A Travellerspoint blog

December 2012

Gili Islands - a little taste of Paradise

The one thing about Indonesia is that there are so many Islands to choose to visit so we had to make a choice where to go to after Pulah Weh We needed to get from Sumatra to Bali but on route we thought we would stop at the Islands of Lombok and Gili. It was a long journey to lombok and the weather that awaited us wasn’t good (it rained a lot) but it’s a lovely Island. We didn’t explore too much and only stayed in Kuta, a lovely village with beautiful beaches popular with surfers.
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There is diving on Lombok so we were tempted by that but we decided to wait and travel to the much talked about Gili Islands. We had met several people who had been to the Gili Islands and they all seem to have loved it so we hoped we would too. There are 3 Islands to choose from, Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno. Gili T is the party Island and we were warned that it can be too touristy, noisy etc. Gili Air is the closest to mainland and Gili Meno is the quiet Island. They are only 10 min apart by boat so we thought we would try Gili Air to start with as it seemed to be the happy medium (not too quiet, not too crazy). We were a little apprehensive that it wouldn’t live up to the reputation but I’m happy to report that it certainly has. The island is small enough to walk around, has no motorised transport, lovely beach bars/cafes (complete with cocktail happy hours :)) and best of all - amazing snorkeling and diving. During our time on the Island, we spent most of our timein the water. The weather was very hot and humid at times but as the beach is so close its easy to cool down. The waters are really warm too- a real treat for us coming from the cold waters of northern europe- and beneath the surface an underwater paradise awaits.

As a newbie to diving and tropical waters, I’m quite happy to see anything that lives below but the prospect of seeing turtles really excited us. This area is known for turtles and we weren’t disappointed. On a snorkelling trip, we saw our first turtle and it was beautiful. So big and graceful in the water. They really are impressive creatures and they are not so afraid of humans so you can get quite close to them.

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Being on the Island it is hard not to be tempted by the diving. We knew that the snorkelling was really good so we could imagine what the diving would be like. We had planned on doing a few fun dives but in the back of the mind we knew that we could do our advanced open water dive course if we wanted. It would blow our budget a bit but it when would we get the chance again??? Unable to resist the temptation, we found ourselves a dive school and signed up for the advanced! The advanced course basically consists of 5 adventure dives. The ones we done were night diving, deep diving, navigation, buoyancy and drift diving. We done it all in the space of 1.5 days and we were tired at the end but it was amazing. The night diving was really surreal. We didn't have much time to be nervous but it was a little bit scary jumping into the ocean with just a flashlight. One the other divers brought glow sticks so that was a nice addition to the kit. I think the highlight was the deep dive. This dive was amazing as we got to see a shark along with a load of other cool fish & coral. It was also the first time we had gone to 30m and there was a strong current so it meant it was a little bit tricky. We had a very capable instructor though so we never really felt in too much danger. Once the 5 dives were complete and we done a bit of theory and that was it. We were now Advanced Open Water divers.

After the diving, we took advantage of the paradise of the Gilis and we lounged about, took in a few cocktails and enjoyed the view of the thundery skies. One of the things we loved was the sky in the evening over the Islands. It was often full of flashes of lightening, thunder and wonderful colours. I'm sure the locals were use to it but to us it was somewhat of a novelty. Something tells me that it wont be the last time we see the skies. We completely fell in love with the Gilis and really hope to make a return in the coming years if anyone wants to join!

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Dodging Mosquito Status: Not so good, I now have an impressive array of 'wounds' along my feet. Combined with the bruises from hopping on and off the dive boat (i haven't fully masted the skill yet!) and my legs are not exactly looking their best. Luckily Australia is up next and the aussies seem to have excellent weapons in combating my nemesis.

Posted by ofenelon 17:44 Archived in Indonesia Tagged islands gili Comments (1)

Into the Deep

After the adventure in the jungle we decided to go to Pulah Weh , an Island off the coast of Sumatra. The main reason was to try our hand at diving. Neither of us had dived before but it was something we had considered doing when planning this trip. Pulah Weh was meant to be a little paradise for diving with warm waters, lots of coral and underwater life to see. We contacted a well known dive school there, Lumba Lumba about courses and they had availability so we were all set.

To get to Pulah Weh you travel to Banda Aceh first. This name may sound familiar as it was the town that was devastated in on St. Stephens day in the 2004 Tsunami. There has been a massive restoration since with lots of projects established to help with rebuilding the lives and town of Banda Aceh. When we arrived in Banda Aceh we stayed in Linda’s Homestay and she picked us up from the airport. On the journey her house, she started telling us about the Tsunami and how she lot most of her family to it. It became clear very quickly at the sheer devastation caused. As we drove to the streets she was telling us about where and how high the water levels came up. Coming from a country like Ireland where we are so safe from natural disasters, I found it very difficult to begin to imagine such an event. We got a tour around Banda Aceh in one of the local tuk tuks and it was both very interesting and heartbreaking to see the different landmarks left from the Tsunami. There was a few famous photos that you may have seen at the time. That is the picture of a boat which landed on top of a house.

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There was also a massive ship that was carried 5km Inland.
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Currently in the town there is a Tsunami museum that stands in an impressive wave shaped building. The town itself seems to have been restored very well and the yummy Acehnese food is worth the trip there alone but there is a lingering sadness that I’m sure will remain for several generations.


Onward from Banda Aceh, we got the ferry across to Pulah Weh (the island of Weh). We got a taxi across the Island to Gapang Beach where is the home of Lumba Lumba dive school. On arrival we knew we would like it here. The beach has not much sand but hosts a lovely house reef that is perfect for snorkeling and learning to dive.

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We decided it might be best to try the discover scuba diver course first to see if we liked it or not. There is no doubt that the first time you breath underwater with a regulator is both strange and a little unnerving, however the instructors are excellent and really try to make you relax and just enjoy the view. What a view it is!!!! For us it was a bit of sensory overload what with so many colours of fish etc. swimming amongst the coral. Only for the fact that I had to breath with the regulator was in my mouth, I would have swam about open mouthed gazing at all the sea life. After this first dive, we decided to continue with the PADI course to become a certified open water diver. And so we were handed books and we became students again !!!!! The course consists of theory, lots of water skills in confined water (the shallow waters of the beach) and then open water dives. As we were total newbie’s , there was lots to learn but our instructor JP took us though it step by step so it was a very progressive learning. Ger had a problem with his tooth after the first 2 dives and we thought he wouldn’t be able to continue but luckily it sorted itself and we both completed the open water course. I was very sad to leave Weh Island and the comfort of having an instructor when diving but we had our sites set on our next destination of Lombok and the Gili Islands.

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Dodging Mosquito Status: As suspected my arch enemies had prepared for our arrival in Indonesia and launched an all out strike on us. We are outnumbered in Indonesia so our only hope is to retreat unfer the safety of a mossie net at night and try to terminate any little invaders in our room.

Posted by ofenelon 21:36 Comments (0)

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