Sometimes traveling slowly can be more enjoyable than the “preferred”, faster transportation. During our return trip to Gili (a series of islands located just off the northwest tip of Lombok, Indonesia) we meandered rather than take the Gili Cat, a brand new speed boat. We had more time to meet people and ultimately arrived in the Gili’s after several days in Senggigi.
Gili T seems so different compared to our time here in 2008. Is that why they say, “You can never go back?” I wish infrastructure would develop without compromising beauty, the coral and the shoreline. Last time we traveled in Southeast Asia we did not arrive until September which is after the “high” season. I remember all the coastlines being quiet, as most tourists had returned to school from their holidays.
We left Gili T by public boat for 20,000Rp ($2/each) and in about fifteen minutes arrived at Gili Meno. A bustling scene greeted us – tourists arriving, locals awaiting. After a few key questions, we set off by foot on the trail to the sunset side of the island. I was told the walk would take 40 minutes. Upon encountering a fork in the road we stopped, puzzled as to which direction to take. A little girl stood nearby. “Panta? (beach) … Sunset, Gekko?” She pointed both ways. It is an island, she was telling us. I said, “Bagus? Indah?” (More better? Pretty?) She pointed and said, “Sunset Gekko.” So we went to the left. I felt like the instructions were on the order of: “turn left at the coconut tree, then right at the coconut tree and when you hit the water, you are there.”
Already, the snorkeling was much better than what we saw at Gili T. Immediately we counted two turtles, several schools of fish, and many colorful hard and soft corals. I also saw a lobster. I called to George to make sure he saw it as in hundreds of snorkeling excursions and over 300 dives I had never seen one wander about so much and have such a colorful look. Later that day during sunset, I saw dolphins jumping and spinning. What a great day! The next day, we snorkeled and walked the entire island. I told George at dinner, “What a great two days! We saw turtles, dolphins and volcanoes in the distance at sunset.”
We Be Cafe has phenomenal cap cai (stir fried vegetable Indonesian dish); the best of the whole trip so far! We chatted with the owner who also has We Be Cottages on the other side of the island and is related to the owner of our guest house, Gili Garden.
We bought fruit on both days from a woman named Sophie. For twenty years she has been selling fruit, doing manicures and pedicures, as well as doing laundry for guests. She has an eight year-old son and a seven month-old baby. The first fruit she cut for us was mango; she was able to create a holder as well as a way to eat this fruit by hand, sans utensils. I loved the way she cut the pineapple for us – I called her a “fruit artist”. Tonight we had a fresh coconut. I owed her 15000 for the coconut but only had a 50000rp note ($5usd). She could not get change so tomorrow she will pay us the change in fruit.
Mr. We Be Cottages chatted with us about the coral. Twenty years ago you could see the coral from the sand as it was so healthy and so plentiful. He said that the locals are waiting for the government to assist with the installation of moorings for the boats, so setting anchors will no longer damage the coral. We talked about how the coral at Gili T is mostly dead and the turtles are nearly gone. He said they know their own reef is dying as well as the one at Gili Meno; they want to save both. He said the government is going to make protected areas; we can only hope the hour is not already too late.
Lisa Niver Rajna was recently on National Television as science teacher on the show Career Day, she is a 2012 nominee for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching, and a member of the Traveler’s Century Club for travelers who have been to over one hundred countries. She and George are spending a year in Asia, follow their travels at www.WeSaidGoTravel.com