13 UNDISCOVERED GILI ISLANDSAugust, 16, 2013 - 05:33AM
Many people did not know that there is another 13 Gili islands in the southwest of Lombok, much closer to Bali than the 3 famous islands of Trawangan, Meno and Gili Air.
With only three or four budget to mid range hotels this will take you back 20 years into a stunning set of mostly uninhabited islands.
Over our next updates we will be adding pages to our Gili Paradise website with more information and the hotels in a new section, “The Secret Gili Islands”.
With a boat service to suit, or travel via Lombok by public ferry, this is what keeps them quiet and not over run in high seasons.
The Sekotong region starts just south of Lembar Harbour and features stunning beaches and bays set against a backdrop of rolling hills.
The drive itself is a worthwhile trip, meandering through villages where life is largely untouched by tourism and where the people are involved in their day-today activities of farming, fish cultivation, boating and fishing, brick-making and other traditional pastimes.
Along the roadsides you will see people building and repairing boats, laying out hand-made bricks to dry in the sun, working in the fields, and sometimes guiding primitive wooden ploughs harnessed to huge water buffalo, as they prepare the fields for planting.
The peaceful village of Taun (or Tawun), is situated on a wide, placid bay in Sekotong. The ocean is sparkling turquoise and the dazzling white sand stretches in a wide sweep around the bay, while the hills behind form a perfect backdrop to this idyllic setting.
Just out in the calm bay are the three lovely islands of Gili Nanggu, Gili Tangkong and Gili Sudat – all easily accessible by local outrigger boats. A small sign in the nearby village will direct you to the local boat hire area, where you can arrange boat trips out to Gili Nanggu and the other small islands offshore.
Of the three, only Gili Nanggu has accommodation for visitors, with Gili Nanggu Cottages providing simple cottages on the beach and a restaurant, as well as deluxe rooms further back from the beach. The island is small and the beach here has soft white sand and a good reef just off the beach for snorkelling.
Traveling a little further south, before the marine culture complex (Balai Budaya Laut), there is a small dirt road leading out onto a white peninsular of sand that juts into beautiful clear waters. Drive to the end for superb views and a close up look at Gili Genting.
Gili Genting sits just off the tip of the peninsular and at low tide you can walk across the sandbar and explore this uninhabited island. Old volcanic rocks and stone carved from centuries of tidal flow create small caves and alcoves, providing shelter for picnics and interesting nooks and crannies to explore.
Back on the main road and slightly further south is Sundancer Resort, with its distinctive blue roofs dotted on the hillside overlooking another white sand beach. The hotel development is still under construction.
Across the road from Sundancer, on the beachfront, is Dive Zone – a well-run diving facility and experts on diving the southwest islands, having pioneered development of previously unknown dive sites in this area.
Dive Zone offer dive trips around Sekotong and the islands, as well as in three locations in South Lombok – including challenging world-class diving off southeast Lombok.
Another few kilometres past Dive Zone is Cocotinos Boutique Beach Resort, set on the secluded beach at Tanjung Empat. With 28 rooms, including beachfront villas with private swimming pools, Cocotinos is the only luxury accommodation in the area.
Cocotinos in Sekotong is the second venture for the Odyssea Asia group, with their first dive resort already well established in Manado, Sulawesi. Scuba diving courses and dives, operated by Odyssea Divers, are available from the resort, together with snorkelling, boating and other sea sports.
Fronting the resort is a glorious white sand beach which spans over 300m, part of which is a private cove. Facilities include a 17m beach front swimming pool, a restaurant overlooking the bay, the Laleina Spa on the waterfront, a boat jetty, and diving and boating facilities.
At the next intersection there is a signpost to the right for Labuhan Poh and Pelangan, the site of Bola Bola Paradis. This is a small hotel, situated right on the beachfront with comfortable and clean rooms at reasonable prices. The hotel also organises snorkelling tours and is a popular choice for those surfing at Bangko-Bangko.
The largest of these islands is Gili Gede, appropriately meaning “Big Island”. The island lays just offshore and is so large visitors often mistake it for part of the mainland. Gili Gede is easily reached by boat from the village of Tembowong and is only minutes across the water.
Gili Gede is one of the few islands in the area that has accommodation, at Secret Island Resort on the south, Via Vaccare on the northwest and Madak Belo on the east.
Gili Gede is large enough to provide a range of activities such as hiking to the hills in the centre for fantastic views across the other islands, exploring deserted beaches and hidden coves and meeting the people living on the island, who are very friendly and, as yet, unspoilt by tourism.
Secret Island has comfortable budget accommodation, including a unique bungalow perched on a pier over the reef – the only one in either Lombok or Bali. The Resort offers a host of activities that all the family will enjoy, while also being a place where you can get away from it all.
Secret Island can also organise fishing trips and island hopping excursions to the other beautiful islands in the area, most of which are deserted, about their comfortable 9m custom-built boat “Scorpio”.
To the south of Gili Gede, the islands of Gili Ringgit, Layar and Asahan are lined up like secret treasures in the calm sea.
Bounty Cruises, a Bali based company, own a large parcel of land on Gili Ringgit and have constructed a boat mooring and pier on the island. There is good snorkelling on the west side of Gili Ringgit, accessed by boat. Large gardens of hard and soft corals lay just beneath the surface and the reef extends along most of the island’s coast.
On the other side of the island is where the pier is located, with a fantastic white sand beach. It is a favourite for guests from Secret Island Resort, and Dive Zone often brings divers to the island to relax in between dives, as the scenery and beach here are so lovely.
It’s easy to snorkel offshore, just north of the pier and, although the reef isn’t as large as on the other side of the island, there is still plenty to see. Bright blue starfish drape themselves across patches of coral, and bright yellow and black Moorish Idols dart through the water. Schools of hundreds of small iridescent fish swim past and weirdly shaped squid drift by in the deeper areas.
We met a boat load of happy tourists on Gili Ringgit, out for the day with Dive Zone, who described the diving as some of the best they’ve ever experienced. Most couldn’t stop gushing about the huge school of turtles they had just seen near Gili Layar!
All around these Southwest Gilis, abundant coral reefs lay just below the surface waiting to be explored, filled with thousands of brightly colored tropical fish, huge sprawling blue starfish and magical turtles gently gliding through the water.
Slightly south of Gili Gede, beautiful Gili Asahan attracts visitors with deserted white sand beaches, clear calm waters and swaying palm trees.
Pearl Beach Resort, the only accommodation on the island, is a lovely boutique hotel with charming and well-designed bungalows looking out over a breath-taking beach. Of a higher standard than most of the southwest accommodation, each bungalow has a private terrace and western style bathrooms with hot water.
There is also a beachfront restaurant serving western and Indonesian meals, and good snorkeling directly from the beach.
The resort is popular with divers and can arrange diving and snorkeling trips, as well as island-hopping tours. Pearl Beach is perfect for romantic escapes and for those seeking the tranquillity of a private island resort.
Leaving Gili Asahan and back on the mainland there are small home-stays and private accommodations spaced out along the road to Bangko-Bangko – known as Desert Point and the surfing Mecca for those in the know – located on the far southwest tip of Lombok.
The wide white sand bay is lined with fisherman’s huts and draws hundreds of surfers every year from as far away as Hawaii and Brazil to challenge the huge waves of Desert Point, just offshore.
Southwest Lombok Although the road deteriorates after Labuhan Poh, it is still passable for most vehicles in the dry season. During the surfing season, from mid-May to September and again in December, the beach is buzzing with surfers, but otherwise it is a remote and peaceful area. Bali is clearly visible, with the island of Nusa Penida only about an hour’s sail away.
The drive to the point is dotted with bucolic scenery and tiny villages, making it a worthwhile trip even for non-surfers. There is basic surfer accommodation in the area and plans for development in the near future.
Those who wish to explore the underwater world further can join dive adventures with either Dive Zone in Sekotong or Odyssea Divers at Cocotinos
The dive sites reflect a good cross-section of what Indonesian diving has to offer. Dive in and be fascinated by turtles, white tip reef sharks, cuttlefish, moray eels and many other varieties of marine life. The reefs are full of bright soft corals and colorful corals, which harbor an amazing variety of rare marine life, including ghost pipe fish, leaf fish, pygmy seahorses and much more.
The southwest is slated for tourism development and it’s easy to imagine hotels and resorts on all these beaches and islands in the future, as well as yachts, fishing boats, windsurfers, dive boats and the like. But for now, the Southwest is unspoilt and the Gilis remain the secret islands… stunningly beautiful, pristine and unique; and known only to the lucky few.