Back to the Sea – Gili Islands and Lombok

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Picture an island, surrounded by white sand, palm trees, and coral reefs, where the hum of traffic is nonexistent. The only transport is by bicycle or horse-drawn cart, but most people prefer to stroll the island by foot.  The island is so small that you can walk the entire perimeter in under an hour.  The main activities include snorkeling, diving, eating, and drinking.  Relaxation is a requirement….welcome to Gili Air.

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A local fisherman with Mount Rinjani on Lombok in the distance.

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The colors!!!

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Storm clouds building over Lombok in the afternoon – this was a daily occurence. The storm usually enveloped the islands by the afternoon.

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This time of year is fortunately not the crowded high season, meaning that the island was even quieter than normal – lots of empty beach chairs. 🙂

Gili Air (pronounced AH-yer) is the second smallest of three islands off the northwest coast of Lombok, Indonesia.  To get there, we took an hour long jet boat ride from Bali. From the island, Lombok is easily visible, especially the towering Mount Rinjani, Indonesia’s second highest volcano.
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A horse-drawn carriage or cidomo, one of the methods of transport on the island since vehicles are prohibited

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A snorkel transport boat with Gili Meno and Mount Agung on Bali in the distance.

Our four days on the island consisted mainly of strolling through the various pathways that crisscross the island and snorkeling.  The best part of our daily snorkeling trips was swimming with the many sea turtles that call the the islands home. On our third day, we paid $7 a piece for an all day snorkeling trip that took us to five different reef locations on nearby Gili Meno, Gili Trawangan, and Gili Air.  Snorkeling was by far the best part about being on the island, but unfortunately we didn’t have a waterproof camera to document it, so you’ll just have to imagine what a fun experience it was 🙂

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The main path that winds around the perimeter of the island

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A local islander climbing 40 feet up in a palm tree to slash down some coconuts…with machete in hand.

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Bananas!

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Curious cow.

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Dramatic ocean colors caused by the blue sky and the coral reef below.

We left our small, island paradise for a much larger island, Lombok.  We spent a couple of days in the capitol city of Mataram, but our final destination was the small, coastal village of Kuta in southern Lombok. We stayed at a small homestay called La Bangkat, ten minutes walk from the village. Our host, Man and his family, were incredibly hospitable and offered us lots of advice on things to do and even rented us a scooter for a couple of days.  Per Man’s advice, we checked out the weekly market in the village. A chaotic, but beautiful sight, the market offered fresh fish, vegetables, fruit, and household goods.

 A short cidomo ride on Lombok (above).

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Fresh chili peppers at the market

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One of our new favorite fruits, mangosteen

With our $4 a day rental scooter, we headed along the southern coast to visit the numerous beaches. We quickly learned the hazards of driving in remote Lombok as we encountered wandering water buffalo and countless dogs and chickens darting seemingly out of nowhere across the road.  The beaches in southern Lombok are quiet with crystal clear blue water and white sand. At Selong Belanak beach, Dan tried surfing for the first time with a local guide.

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Our transport and the open road.

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Mawun Beach

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We strolled to the end of the beach at Selong Belanak to watch the waves crash into the rocks below

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The beautiful beach at Selong Belanak

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Getting some tips from his surfing teacher before hitting the water

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The waves were huge….ha ha.

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Selong Belanak

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After a rainstorm hit the beach, the local dogs took advantage of the cool weather

Our time on Lombok was short but rewarding. Next we venture back to Bali and across the island to our final destination in Indonesia, Java.

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