A Travellerspoint blog

Indonesia

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)

Welcome to the Jungle!

(Firstly apologies for the obvious title to this post.....couldn't resist)

So we left Nepal in search of more adventure and where better than to head to the sumatran jungle. we had been really looking forward to going to Indonesian but we were undecided of where exactly to go due to the size of Indonesia and we only have 1 month here. That said, we felt that we couldn't resist the opportunity of seeing the orangutans in the wild so we said we take a chance on Sumatra. I had no idea what Sumatra would be like but now i'm going to be very sad leaving.

To get to the jungle we chose to go to Ketambe and go trekking in the rainforest of Gunung Leuser National Park. To reach this, we got a flight to Medan and then took a 7 hour public taxi to Ketambe. The taxi was actually quite a luxurious 7 seater and luckily we encountered no road blockages which can be quite frequent due to landslides/flooding etc. We based ourselves in Friendship guesthouse and they organised our trek into the jungle for us. The guesthouse itself has very basic bungalows but they have great reception area where you get to meet some very nice and amusing characters. We started the trek the day after our arrival with our guide Putra. I was so excited but also very nervous about what to expect and the prospect of leeches, bugs, deadly snakes etc. However, we both decided to think positively and just enjoy the few days. Within about a half hour of entering the jungle forest, i was soaked in sweat, exhausted and my breathing was beginning to become quite laboured. I reallly thought that I would probably have to turn back but luckily a short time later my body seem to recover and was ready for the adventure.

On our way to the camp site we kept searching for orangutans etc but we didn't see much. Our guide warned us that there was a chance we might not see any as they move about a lot but we were pretty confident that he would lead us to some!. Our campsite was located beside the river in a lovely setting and while it was very basic, there was a good set up for cooking etc. Plus the river was our daily shower! After a yummy lunch we set out trekking again. Wildlife trekking was very different to that in Nepal. You have to walk quietly, slowly and keep watching everywhere. The actual terrain can be a little tricky as its quite slippy and you have to climb some steep enough hills in very humid conditions. Still though, I found it very exciting as we walked around in search of exotic creatures. After about an hour, we heard it.....the sound an orangutan! Putra quickly guided us toward it as we tried to keep up as it moved about. I have to say that I felt like I was in a wildlife documentary as Putra crept ahead and gave us hand signals of where to go. When we finally got close enough, I could see that all the sweat and effort was worth us. In front of us was the Daddy of the orangutans. He was so beautiful but i must admit i was a little bit frightened at first because he was huge. He moved from tree to tree and we crept behind him. We just watched him and tried to take a few pictures where possible. It was a lot more difficult photographing animals in the jungle than safari. Most of them are high up in the canopy and also the humidity was fogging up the lens a bit. After some time just watching him go about his daily business, we decided to move on and look for other wildlife. We were thrilled at having just saw our first wild orangutan.

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Our first night at the campsite was very funny. there were other groups there so we company to chat with etc and the guides and porters were all really nice and good craic. However it inevitably came to time to go to sleep. We had a regular two man tent so it was fine but it was outside in the jungle so the thought of bugs weighed heavily on our minds. This was not helped by the massive spider that i seen on the plastic covering they had over our tent. I said to one of the guides - what kind of a spider is that. he jumped up excitedly and held out a stick and the spider crawled onto it. He then turned to me and said ...oh its a black stone (translated) . I replied 'really, thats nice, is it poisonous' which was followed by him saying ' oh yes, if he bit you, you would definitely need emergency services'. My answer was ' Oh lovely, well would you mind maybe putting it way over there if thats ok'. I wasn't sure if he was just joking with me or not about its deadliness (i have since googled and cant find much on it) but it left me even more nervous of the nights sleep ahead.

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When we went to bed, we did a thorough check of the tent, took half a sleeping tablet and made my husband promise that if i had to get up, he was coming with me - and then i fell asleep!!!!! It wasn't the most comfortable of sleeps but when i did awake in the middle of the night, I could hear all the sounds of the jungle and the river and it was amazing.

The next two days were of a similar pattern. We trekked about looking for wildlife with Putra finding things that i would never have spotted alone. We seen lots of orangutans, monkeys, really cool plants, insects and a young binturong (looks like head of a cat and body of a bear) which are apparently quite hard to see in the wild. We thankfully didn't encounter any tigers/rhinos but apparently they are located deeper in the jungle and they are very shy so its really hard to see them. In theory I would love to see a tiger but in reality, if you can see/hear one your probably too close for comfort.

After the trek we headed back to the guesthouse. We were tired, filthy, i got a leech bite on my neck (the leeches are small there though so i didnt mind too much) but it was all so worth it. It was an amazing few days. It was wonderful to get a glimpse of these beautiful creatures. We were guests in their world and they were great hosts!!!

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Dodging Mosquito Status: I was so busy trying to dodge everything else in the jungle that i forgot about the mossies for a few days. However, now that we have left the jungle I am convinced that the tiny mosquito is the greatest predator known to man. Even the leech bit wasn't near as bad as one of the many mossie bites I've gotten!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by ofenelon 01:29 Archived in Indonesia Tagged animals jungle sumatra Comments (2)

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