The journey from Bromo to Senggigi was epic, if uneventful. I took a bus from Bromo to Probolingo then from there a bus and ferry over to Denpassar Bali. I holed up for a couple of hours in a nearby hotel before hopping on another bus and ferry to Mataram on Lombok. All that was left then was a bemo to Senggigi and I was ready to sleep. I had departed at seven in the morning and arrived in Senggigi at five in the afternoon the following day.
In truth the journey was not over. The next morning I was up early and on a bus to Bagsal where I caught another boat to Gili Meno, one of three islands that make up the Gili islands. Each island seems to have its own niche. The Lonely Planet described Meno as an island where you can live out your Robinso Crueso fantasies. It sounded like the one for me yet being peak season and with the Gili islands being relatively close to Bali I thought fat chance.
Sometimes though you land on your feet. On my walk up the coast I bumped into a builder. He said his friend had a hut. Normally that corresponds to commission galore but the price he quoted was under what I had budgeted so I took off after him. What he showed me was not hidden a mile away from the beach, nor was it a chicken coop, it was one of three well designed huts, ten meters from the sea with nothing in the way to spoil the view. The sight of a hammock only added to my smile.
Digging out my book I was struck by the silence. The three huts were isolated from anything else. There is also no motorised forms of transport on the Gili islands. The only means of getting around is either on foot, bicycle or horse drawn cart. Sounds idyllic? It certainly was. My days on the island quickly found routine. Up by seven, snorkel, breakfast, snorkel, write, lunch, read, dinner, bed. Time flew by at the expense of doing very little. I’ve been on the move for such a long time that a week of doing nothing in such a beautiful and relaxing place was just wonderful.
I thought that the above would be enough for me to remember Gili Meno in a very positive light but one experience dominated all others.
Four out of the five days that I snorkeled I swam with turtles, directly outside my hut. The only day I failed was because I overslept. At seven thirty I would get up and go straight to the water. They lived around fifty meters out, over sand and then onto the coral reef. Against the currents it would take a while before spotting one of those magnificent animals swimming with such grace. On the third day I swam with one for twenty minutes, it was a real treat. On my final snorkel I swam with three different turtles, one of them was huge, I dread to think how old. It had another decent sized fish attached to its underbelly. A truly unforgettable experience.
The reef on my patch was vast if not in the greatest condition. There were spots of blue and some noticeably living parts but the best was around the other side of the island with some good patches. The fish too were smaller than I had seen on Koh Tao or Pulau Weh. There were a couple of Trigger fish but none of those huge fluorescent fish that I had gotten used to seeing in other snorkel spots. It didn’t matter though; it was all about the turtles!
Meno wasn’t quite Robinso Crueso. It had a restaurant within a couple of minutes but that was good for breakfast. The three main restaurants which formed the busy area of the island was a good fifteen minute walk along a sandy path passing very little on the way except trees and empty land. It had enough amenities to make life easy and such was the island that despite nearly every piece of accommodation taken, the island was beautifully quiet and peaceful.
If there was to be one drawback it would be that come midday low tide would kick in and the ocean would become un-swimmable. But in some ways that was nice. I didn’t want to much physical exertion! On a couple of evenings I would take the hour long stroll around the island as the sun was setting. That was all rather nice and whilst the beach that circles the whole of the island is scarred with dead coral, it is still far better than most I have been on.
I stayed for seven nights. That was about right. By the end of my stay I felt recharged and ready to go again. Upon leaving however, I found it hard to pass over the key to paradise.