Once my few days in Senggigi were up, I headed up north to Gili Meno, a tiny island off the western coast of Lombok. There are actually three Gilis: Gili Air, Gili Meno, and Gili Trawangan. (Calling them the Gili Islands is technically a bit of a misnomer, since “Gili” means “island.”) Collectively, they’re famous for their amazingly white sand and crystal-clear blue water, but each also have a distinctly separate atmosphere. Air is the most traditional and least visited. Meno is the smallest, least populated, and arguably most beautiful. Trawangan is the party island, with tons of bars, parties, and clubs.
When I was putting together my itinerary, I knew that I wanted to hope around to a few different locations, rather than lounge around on the same beaches for a week. Nearly every resource I checked out recommended the Gilis as a quick getaway. (I know, I know…wasn’t this vacation a getaway all around?) Because I wasn’t really looking for partying and I love peace and quiet, Meno was my island of choice.
Now I know how Robinson Crusoe felt on his little island.
You could never call Gili Meno “deserted.” It’s no longer the quiet, undiscovered treasure of years past, but neither is it clogged with crowds of partygoers like Trawangan. Meno looks like the kind of place you see in calendars or in travel magazines as the perfect – yet totally unattainable – getaway. The island itself is tiny, and its entire circumference can be walked in about 90 leisurely minutes. The main beach by the harbor can get a little crowded, but a five minute walk in either direction, and you’ve got yourself your own little private stretch of sand to lounge away the day.
Its beauty is honestly unreal, and I couldn’t help but laugh in disbelief when I hopped off the boat into the shallow aquamarine waters of Meno’s harbor. A five minute walk to my hotel to drop off my bags, and I was on the beach, marveling at the crystal blue water and pure white sand. I’m lucky enough that I’ve been a lot of naturally gorgeous locales during the course of my travels…but Gili Meno might take the cake.
Its beaches have to be seen to believe, because pictures can’t do them justice. They’re the kind that you see on postcards, and you can’t help but think to yourself, “No way the water is that blue. The sand cannot be that white. This place only exists in Photoshop.”
It’s no real surprise, then, that mostly everything of interest on Meno has to do with the water. The scuba diving is world-class, but since I was only there for a day and some change, I stuck to renting a mask and a pair of flippers and snorkeling for a few hours. If Meno’s cerulean waters are a gorgeous sight above the surface, than the chrysoberyl world below, teeming with silvery fish and craggy coral, is even more beautiful. Would that I could have sprouted gills and just spent my entire day down there.
After my swim, I grabbed a bungalow at one of the many restaurants dotting the beach, ordered some lunch, and spent the rest of the afternoon admiring the view. Not at all a bad way to spend the day.
And once enough hours had passed, I trekked over to the other side of the island to catch the sunset. This was pretty much the routine for much of my vacation: beach, eat, lounge, admire view, change locales, eat more, lounge more, admire sunset. At that point, my stomach was filling pretty iffy (I still blame those crepes…) and I’d stuffed myself full with seafood up until that point, so I just settled for a banana pancake and a milkshake for dinner.
Whatever gripes I was having with my digestion system, though, were quickly put out of my mind during the sunset. Because Meno is just off the coast of Lombok, the sun sets behind Mount Rinjani, Lombok’s most prominent natural landmark, and the ocean, making for yet another breathtaking view.
Once the sun set, though, my evening hit a bit of a hiccup. My hotel/bungalow was on the other side of the island, and while navigating the Meno’s inner dirt roads had been a piece of cake during the afternoon, it proved a lot trickier at night, with only the full moon to light my way. I also speak exactly zero Bahasa (Indonesia’s national language) and my entire Sasak (Lombok’s dialect) consists of “Thank you” and “That’s too expensive”, so asking for directions didn’t work too well. After getting turned around a few times and walking for twenty minutes or so, I finally just bit the bullet, returned to the beach, and hitched a ride with one of the infamous “Lombok ferraris”: a tiny, rickety horse-drawn cart. Best three dollars I spent all vacation.
I’m all for getting lost in a new locale, but when it’s dark and you’re nursing a wicked stomachache, sometimes it’s best to just throw in the towel and hail a taxi. Or whatever the local transport may be.
The next morning, I headed back to the harbor to grab breakfast and a return boat to Senggigi, where a driver from my hotel in Kuta, my third and final stop, awaited.