I left Bunaken island in the morning to catch a mid-afternoon flight out of Manado. Fortunately, there were five of us leaving that morning so I was able to get to the airport for a few bucks. The bad part was that I had developed a cold by this point so the full day of travel was brutal. I had to take two flights to get to Bali, so by the time I made it to my hotel it was practically midnight. I just had enough time to go out for a quick dinner nearby before crashing for the night.
The following morning the company I had hired to take me to the Gili islands picked me up at 7:30 am to drive me to a nearby town for the fast ferry departure. The Gili islands consist of three islands, Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air. If you only have time to check out the Gilis or Bali, I’d pick the Gilis. There’s nothing wrong with Bali per se, but the hotels are far more expensive, the beaches not as nice, and there’s quite a bit of traffic on the main road by the water. In contrast, you can find very reasonably-priced cabana-style accommodation on the Gilis and since motorized vehicles are not permitted on the islands, they are a lot more peaceful. Another interesting thing about the Gilis is that there is no overt police presence on the island. It is said that there are undercover agents roaming the islands, but issues related to crime are generally settled by the local councils and by village elders.
I ended up spending a total of 12 nights in the Gilis, 6 on Trawangan and 6 on Gili Air. Gili Trawangan is the most developed of the three islands and has the biggest party scene. Gili Meno, the middle island is the polar opposite, with very little development and no party scene. Gili Air is a happy medium, it’s significantly quieter than Trawangan but you can still find some pretty big bars at night. I ended up liking my time on Gili Air more than Gili Trawangan, but then again I had a cold for much of my time on Trawangan so I mostly slept and had no desire to be social.
Shots of my time on Gili Trawangan:
I took a local ferry from Trawangan to Gili Air which takes no time at all. As you can tell from the shots above, the islands are within swimming distance of one another, but for the strong currents in between. My accommodation:
A long-exposure shot at a beachside restaurant:
Some shots from my first full day on the island:
I got my basic open water certification in Vietnam which allows recreational divers to go to a depth of 20 metres. The reason for the limit is that after 20 metres, nitrogen narcosis can start to occur and it is completely unpredictable. A person suffering from narcosis, as the name would suggest, starts feeling drunk and his/her behaviour becomes similarly impaired, so one needs to be cognizant of the potential effects. Luckily, one only needs to go up a bit and the effects are supposed to go away. Also, below 20 metres you need to learn to use the dive computer. Above 20 metres, the a dive computer is useful to monitor your maximum depth, dive time, and to time the optional decompression stop at 5 metres. It’s also useful to track your time between dives so as not to accumulate too much nitrogen in your blood when accounting for the multiple dives in the aggregate. However, below 20 metres you actually need to do a decompression stop and the dive computer is necessary to carefully monitor your time at that depth. And, 30 metres is the limit for most recreational divers. You need to do specialized courses to go much lower, though I don’t see the point because your air does not last long at all at those depths and because of the limited light spectra that reach those depths, you can’t see that many colours without a flashlight. However, it’s still good to have the ability to play around with depths of around 25 metres so I decided to take an additional course in order to be licenced to go to 30 metres. Now, when you take the open water course, they really only advertise the advanced open water course as the next step which does permit you to go to 30 metres, but for the same price of the beginner’s open water certification course. Fortunately there was a dive master in Bunaken who told me about the little known option of taking a single one dive course that teaches you to go to 30 metres for a fraction of the cost. I opted to take the course while in Gili Air. However, the course was mostly academic by that point because the local dive guides at Bunaken had been so sketchy that I had already been to 30 metres multiple times by the time I went to Gili Air. Ironically, I only hit 27 metres during the actual course. And sadly, as I feared the diving in Sulawesi was so spectacular that Gili Air was a disappointment in comparison. I did get to check out a shipwreck however, so that was something new. Unfortunately there was a dipshit on the dive who kept running into me and generally invading my space so I expended a lot of energy avoiding his clumsy ass. In combination with some rough currents at the start of the dive, it meant that my heart-rate was elevated for most of the dive so I ran out of air 35 minutes in, making it the shortest of all my dives.
I took the dive course in the morning and a friend of mine joined me on the island a few hours after my return. Part of my travel plans were to visit Emma, a friend from Vancouver who now lives in Perth, Australia. As luck would have it, she had some spare time between school terms and was able to find a cheap flight to come and join me for my last four nights in Gili Air and for two nights in Bali.
I’ll leave you with shots from those days in Gili Air: