside some extra time if you are not taking the fast boats. The options are:
- Fly to Bali. Take a shuttle with fast boat (a shuttle to Padang Bai and then a fast boat) to the Gili Island of your choice. Book this at any travel agent or online. We paid around 300,000 IRP for this service from Gili Air to the Bali airport.
- Fly to Bali. Take a public ferry from Padang Bai (to Lombok – about 5 hours). Take a van/bus to Bangsal Harbour (2 hours). Take a ferry to Gili Islands (half an hour).
- Fly to Lombok (from Bali – we paid 150,000 IRP with Lion Air). Take taxi/bus to Bangsal Harbour. Take a ferry to Gili Islands.
- We used Option 3 since we spent a few days on Lombok before heading to the Gili Islands.