Every Aussie with a tan knows about Bali. The island, part of the Indonesian archipelago; is crammed with Australian tourists in its high winter’ season, loafing down to the beach with their slabs of tinnies.
So it’s time for more discerning Antipodeans to move on and find a quieter, even more idyllic ideal holiday spot, and if you’re reading this, you’re in luck.
A (nicer) world away from Bali
When it comes to Asia holidays, few places have it all, but the Gili Islands have to be as close to paradise as it’s possible to get on Earth. Sand so white it hurts your eyes; beautiful turquoise water that’s so clear it might as well be air, and the smiling contentment that comes from knowing you’re a two-hour boat ride away from your sarong-clad compatriots who settled for Legian or Nusa Dua.
The three degrees: Trawangan, Meno, and Air
The three jungle-green stepping stones that make up the Gili archipelago look like they’ve been placed in the Lombok Strait by human hand, one after the other. They’re tiny, but well connected by both boat and air, and with a variety of resorts to suit most pockets. The largest island, Gili Trawangan, has much of the nightlife, with everything you’ve come to expect of your island holiday: great bars, slamming cocktails, fire shows on the starlit beach, and all that jazz.
For a more sedate experience, head to either of the other two: Gili Meno, or the baby of the triplets, Gili Air. Forget Bali, forget Indonesia, when you arrive at a Gili you’re in a micro culture all its own, far from the trodden Australian tourist beat. Yet in a sense, you haven’t even left Australia: nearby Lombok and the Gilis are on the Australian tectonic plate, still moving northwards. The fauna and flora are different: you’re on the other side of the Wallace line dividing the plate from its Eurasian fellow.
This boundary, the Lombok Strait, means deep water, and deep water means big fish. Lots of them.
What to do when you get there-
Here are some things you’d be crazy not to do on this Asian holiday of a lifetime:
- Go diving – The steep drop-off from the reefs around the archipelago attract a lot of big fish, including sharks. The strait itself is a pinch-point for traveling fish. It’s the aquatic equivalent of the Hume Highway, and the Gilis are slap on top of all the action. If you can’t dive, the snorkeling is just as good, with crystal water reefs everywhere you look.
- Go night diving – Switch a UV on for your night dive and let the light show commence. The stunning display of underwater nocturnal life will take your breath away, but don’t worry; you’ve got more in the tank on your back.
- Check out Meno’s salt-water lagoon – A beautiful spot itself, it’s also a haven for birds, so pack your binos.
- Boat party on the strait – Make like its 1999 (or 2099) on one of the fab boat parties organized throughout the season, with cool drinks and cooler sounds. Remember, you’re right over one of the world’s subduction zones. Can you feel the earth moving?