The Gilis

Indonesia, RTW: 2007-2008, Scuba Diving, Southeast Asia — By on October 30, 2008 5:40 PM

From Ubud, Sara and I took a shuttle bus east to Padangbai, Bali, where we boarded the Perama boat the only boat that offers service directly to the Gilis from Bali. The five hour boat ride was less than luxurious but we were able to enjoy the beautiful scenery as we went up the west coast of Bali, passing the island of Lombok on our way the Gilis. The Gili Islands are a trio of tiny coral-fringed islands just off the northwest coast of Lombok. I had heard about the Gilis from many fellow travelers who had spoke of many fun times spent on the tiny islands.

Free of cars and motorbikes, the only traffic on the Gilis is a few cidomo (pony cart) and a few bicycles. One can walk the perimeter of the largest island in just over an hour. Each island is said to have its own character: Trawangan has a big party scene and Meno is very mellow with Gili Air falling somewhere in the middle.

Sara and I opted to stay on Trawangan as we were ready to party!!! The island turned out to be relatively quiet with a few beach bars operating that were buzzing into the wee hours of the night. It’s the kind of place where you are bound to run into the same people day after day. We arrived just in time for a beautiful sunset and had slight difficulties finding an accommodation as most places were booked. All accommodation options were pretty basic lacking fresh water showers and providing electricity sporadically throughout the days.

We ended up at the Irish Bar (why there is always an “Irish Bar” in every country in the world we do not know??) but it seemed to be the most happening place to be . We settled in at the bar and shared a pizza and fruity drinks. A few minutes later we noticed that a couple of cute boys had sat down beside us.
They got our attention with the strangest pickup line as they inquired about the dip the guy next to us was chewing. We were immediately struck by their strong British accents and learned that they were both Lieutenants in the British Army and were on a six week holiday after serving four months in Iraq. Jim reminded us of Hugh Grant and Rich had a striking resemblance to Prince William. Conversation flowed easily between the four of us as did the Arak and cokes. I learned that both Jim and Rich were certified Advanced Scuba Divers and were doing many dives while on the island. At this point Sara and I had no idea that we would be spending the next week with these two guys.

I had planned to go diving while on the islands and I was happy to meet fellow divers as it is always more fun to go diving with people you know. The problem was that they both Rich and Jim had a higher certification level than me, meaning they were certified to dive at much lower levels. Against my better judgement, I took their advice and lied about my certification level as well as my total number of dives to date, so that I could dive with them. The four of us took off on the dive boat (Sara didn’t dive but enjoyed sunbathing on the top deck). In diving you are always paired up with a buddy and my buddy for the day was our guide Steve, described by the boys as the “Cowboy Guide”. Cowboy in the sense that he would take you to levels outside of your certification levels as well as push the limit on air supply. Jim had completely ran out of air on his dive the previous day, where as I had never even come close to running out of air! I admit I was a little nervous about the with these boys and the “cowboy guide”.

We dove at Hans Reef, located off the northeast coast of Gili Air Island.

I was mostly nervous because I knew I would be going down further than I ever had before and with divers that were much more experienced than me. Because we dove down further, I was able to see things I have never seen before! We saw a Moray eel, pipefish, a blue spotted ray, and five HUGE parrot fish…they were at least 5 feet long and by far the biggest fish I have ever seen! At one point I looked at my gauge and saw we were down 25 meters (82 feet) below the surface, which is twice as far as I have ever dove before! I was really enjoying the dive up until I got very low on air. Once a diver’s air supply drops down to 50 bar you are suppose to begin coming up to the surface. I signaled to Steve that I was at 50 bar but we continued to dive and it didn’t seem as if he was going to take us up anytime soon. I started to get very nervous, and as a result I began to breath more rapidly which resulted in shortness of breath and using up my remaining air more quickly. As the boys teased me later, I “went mental” and started freaking out a bit and I decided to go to the surface on my own. By the time I had made it to the surface I was completely out of air! If necessary, I could have shared my buddy’s air supply but I imagine he was pretty low too. In my panic, I completely neglected to do a proper “safety stop” in which I would have hovered at a higher level for a few minutes in order to allow my body to properly decompress. As a result, I felt a bit ill later in the night.

Sara and I only made it to the island of Trawangan , and we definitely did our part to maintain the island’s party reputation. We had lots of fun times with Jim and Rich who were very entertaining.

For some reason Sara and I decided to arm wrestle at the bar. I beat her and Sara said she was surprised by my strength! Another girl then challenged me but I defeated her as well and became the women’s arm wrestling champion of the Gili islands which earned me a free Arak and coke! Later, I also earned the award of the clumsiest girl on the island when I tripped and sprained my ankle!

Sara and I had lots of fun on the Gili Islands and left with many fun memories and new friends. The four of us were all headed back to Kuta Bali. Rich and Jim took the cheaper very slow boat while Sara and I took the speedboat.

To see more photos of the Gili Islands CLICK HERE!

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