For over two decades I’ve enjoyed so many holidays on Gili Meno and returning this time I am reminded once again why I fell in love with this pretty island so long ago.
Gathering at Padang Bai to board the boat for our Nyepi long Weekend, there was a growing sense of excitement as veteran travellers and first-timers swapped names and stories. By the time we left, we had already made new friends and discovered old friends making the same trip. The feeling of setting off on an adventure was infectious. The popular Gili islands off the … coast of Lombok are not the only ones worth visiting (Gili simply means island in the local lingo), but this trilogy of little land masses in a turquoise sea have become synonymous with tourism in Lombok. Gili Air is the smallest, Gili Meno is the middle island and Gili Trawangan is the largest, a party island that has its fans and its haters. A crew of us pile off the Eka Jaya boat on Gili Meno, in various states of sobriety. The cold beers sold on the top sun deck are hard to resist. We’re met by our hosts, Jane and Eddie from Seri Resort. Travelling with us is a Spanish DJ who is on the early boat to get the party started. So much for our quiet and restful weekend, but thankfully the crisp blue and white guest rooms offer cool respite when things heat up.
The views across to Gili Air and the mountainous island of Lombok are ringed by the white sand beach and turquoise water, it really is paradise. Our first night we shared the cheese and wine in the rooftop bar and watched as the twilight sets in. Some are staying up late, others, my self included, call it early.
After breakfast, which was fairly basic owing to the difficulty getting supplies after a long pandemic shutdown, I catch up with three Bali friends and we decide to circle the island. The walk can be done in an hour, it takes us 5 hours, as we stop to swim, enjoy snacks and cold beers, supporting the few businesses that are open around the island. Some of the older resorts on the island never rebuilt after the earthquake in 2018 which caused widespread damage. Gili Meno has barely changed over the years, unlike the neighbouring islands. It’s the most grown up of the three, and also has the best swimming beaches of the three, in my opinion. In recent years the sunset side, looking towards Bali, on all three Gili islands, has become more popular despite not having the best swimming beaches. The lure of sunset, it seems, is universal. Gili Meno is no different and its fascinating to peek over the walls into some of the stylish new developments on the sunset side of the island. Most are closed for the pandemic. We flirt with the idea of snorkelling to see the underwater statues off Meno but there’s already a crowd, so we keep going. The resort we decided to lunch at is not serving food although a dishevelled security man grumpily agrees to serves us tepid beers. It’s a shame as in normal times this is a brilliant restaurant, but not today. We discover a new resort, Meno House, that is expecting a full house for the night and the sight of a chef in his crisp uniform is very welcome. We’re hot and hungry, so we settle in and enjoy a delicious lunch overlooking the beach and Gili Trawangan. The beers are cold, the seafood is fresh, so we’re happy. We head back to Seri resort to nap and get ready for cocktails and dinner.
We’ve met an enterprising local who offers to take us out for the day on a boat. We begin snorkelling off Turtle Point, and it doesn’t disappoint. The turtles can be seen popping up from Seri Resort and we don’t have to go far to swim with the big, beautiful creatures. We hit two other snorkelling spots before we head off to Gili Air to catch up with a friend and have lunch. We arrive to find the island has been invaded with holidaymakers from Bali and no one is prepared for the crowds. Nightly parties means that many of the people we meet are suffering from the excesses of the night before and planning to do it all again that night. We check out a new cafe called Mowies only to meet the owner who apologises that he can’t feed us, ‘we’ve run out of food and the suppliers don’t have stock to send us, “ he says. It’s a damn shame because the food we see coming out looks great. We move on and after several restaurants tell the same story we end up at Pink Coco, a pastel restaurant and hotel on the sunset side of the beach. The menu has been pared back but the food was good and the beers were cold. We head back to Meno in the late afternoon to find a crew of guests preparing to head to Air for the night’s party. We’ve got food, music and friends, so we settle in and enjoy the best meal we’ve eaten yet, on the beach under the moonlight. No doubt the thinning crowd was a factor in the dinner service being much improved. After months of emptiness, the Gili Islands were unprepared for the popularity they were suddenly enjoying. With Nyepi ceremonies being effectively cancelled in Bali, many shared the same idea; get out of town!
We head back to Meno in the late afternoon to find a crew of guests preparing to head to Air for the night’s party. We’ve got food, music and friends, so we settle in and enjoy the best meal we’ve eaten on the beach under the moonlight. No doubt the thinning crowd was a factor in the dinner service being much improved. After months of emptiness, the Gili Islands were unprepared for the popularity they were suddenly enjoying. With Nyepi ceremonies being effectively cancelled in Bali, many shared the same idea; get out of town!
Time to head home
Our last breakfast was a bit of a non event as the cupboards were bare. fruit, eggs and white bread were served up by apologetic waiters as we made our plans and said our good byes. The boat heading back to Bali was packed, also something that has been a rare event. Thankfully the Eka Jaya is quite a big boat and regular trips to the top deck provided a refreshing respite from the crowded cabin. As staycations go, it was a great one. There was a feeling we were on a cruise, a crowd of holidaymakers on an otherwise deserted island. Choosing Meno was the perfect balance between taking it easy and still enjoying good company and good times.
Making new memories on this trip to Gili Meno has made me want to head back and we’ve already found some fabulous places we’d like to check out next time. Honestly though, the warm hospitality at Seri will always call us back. Until next time Meno.