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Travel: The great escape to the ‘Gilis’

The only must-do in these three Balinese islands is relaxing

brunch Updated: Oct 28, 2018 00:47 IST
Saachi Dhillon
Saachi Dhillon
Hindustan Times
Balinese islands,Gilis,diving
The clear blue waters are ideal for diving(Saachi Dhillon)

While searching for great diving and turtle spotting sites in Indonesia, I chanced upon a less well-known gem, the Gili Islands. This archipelago of three paradisiacal islands, off the north-eastern coast of Bali, consists of Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. We took the Marina Srikandi fast boat from Kuta, Bali, to Gili Trawangan, popularly known as the ‘party island’.

The fire performance at night is worth a watch ( Saachi Dhillon )

As we left the harbour, music began to play out loud, putting everyone in a happy mood. Soon there was much merriment on board as beers started flowing and new friendships blossomed.

Turtle ho!

As we approached Gili Trawangan, the different shades of blue in the sea became more prominent. I had never seen such crystal clear, turquoise water and pristine white sand beaches; it was picture perfect. We wheeled our bags to our nearby resort, Ozzy Bungalows and Cottages, amidst a bevy of tourists walking around, cycling or catching the only mode of transport there – horse-drawn carts known as cidomo. Our bungalow was comfortable and had an open air bathroom. Through the open half, sunlight would peep in during the day and moonlight at night.

The beaches are dotted with many cool bars such as this ( Saachi Dhillon )

At the famous Turtle Hatchery, we met Popcorn, a very lively local, who regaled us with jokes and stories and organised a snorkelling trip for us on a glass bottom boat. The waters around the three Gilis are so clear that even as we boarded the boat, we could spot schools of small fish just a few meters from the beach.

At our first snorkelling stop, I jumped straight into the blue sea in excitement – without a life jacket! After gulping down mouthfuls of salt water and feeling the slap of the waves on my face, I retreated quickly to the boat to get one.

Tourists ride traditional transport of Lombok known as Cidomo at Gili Trawangan ( Shutterstock )

We had a fantastic time, swimming among the rich variety of fish of all sizes, colours and patterns, and marvelling at the different types of corals. At Turtle Point, off the island of Gili Meno, my wish came true when I spotted a huge turtle. I swam with it for a few minutes, following its every move; popping my head out of the water in unison with the turtle, to breathe in the air. I almost touched the turtle’s shell, but then remembered Popcorn’s instructions about leaving them alone.

At Turtle Point, off the island of Gili Meno, you can spot huge turtles ( Shutterstock )

The sun, the moon, and Shah Rukh Khan

Later, we rented bicycles and went around the island, stopping along the way at the many bars lined up on Sunset Beach. Ombak Sunset was one of them; a resort with a lovely sit out area on the beach and two swings in the shallow sea, perfect for an Instagram picture. Later, we cycled to the northern tip of the island. With Bintang beers in hand, we made our way to the beach to find the best spot to watch the sunset. As the sun slipped into the silvery sea, we got talking with some locals who were fishing there. One of them showed us his catch of the day – an octopus. It was quite a novel experience to see it at such close quarters.

The sunset at the north of the island makes for a calming sight ( Saachi Dhillon )

Every night, the place took on a carnival-like atmosphere; the myriad restaurants, night clubs and night markets buzzing with people enjoying the live music performances and partying until the early hours of the morning. Gili Trawangan is a foodie’s

At Turtle Point, off the island of Gili Meno, you can spot huge turtles and swim with them too

paradise; Scallywags is popular for its fresh seafood buffet, and the Caprioskas, along with the Hawaiian pizza at the Black Penny restaurant, are delicious. The best oriental fare can be found at Jali Resort.

Chill by the beach and watch the sun go by ( Saachi Dhillon )

While enjoying a beachside dinner, we were lucky to watch the full moon as it rose from behind the mountains located on the neighbouring Lombok island. On another evening, we enjoyed the sunset from beachfront PinkCoco, relaxing on a sofa, gazing at the superb view of Bali’s second highest volcano, Mount Agung in the distance. The tangerine skyline provided the perfect backdrop as the orange orb of the sun sank slowly into the sea.

The locals love Indians. Every other person I met broke into a Shah Rukh Khan song, and some even called me Shanti from the movie, Om Shanti Om! Our hotel receptionist informed us that Indonesian music sounds very similar to Bollywood songs, which is why they love listening to Hindi film music.

The beach side in Gilis offers visitors with a whole of options ( Saachi Dhillon )

While there were many aquatic activities such as kayaking, diving, spear fishing and paddle surfing, we preferred to spend more time on the beach. It was definitely one of the most relaxing holidays I have had recently, where I wasn’t concentrating on ticking off another attraction from my must-see list, but actually immersing myself in the surrounding beauty and rejuvenating both my body and mind.

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From HT Brunch, October 28, 2018

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First Published: Oct 27, 2018 23:43 IST