During the first few weeks in Lombok, we had hopped over to Gili Meno a couple of times as we had friends staying there (in between our travels on Lombok). Our friends were leaving earlier than us and had booked their Airbnb for a few days longer than they needed it (hint: you get incredible long stay discounts with Airbnb and it can be cheaper to book for a few days more than you need it – I know it sounds bizarre but our home in Lombok for 1 month cost us the equivalent of what we would have paid for 2 weeks).
We headed out to Gili Meno on the public ferry as we had done on our previous 2 visits, as we had a bike we were able to leave it in the parking garage and didn’t have to rely on taxis to get to the harbour. There a couple of options to get to the island: the most expensive being to go by speedboat (nearly 10x the cost of the public ferry), the middle option if the public fast boat (about double to cost of the public ferry) not necessarily faster than the normal ferry as it does an island hop – Gili Air then Meno and lastly to Trawangan but the bonus is that there are set times for this ferry and it departs every hour. The public ferry to Gili Meno departs at 8am, 2pm and 5pm but these are “rough times” as the ferry will only leave when there are at least 46 people – on our 3 visits the departure varied from 8:30 to 9 so be prepared to wait. As this is the main form of transport to the island you will be accompanied by the hotels’ laundry, stocks and even building materials.
Meno is the smallest of the Gili’s and is placed in the middle of the other 2 with Gili Air to the East and Gili Trawangan to the West. It measures 1km wide by 2km long and you can walk around the island in about 2 hours. There are a number of resorts and small hotels around the island but it still has a quiet feel to it.
The beaches are not very wide and although beautifully white, you soon discover they are largely made up of very rough coral bits – the amount of bleached broken coral washed up on the shore is quite devastating. Swimming is challenging as the water is quite shallow so swimming is more sitting on rocks in about a metre of water – but beautiful clear, blue water.
The main activity on Gili Meno is definitely snorkeling with a number of operators offering packages to take you snorkeling, it is not necessary to go out by boat as the snorkeling spots are easily accessible from the shore. Boat loads of visitors are brought across from the other Gilis to snorkel around Meno and it gets very overcrowded on some of the more popular sites and a little scary as you do feel like you may get run over by one of the many boats. It is clear to see how some of the devastation has happened to the coral when you witness snorkelers standing on the coral and boats dropping anchor indiscriminately.
There are no motorbikes allowed on the island, there are 2 or 3 privately owned electric bikes, but the main form of transport is the “cidomo” which is a small pony drawn carriage which is often used to carry luggage as well as building materials etc. around the island. There are plenty of outlets offering bicycles to rent and it is possible to cycle around the whole island although the path does get a bit sandy at times and I imagine in the rain it would be more difficult. Given that the island is so small it is easy enough to walk everywhere and if you get hot you can stop and have a swim before you carry on.
A beautiful view of Mt Agung (volcanic) on Bali from the beach after a stroll in the island
Unfortunately, the quiet feel of the island may be shattered as there is a beach club being developed and together with this, a concrete pathway along the beachfront area – this has necessitated moving all of the smaller beach restaurants where you can sit at the water’s edge and enjoy the sunset – they have to move about 20m back and will be on the “wrong” side of the path.
One of the hotels and the pathway being constructed
On the upside, we saw a great initiative on the island where they collect all the plastic bottles and bags and then fill the bottles with the bags and use these to make walls and gates – a great way to get rid of the masses of plastic pollution.
We stayed in a fantastic little Airbnb in the middle of the island and as such were able to cook for ourselves – we generally had breakfast at home then ventured out to snorkel, swim and relax – we then went to one of the numerous beach restaurants to have a tasty local meal (they all offer Indonesian as well as Western food) and off course a local beer as well – the local food is really reasonably priced and well worth it. The staff at all the restaurants, pubs and shops were really helpful and friendly. Dinner was a snackie affair with cheese and biscuits and a cold beer being the order of the day. We found most things readily available except for fresh meat but with the cost of meals this was not a problem.
If you wanted to pop across to one of the other islands this is very easy with island hopping public ferries running throughout the day, there are also a number of private boats that will take you across at a fee – it must be noted that although the islands are close together the ocean current gets very strong and it is VERY dangerous to attempt to swim between them.
We left Gili Meno the day before we were due to leave to return to Hanoi – and this was really a great way to round of our month-long adventure to Indonesia.
Sunrise and Sunset on Gili Meno
As if the Gili’s did not want us to forget we got this magnificent view from the plane as we left Lombok.