We only spent half a day on Gili Meno. Just a flash, really. A squiggle between the lines of our Indonesian adventure.
But while it was one hell of a tease, it was definitely better than nothing.
Especially when that one day involved snorkelling through crystal-clear waters, feasting at seaside restaurants, lounging at shell-encrusted beach bars and being pulled around in horse-drawn carts.
If you’re short on time like we were, but want to get a good taste of the smallest, most romantic, tranquil and undeveloped of the trio of Gili Islands, here’s five things you can fit in.
1. Snorkel over the Meno Wall
We left for Gili Meno from Lombok’s Bangshal Harbour, riding 25 minutes on a wooden boat to get there. Before we’d even set foot on shore we toppled off the side of our boat, masks and fins on, and snorkelled around the edge of the famous Meno Wall. This marine ‘wall’ sees the coral reef drop from five metres down to 16, just off the west of Gili Meno. There we peered through our goggles at giant turtles, sea slugs, schools of startlingly coloured tropical fish and huge chunks of coral, with the sunlight filtering down over it all.
2. Lunch at Mahamaya
Post-snorkel, our boat deposited us on the western shores of the island at Mahamaya, by far the classiest boutique hotel and restaurant on the island. We took off our shoes and waded ashore, walking across the stark white coral sand and into the airy restaurant barefoot, because that’s just how you roll on Meno. We feasted on steamed curried fish wrapped in banana leaves, sipped on fresh juices, and watched horse-drawn carts clip clop along the near-deserted beach in front of us. This relatively new restaurant must be, we decided, a sure sign that Gili Meno is attempting to appeal to the more sophisticated travellers who’d choose quiet Meno over the nearby party Gilis of Trawangan and Aire.
3. Ride a horse-drawn cart
You can explore the island by bike or by foot (it takes about 90 minutes to walk around the whole island), but we simply couldn’t resist the sweet jingling horses with their little carts trailing behind them, which take the place of cars on the island. We were carted ten minutes across the island (it’s two kilometres wide, one kilometre long), past the pretty inland brackish lake, the island’s bird park, roosters scratching in the ground, families of cows ambling through fields and local kids playing in the dirt. It cost us the equivalent of about $8, probably a bit of a rip off when you consider you can get lunch for $3 around these parts, but worth every penny.
4. Swim in azure waters
The ocean surrounding Gili Meno is absolutely crystalline, and when you walk past the shore you can hear the tinkling of coral as it washes up on the sand. We only had time for a quick dip at the beach, where colourful wooden boats bobbed near the shore and more relaxed travellers lay in the shade of little palm-thatched huts with fresh juices and books…
5. Drinks at a beach bar
…But we wanted to leave time to have a quick drink at Diana Café. This little beachfront bar, which sits almost next door to Mahamaya, is shrouded in strings of shell and coral and has the most gorgeous collection of baby turtles that they raise and release back into the wild. It seemed just the spot to farewell this scoop of paradise, dropped in the crystal blue.
READ MY REVIEW OF BALI’S ULUWATU SURF VILLAS HERE