The Hotel The Exchange sits on Damrak, one of the…
No cars, no motorbikes, no worries. The Gili Islands with their pristine, white beaches, crystal-clear and warm water- staying at the Gilis is as close as you could get staying in paradise. As the south of Bali mostly has beaches with grey volcanic sand I was looking into some other options for the perfect beach getaway. I have to tell you the Gili Islands are really a little slice of paradise and can be easily compared with the beautiful Maldives or some islands in south Thailand.
The Gili Islands consist of three idyllic atolls:
- Gili Trawangan:the most popular one of the three caters for all kind of budgets. From cheap guesthouses to luxurious hotels, you will have a lot of options. It is also known for a great nightlife and party scene, however it can get a bit crowded sometimes.
- Gili Air: a very beautiful island, a little bit smaller than Gili T with a little less options. If you are looking for a more quiet getaway but still want to have the possibility to choose from a variety of hotels, restaurants etc. this might be your spot.
- Gili Meno: this island is the smallest and the perfect getaway for couples and honeymooners or people who want to enjoy a more relaxed and quiet holiday. There are only a few restaurants, bars and hotels on the island and there is no real nightlife. However this island felt more genuine and the beaches are known for being the most beautiful.
My boyfriend and I decided to stay on Gili Meno and we were very curious how life would be on the island. We arranged transport through the hotel and got picked up by a taxi early in the morning from Canggu, then got dropped of at a collective meeting point, from there we took a mini van with some others to the jetty, then spent two hours on a ferry to Gili Trawangan. Once we arrived there someone was already waiting at the beach for us with a sign with our names on. From there it only was a short speed boat ride of five minutes to Gili Meno. Once we stepped out of the boat and felt the sand under our feet the long journey getting to the island was already forgotten. Especially if you have the time to spend a few days on the Gilis it is so worth to take that trip even if it means spending a few hours getting there.
Our home for the next two nights was Karma Reef on the east side of Gili Meno. It is part of the Karma Group, an award-winning international travel and lifestyle brand that offers extraordinary experiences in the world’s most beautiful locations.
The Karma Reef is a barefoot, luxury five-star resort and only has a handful of beachfront villas and safari tents. On arrival the staff took care of our luggage and while we were sipping on our welcome cocktail at the beach bar, someone took our passports and completed the check-in for us. What an easy and relaxing start.
We were staying in one of the Lumbung villas right by the beach. Those two-storey villas are completely built out of wood. As you step in you will find yourself in the bamboo gazebo which features a comfortable couch from where you can watch TV or a DVD, a boutique kitchenette, mini bar, hammock and dining area. On the backside there is an outdoor bathroom where you can take your shower in the open-air. Upstairs you will find the master bedroom with a private balcony from where you overlook the sea and maybe even get a glimpse of Lombok on a clear day. We really liked the fact that from the room you could hear the sound of the waves and there was always a fresh breeze coming from the sea. Of course the villa is also fully air-conditioned.
After checking out our villa we felt a little bit hungry and wanted to try out the food at the laid-back Karma Beach restaurant. We made ourselves comfortable in one of the big sun beds and had a look at the menu. There is a lot of great dishes to choose from: wood-fired pizzas, freshly caught lobster and fish as well as Indonesian inspired and Mediterranean dishes.
We decided on salad with chicken satay and Rendang curry and some fresh juices on the side. Both dishes were exceptional and the service was great. The chef even came out of the kitchen for a little chat with us and explained a little bit about his creations.
Now it was time to explore a bit more of Gili Meno. The island is really small and walking around it probably takes around an hour. We got a map of the island from the reception and were surprised that despite its size there is plenty to entice explorers away from their hammocks. You can visit a bird park and a turtle sanctuary and there are a few dive bases where you can book a snorkel or diving excursion and island-hopping boat trips. If you aren’t a licensed diver yet, you will also be able to learn it here. The hotel can also help you to arrange sea-kayaking, snorkeling or diving for you.
We came past ‘Gili Meno Divers’ dive base and spontanouesly signed up for the first dive the next morning. Walking around the island we also saw the turtle sanctuary and the local village and finally took a seat at the only sunset bar of the island.
We were visiting Gili Meno in the beginning of December and at that time it is low-session there. It was very quite but we really enjoyed the tranquility of the island, furthermore the hotels offer really good deals. Just drop by and ask.
With a cold beer in our hands we were watching the sun go down ’till it disappeared in the sea.
There is no real nightlife on Gili Meno. The vibe on the island is by far more relaxed than on the party island Gili Trawangan. There are boats going to the other islands during the day and evening but we decided to stay on our little island paradise. We crossed the island to get back to our hotel again and found out that they organized a movie night at their beach. It was absolutely magical: candles in the sand, the movie screen by the water. We sat down and ordered dinner while enjoying the movie and the atmosphere. The food again was wonderful and even though we were quite full already after the main course the chef convinced us to try his warm apple tart with vanilla ice cream. It was absolutely mouth-watering. Later he told us that he learned baking from an Austrian pastry chef with whom he was working with for a while.
The next morning our alarm was ringing very early. Normally I am not a morning person at all, but this day I jumped out of the bed full of anticipation. I was so excited to try out the diving here.
After ordering breakfast from their breakfast menu at the restaurant we walked over to the dive base and got set up with our equipment. With the boat we went to a dive site called “shark point”. We did an entry from the boat and the water was nice and lovely- so you won’t need a wetsuit really. We descended and followed our dive guide underwater, he pointed out some beautiful corals and interesting looking fish. We then followed him to a rock and spotted our first shark of the dive.We were quite lucky and saw a few more. Back on the boat we were talking with some other divers and they told us that their favorite dive site was ‘turtle heaven’. After a short break they convinced us to come with them again for a second dive. Oh how glad I am that I listened to them. On that dive I must have seen around eight, massive turtles. Such a fantastic experience. Even if you haven’t completed that many dives yet, the Gilis offer great and fun diving for beginners as you don’t have to go deep to see something and the sea is really calm.
After the dive it was time to relax a little bit back at Karma Beach. I could simply lie on the hammock the whole day just looking out on the blue water. For the afternoon we had a couple massage planned. The spa is in one of the safari tents and before the treatment we got a cold and refreshing ginger tea and were able to speak with our masseurs how we would like to have our massage. We got an hour long Balinese massage and it was just so relaxing. The time spent here on Gili Meno is just perfect if you want to recharge your batteries.
As it was already our last evening, we just decided to have some cocktails at the Karma beach bar and enjoy the sunset from there. Every evening there are special happy hour promotions making it the perfect spot to catch up with some friends over a drink and some snacks.
The next morning I woke up very early and went down to the beach for a sunrise dip. It was just so great to be able to walk out of the villa barefoot right in the water.
We ended our stay with a big breakfast in bed that we ordered from the room service. Everything sounded so good so we ended up trying it all: Nasi Goreng, tropical fruit, pancakes- you name it, they have it.
The time spent on Gili Meno was so special. It really is the perfect getaway especially for couples. We were really sad to leave and regretted the decision to not stay longer to enjoy the beach life for a few more days, eat good food and make friends with the turtles.
I especially want to thank the staff from Karma Reef who made our stay unforgettable.
Find out more here: http://www.karmagroup.com/find-destination/karma-retreats/karma-reef