Paradise Circle

Trip Start Jun 12, 2011
Trip End Oct 22, 2012

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Where I stayed
Resota Cottages Lombok
Read my review - 4/5 stars

Flag of Indonesia  , Nusa Tenggara Barat,
Tuesday, October 4, 2011

We landed in Bali just after midnight and so headed to the nearest town (Kuta) for a couple of nights so we could get our bearings and organise the best way to get to the Gili's. Kuta is abit of a hole in our humble opinion, its a bit like Magaluf for surf bums and is just full of drunk kids on the pull.  The beach is hectic and overpopulated, the town is full of tourist tat, there is too much traffic, it’s horrid and so we were glad to get out of there and head off to Lombok and the Gili Islands for some down time.

We broke up the journey by spending one night in Padang Bai on the East coast of Bali, a cute little harbour town with some nice beaches hidden away in coves and some funky little restaurants.  Once crossing to Lombok you head to the North West coast to Bangsal where you get a short boat trip over to one of the Gili Islands.  Terrangu being the party island and a bit like a beach version of Kuta these days, Meno still mostly unpopulated with beautiful beaches and a very quiet atmosphere and Air being a happy medium.  We decided to head to Gili Air.

A couple we had met in Mabul had already done the journey from Kuta to Gili Air a few days earlier and so we were fore warned of some of the hassle you get on the way there and we’d read loads about what the Lonely Planet calls 'the Bangsal Gauntlet’. This scam can start at any stage in the journey if you have bought a shuttle bus ticket (which we had – a system which effectively puts you on public transport at a slightly elevated price but with slightly less hassle and opportunity for scamming).  The main scam on these shuttle busses is they will refuse to take you on the last leg of the journey unless you have bought an open return at an elevated price.  If you haven’t got a shuttle ticket and have to deal with the boat men or the boat office direct then the question is not ‘if’ you will be ripped off but by how much.  It doesn’t matter how clued up you are or how aware of the scams you are there is no way around it.  You are faced with stories of ‘the last boat has gone, but you can charter your own boat’, ‘there are no public boats today’ and all sorts.  Even if you ignore all touts and head to the official office or ask an official marina guard, they are all in on it, you have no chance.  You cant get annoyed or lose your rag either as then you’ll offend them and they will simply refuse to deal with you.  We even heard of some people who had bought a ticket for the public boat already being put on the wrong boat on purpose and taken half way, the engine being cut and the boatman refusing to go anywhere until more money changes hands. Its a nightmare!  This time though, we had a shuttle and an open return and so got off lightly.

And so we arrived on Gili Air :-)  What can I say...  its perfect.  A small roundish island almost completely flat, a white sand beach wraps itself around the entire coast, the waters around it are turquoise and full of beautiful tropical marine life, you can snorkel with turtles right off the beach, there are no roads, no cars, no motorbikes, only horse drawn carts.  The inside of the island is lined with palm trees, cows and goats laze in their shade and chickens and cockrells roam free.  There is a local community that live on Gili Air and so unlike the other islands it offers an insight into local village life also. 

We found a great big hut with sea views next to Elliot and Lizzy’s set in a garden and run by Din and his family, who also served up awesome breakfasts included in the price.  We did very little for several days after arriving.  We ate great food, lazed in hammocks reading, drank Bintang and Pina Colada’s, watched the sun set and the moon rise, walked around the island, found a local cheap Warung (local restaurant) in the village and some favourite spots on the beach.  We went snorkelling a few times thanks to Elliot and Lizzy lending us their gear and found mantis shrimp, turtles, unicorn fishies, Picasso triggers and tonnes tonnes more. 

When we eventually dragged ourselves 100 yards into Ocean5’s office we found ourselves fun diving with white tip reef sharks, massive cuttle fish, blue spotted rays, turtles and awesome viz.  Somehow a conversation with our instructor ended in us signing up to do our peak performancy buoyancy and nitrox specialisms (2 down out of 5 needed to become a master scuba diver) and 2 days later we were fully fledged nitrox divers.

Back to the hammock and Bintangs with our buddies when we plotted our onward journey for all 4 of us to head to Labuanbajo in Flores as the newly formed Team Badger.... :-)
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Ma on

Wow, I can see why you want to spend Christmas there!

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