When we were finally able to leave Ubud early in the morning on July 29th, we were transported to Padang Bai to take the Bluewater express boat to Gili Air. The weather forecast said no wind, but that turned out to be an overstatement – so we took seasickness medication before we left, which proved to be a good idea. The Bluewater company felt safe and orderly, though, and we arrived at Gili Air after around 2,5 hours without anyone of us getting really seasick.
On the Gili Islands, there are no motorized vehicles, so the local means of transportation is horse carriage, which is charming and very quiet. Our bags, suitcases, and Noah (since he was not still feeling too well after his illness in Ubud) were placed in a small carriage, and the rest of us walked the 15 minutes to “Unzipp Bungalows”, which are located just by the best reef for snorkeling on the island. The place is nice, quiet, friendly and has a pool – everything we needed.
The bathroom is outside the bungalow in a small private garden, so you get to shower open air, which was really nice (except for the small leaches inhabiting the garden – Line has a phobia for leaches, which had the positive side effect of limiting the time for getting ready to go out).
There are some palm trees in the garden that are perfect for setting up a slack line, so Jesper and Noah were able to practice their talents. It’s a really easy way of getting to know other people, as it attracts a lot of attention and many people are happy to try it out.
The 3 days we spent on Gili Air were basically the same: sleeping as long as possible, having breakfast in the sand right by the ocean, snorkeling all day and going to a next door restaurant on the beach for great and cheap food (Chill Out Restaurant).
The reef was very accessible from the beach, and we saw nice coral, colourful fish and a few sea turtles – a great way to begin our island hopping in Indonesia.
Noah’s granddad, Niels, stayed with Noah in a bungalow, and if the woke up earlier than the rest of us, they played Chess before breakfast – a new game to Noah taught by his grandfather, who is very good at it.
On day 4 we took a speedboat to Gili Meno, the smallest and least developed of the 3 Gili Islands, to spend 5 days here. The reaction from people who had been on Meno was “wow – 5 days!” but we were really looking forward to a peaceful and quiet place and lots of snorkeling and space and time to play.
Again we took a horse carriage to out bungalows – Sunset Beach bungalows, again just by the best reef on the island. The bungalows are simple but spacious and with mosquito nets and A/C and breakfast included.
Jesper’s dad and Noah stayed in one bungalow and Line, Vitus and Jesper stayed in the one next door. The days here had their own slow routine: We got up around 8, had breakfast in the sand at the small restaurant and then went snorkeling from the beach as early as possible (Low tide kicked in already from around 11 am which made it very difficult to snorkel through the shallow water to the reef). But in the morning it is fine and when you get to the deeper water, it’s among the biggest and most beautiful reef we have ever seen.
The water is warm, too, so you can snorkel for an hour, if you want, without getting cold. Since the reef is the best in Gili Meno, a lot of tour boats arrive around 10 AM or so, so you have to look up from the water often to make sure to be seen by the boats. There are plenty of colourful fish and sea turtles, which make snorkeling here fun for the whole family.
They are building a new resort and as an added gimmick they have dumped a dew statues in front. You wound think that is bad for the coral but actually reefs typically benefit in the long run since it provides a stable structure for new coral to grow on.
Noah spent a lot of time practicing his free-diving skills:
With strong tides follows strong currents. you don’t notice it as much in the shallower part of the reef but on the outer reef where the turtles are it gets so strong you have to swim full speed just to stay put. It’s always great to see turtles though the 100ths time fails to get you as exited as the first few times 🙂
Drift snorkeling is fun though and you almost feel like you a flying over the reef. Here is Noah filming Jesper freediving (he still needs some practice with the camera 🙂 ).
The island is small, only about 5 km in diameter, and we walked around the island twice, as we really like to walk (the boys ran all the way) and wanted to do something a bit more active for a change.
Since our food poisoning in Ubud, we have been less experimental about places to dine, so we only had dinner at 2 different restaurants on Gili Meno; the one at our bungalows and one down the street – and the one down the street wasn’t good, so we went back at eating at our own place (there are only a few restaurants near Sunset Beach bungalows). They cook nice and honest food, which is cheap, too, and we almost went through the whole menu by the time we left the island.
As usual when there is music at the restaurant you find Vitus giving a performance. Showing off both his fast and slow moves – cute 🙂
If you are in the neighbourhood you simply have to try the banana milkshakes (ask for extra chocolate) and the chicken curry – both are amazing!!
Unfortunately it is no wonder that coral reefs around the world are suffering. Not only do they have to deal with rising temperatures bleaching the reefs but some people are so mindblowingly stupid that they drop anchor right in the reefs. It takes them 5 seconds to ruin 50 years of coral growth. When Jesper saw this boat doing it it took him around 5 seconds to put his gear on and swim out there to ask what the f… they were doing.
And lucky that he did. They had dropped around 7 meters of anchor line which was tearing the reef apart and they could not get their anchor up since it was stuck underneath a big coral. Luckily Jesper managed to dive down and free it, but we will refrain from repeating the words Jesper used to send them off when they finally left.
Our time on Gili Meno was just as we wanted it: Sleep, get up as late as possible (8 o’ clock or so), snorkel, read/play/walk/talk/eat and just relax.
Since Jesper’s dad was with us for 11 days, we were able to do something without kids or with only 1 child once in a while. We went out for a drink one night on Gili Meno and ended up at a small and very laid back place with live music performed by a local band from Lombok with a native American in the lead – with feathers, dream catchers and everything.
Great atmosphere, cheep drinks and seaside location – so we hung out there and talked to other guests (a bit younger than us) until 00 – which is late for us:-).
You can always trust Jesper to look stupid when trying to take a selfie with the flash on. This was the best picture out of the 20 we took (his eyes were closed on around 2/3 of them)
Some mornings, Jesper’s dad had been snorkeling before we got up, so he could take care of Vitus, if he did not want to snorkel, while the rest of us went snorkeling for an hour.
Noah lost (or yanked out) his 5. Tooth in Gili Meno, which he was very proud of:-) Now he has lost 1 in Mexico, 3 in Denmark and 1 in Indonesia.
The boys and Line built a coral house on the beach on one of our hikes around the island while Jesper was playing on his slack line along with a group of other grown ups:-)
Gili Meno has been everything we hoped for – One of the best reefs we have ever seen just a few steps from our bungalows, peace and quiet and a nice, family friendly place to stay with good (simple) food and great fruit shakes 🙂
Not to mention beautiful sunsets