As soon as you step off the boat, you noticeably feel it’s a quiet and relaxed island and, just like its neighbours Gili Air and Gili Trawangan, there are no motorised vehicles; the only transportation is by Cidomo (horse & cart) or bicycle. The pace here is slow, but immediately your pace becomes slower; this is the perfect island to stop time and just unwind, isn’t this something we all seek at some point in our busy lives?
Gili Meno is sandwiched between Gili Air and Gili Trawangan which are located off the coast of Lombok, Indonesia. Known locally as the honeymoon island, the majority of visitors to Gili Meno are couples, not that there are many visitors here, at times it feels as though you are on a secret island. In the North which is the quietest part of the island, sometimes you think you are the only one here.
Around the island
To give you a sense of how small this island is, it’s possible to walk around it in an hour, so one afternoon, that’s exactly what we did. We discovered that this really is an undeveloped paradise with plenty of lush green trees and deserted areas with no houses, no people and just a crushed coral or white sand beaches to walk along.
Snorkelling with turtles
There are three diving shops on the island and there are plenty of places offering glass bottom boat or snorkelling trips, but if you fancy doing it yourself, grab a mask and snorkel and head to the north east corner and do it yourself. We swam out from the shore and were rewarded with spotting a hawksbill turtle who came up to the surface right in front of us to take a couple of breaths. We also saw butterflyfish, Moorish idols, parrot fish and many more. For lunch, we stopped at Ryan’s Café & Restaurant on the beach and ordered a delicious and cheap meal. It was a perfect way of spending a couple of hours.
Tip: Wear either fins or walking sandals into the sea as there is a large shallow section of dead coral to walk across to reach the seagrass area where the turtles feed and its hard on your feet. (Please note – we don’t normally recommend walking across any coral including dead coral, but here you have no choice!!).
The locals are trying to help the turtles by protecting their nests and when the eggs are hatched, look after the babies in large containers releasing them when they are bigger and stronger, sometimes for as long as a year. This is a very sweet idea, and it is believed they are playing an important role in turtle conservation (donations are gratefully accepted), but unfortunately we know from The GIli Eco Trust, and Marine Biologist friends that we shouldn’t be interfering with nature in this way, even if we think it’s for the best.
When a turtle is born, it needs to head into the ocean from the beach as this sets their internal compass. When the females are old enough to lay eggs, they will return to the same beach they were born. Keeping the turtles until they are bigger also means their lungs won't develop properly and they could drown. When turtles are growing up, they learn how to fill their lungs with air for them to dive, they don't have the depths in a tank to dive and when they are released, they won't be able to take the breaths they need.
We could also see that some of the turtles in these pools and containers were suffering from disease or some sort of infection and the water they were kept in seemed to be stagnant.... Unfortunately, intercepting nature in this way can decrease turtle numbers long-term.
Please watch this extremely informative video from Sian Williams of the Gili Eco Trust.
Random Act of Kindness
If you follow us, we wrote a post a few years ago entitled “Random act of kindness”. It discusses what I feel I can personally do to be a better person on my travels. In Gili Meno, our homestay was near the local school so on our last day, I gathered together some paper, pens, highlighters, stickers, various other stationery items, and a few hairclips. We visited the school and gave them to one of the teachers who took us to the “office” to meet the other teachers. They were all so friendly, appreciative and very proud of the work they do here.
They told us this was the only school on the island with 77 pupils ranging between the ages of 7 and 12. They took our photo, encouraged us to sign their guest book and were happy to pose for a picture with us as well. We left the school with such a warm feeling and I am so happy we visited these lovely people.
So, is Gili Meno fo you?
Gili Meno is the quietest island I have ever visited and, if you are looking to get away from it all – literally to get away from technology, traffic, noise and people; if you (and your partner) are in need of relaxation with stunning white sand beaches and beautiful crystal clear waters to spend your days gazing at, then head to Gili Meno.
How to get to there
The Gili Islands are a 30 minute fast-boat ride away from Lombok and 2 hours by speedboat from Bali (Padang Bai or Sanur). When purchasing your ticket, you will need to get a boat to either Gili Air or Gili Trawangan and a local “hopper” boat will take you to Gili Meno, this is to ensure the money stays with the local people of Gili Meno and not the larger companies on the main lands.
We suggest checking ferry/bus schedules ahead of time, and booking in advance online with Bookaway. It will save time and hassle, and help you plan your travel itinerary.
If (like me) you are concerned that the “local hopper boat” will be rickety, small and over-crowded … don’t be. They are a good size, sturdy and if you choose to visit Meno after being on either Gili Meno or Trawangan, tickets can be purchased easily and with confidence from a desk at the harbour.
Where to stay
There are prices to suit all budgets from budget to luxurious resort and spas.
Splash the cash: The Karma Reef Spa at the harbour has luxurious traditional style bungalows; the Seri Resort just up the east coast is a large pristine white spa complex with a swimming pool and around the island there are various bungalows and villas to suit your style.
Save the pennies: If you are seeking something cheaper, The Gili Meno Eco Hostel gives you the option to sleep outside in a hammock, in a dorm bed or a private bungalow plus there are plenty of Homestay’s around the island you can view through booking.com and other booking platforms.
I definitely would not recommend our homestay, Mente Indah Bungalows/Gilinta Meno, it was the worst accommodation we had stayed in throughout our entire two months in Indonesia! There are plenty of other decent homestays to choose from, sadly on this occasion we chose badly.
Travel Facts & tips
- The local currency is Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) - £1 GBP = 16,000 IDR
- Their official language is Bahasa Indonesia which is similar to Malaysian and throughout Indonesia in general
- If you can use just a couple of Indonesian words, this will give you big smile in return, even if you simply use “Pagi” (morning) and “Terima Kasih” (thank you), it will be hugely appreciated.
- A 30 day visa is given at the time of arrival in Indonesia (not for all countries, check with your embassy).
- There is one ATM on the island down by the harbour.
- Crime is very low on the island (if any at all) so you will completely safe at all times.
- Free Wi-Fi is available in the larger hotels, some homestays and a couple of restaurants.
- In addition to the few restaurants at the harbour, small, family run restaurants known as warungs are dotted all around and are a cheap and tasty way of eating locally.
- Bring a small torch for the evening as there are parts of the island that do not have street lights, especially if you want to watch the sunset on the west coast and walk to the east coast for dinner.
- All toilets for the restaurants are “public” so carry a small packet of tissues and antibacterial handwash in your bag as they don’t always have toilet paper or hand washing facilities.
- Electricity supplies can be interrupted at times on the island which is not a problem at all, just something to be aware of.
Have you heard of Gili Meno and is it somewhere you have considered? Will you think about going now or is this island simply not for you? Tell us in the comments below, we would like to know!
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