It was a quick hop over to Lombok from KL with Air Asia and as I was sitting in the first row, I could make a quick dash to be first in line for a visa and out to the baggage hall. It takes about an hour to drive to Senggigi, a town on the west coast of Lombok, which is the main tourist strip. It’s low season so it’s pretty deserted here – just what I needed after the hustle of Kuala Lumpur.
On my first day I chartered a boat out to the Gili Islands, three sandy dots on the map about an hour from the coast. My private boat with captain Naz was amazingly cheap and as we headed to Gili Trawangan, the biggest and busiest island, he said he would stop wherever if I wanted to snorkel.
Gili T is also known as the ‘party island’ but it’s not exactly pumping. Naz drove the boat straight on to the beach and I snorkelled around for about an hour. It was pure ‘Finding Nemo’, with so many colourful fish and as the water was quite shallow, they were swimming all around me. The water is unbelievably clear and blue with bright turquoise blobs where there’s no coral and the sun reflects off the white sand.
Naz said the snorkelling was better near the next island, Gili Meno, so off we went. He stopped the boat offshore near the Gili Meno Wall (coral) and told me to jump in and look for the ‘many pieces nearby’ – pieces=turtles.
I was disappointed at first because the water was deeper and the fish were bobbing along the bottom but when I looked up to check where Naz was, he was waving wildly and pointing. I swam over as fast as I could against the very strong current – even with flippers it’s really hardcore – and there he was, a little turtle swimming along the bottom. I dived down and took photos so hopefully they will come out ok (it’s an old school wind on camera). It was an amazing feeling. He paddled along, stopping here and there to eat some coral, moseying along. I tried to hold my breath as long as possible to be there with him!
The current is really strong here, apparently because we are right on the Wallace line – the line that naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace named as a divide between Lombok in the east and Bali in the west. Last month a diver went missing here and I completely understand why, it was a good workout!
I saw another turtle that came up for some air and I swam along with him for a bit too. I was swimming right on the edge of the coral reef, you could see it drop off into a dark blue nothingness so I tried not to imagine a shark suddenly shooting out at me.
I got back on the boat and we sailed round to Gili Air, the quietest of the islands (although all the islands are traffic free except for the ‘Lombok Lamborghini’ (horse and cart) so they are all dead quiet). I had chicken satay at a beachside shack and read my book in the shade then we headed back to Lombok. What a perfect day.