Sunday, December 1, 2013

Gili Meno

1 December 2013
Our hotel is right by the beach, so each morning we can see the fishing boats (identified by the bright sails) and the passenger boats (with a little cabin and no sail) - all in beautiful bright colours out on the sea.  This is the Java Sea, or the Lombok Straits, or basically just part of the Indian Ocean.
So, we decided since it was gorgeous weather, and we were seeing all these little boats, we should go out on the water.  And go to Gili Meno, the middle of the Gilis off the NW coast of Lombok.

We caught a cab down to Senggigi Marina, which basically is right on the beach just beyond the town.  Walked into an office, bargained on the price, and voila, we were the proud renters of a little motorized boat for the day.  For a whopping Indonesian rupiah of 525,000.  (Roughly US $50.)

We climbed in around the outboard engine, settled onto the benches that run the length of the boat, and we were off.  
We motored north along the coast of Lombok, with great views of the grey sandy beaches alternating with rocky outcroppings of igneous rock, and spectacular hills rising above the beaches.  It really is a dramatic landscape, since this is a volcanic island with a still-somewhat-active volcano at the northern end of the island.

In the opposite direction, we could see Bali in the distance, with a few of the volcanoes over there showing - including Mount Agang, the tallest mountain on the island of Bali, really dominating the landscape - you can just barely see the top of it rising above the clouds at 3142 meters above sea level (over 10,000 feet high - yes, about 2 miles above sea level).

It was a bit of a choppy day, with whitecaps and decent-sized swells, mostly about one to two feet high, but some areas nearly three feet high (one meter).  And there were some waves that sort of lifted the boat so we surfed along on top of the wave, until it rolled out from under us and we went back to puttering along on motor power.

We decided to go to Gili Meno, the middle of the Gilis, because it has a turtle sanctuary.  A man named Boulong has started a sanctuary to raise turtles from egg to hatchling, protecting them from loss of habitat, people who eat them, all that stuff.  So he built a series of pools for the hatchlings, as well as an area that serves as the hatchery for the nests he moves.

We didn't meet Boulong, but we met his daughter and some of her friends, who were watching the turtles that day.  Some of these babies are as young as two weeks old; others are about two months old.  But they won't be released until they're eight months old, according to Ms. Boulong.  

These are olive ridley turtles, which we had never seen before - they seem to hang out only in the Pacific region.  Usually in the Caribbean we see green or hawksbill turtles.  So this was exciting for us.  Plus it's rare to see the little baby turtles, they usually are way out at sea and we don't see them when diving.

And of course the turtles swam, and raced, and played, and practiced diving, and curled up to sleep, and were generally their usual adorable selves.

We walked around Gili Meno for a bit, and had planned to snorkel because there are a lot of turtles who hang out on this side of the island, it's a big nesting location - but our captain said the seas are high in the late afternoon and it would be better to leave by 3 PM.

So we sat in one of the beachfront bungalows, where you get a table and sit on the platform and eat and drink and watch the water and enjoy the beach.  Golden sand, clear water fading into aqua and then deep azure, colourful boats dotting the surface, and a lovely breeze - and time to do nothing but watch the water or clouds or the volcano on Lombok playing peek-a-boo through the clouds.  It was wonderful!
We left on time, and of course the ride back against the current was a bit rougher, since we didn't surf the waves, and mostly slammed from crest to trough and back up to slam down again.

But we made it home safe and sound, after our wonderful day.

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