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Bali – Gili Air – 17th/19th Feb

We left Padangbai at around 9am once we’d checked in and watched several other ferry and boat companies jet off packed to the rim with tourists and their bags. We were hoping that our boat wouldn’t be so rammed tight! We bought our tickets the night before from a guy operating on behalf of the Ocean Star Express who are one of the companies with International standards, we got a good deal with it being off-peak and paid 950,000 rupees for us both return and with a transfer to Legian at the end. This was an open ticket and so we would just need to reconfirm this when we wanted to leave.

The boat journey was smooth and took around 90 minutes, we sat next to Carryn from South Africa who then became one of our buddies for the week. When we got to Gili Air we grabbed our bags and decided to walk from the jetty to the main street, although on Gili there are no paved roads it’s all sand and people with quite a few donkey carts manoeuvring tourists and their goods around. We went straight to Manta Dive as Carryn had already pre-booked 10 dives and we knew we’d be able to leave our bags there whilst looking for accommodation ourselves. Behind Manta is Nina’s which is a good budget option at around 100 rs a night but we wanted a little more luxury for our Island stay. We checked out a few other options and then happened upon a small collection of newly built “Chillout Bungalows” set back from the beach and busy area. We loved them and chose the first on the left with an open bathroom and big thatched roof, we had our own seating area at the front and it was quite peaceful. For 200,000 a night we were happy with this place.

Once we’d settled into our Island life on Gili Air we took advantage of the good food and fresh fish on offer and before long we were booked onto a snorkel trip around the 3 islands to give us a taste of the shallow waters. It was 70,000 each for the snorkel trip  with the gear, although don’t expect anything too new! The trip was good in that we swam with turtles and got to have fun with our underwater camera, plus we saw the other Islands. Some snorkelling points we better than others and the lunch on Gili Meno was disappointing; we waited an hour for noodles and rice with veg and we were constantly pestered by hawkers!

Back on Gili Air we were starting to make friends and met up with Carryn who then introduced us to her new dive buddies, some of whom were related to a few of the people on the snorkelling trip so it was all starting to fall into place, our little Gili Air community. We also frequented the local Muslim Warung in the village which for 10-15,000 rs you’ll get a well packed veggie, squid, or chicken and rice delight topped off with roasted peanuts and coco-nut shavings.

Helen was also pretty excited at the prospect of attending some yoga classes once she’d noticed that there was a yoga school on the Island. H20 Yoga is not too far from where our bungalows were located and so it was a simple hop across the field or 3 minute walk from us. There are two yoga teachers at H20 at the moment, Natasha who is acting manager offers and Anusara approach and Gene a Vini-yoga style. Natasha also offers a free meditation class on Mondays and there is a teacher training program coming up sometime later this year. It’s a lovely yoga circle with some accommodation surrounding the deck and a cute kitten who by now will be nearly fully grown called Surya!

One thing we have failed to mention is that all three Islands are occupied by cats, and for some reason the ginger cat comes up top! There are no dogs on the Islands and so it’s a nice an easy life for them! We walked around the Island in about an hour but had plenty of stops along the way to catch the low golden sun, the east side of the Island is way more developed but its worth exploring the perimeter and the village within.

(Leica M9, Summicron-M 50mm f2.0, 18mm f4, 90mm Tele-Elmarit f2.8 & Olympus PEN, 17mm f2.8 & 100mm f2.8, Sony DSC-TX5 underwater camera, processed in Lightroom 3)

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