A minibus from Ubud to Padang Bai then a speedboat to Gili Trawangan and I was in a different world. I waded ashore, wiggled my wet toes in the sand and knew I’d found my home for the next few days.
Gili Trawangan is where the backpackers went about 20 years ago when Bali got popular. Now speedboats offload holidaymakers every day and it’s getting busier by the year. The main beach is being developed in all directions yet somehow it remains small enough. There are no cars or motorbikes on Gili T so the fastest methods of transport are bicycle or pony cart. In my village homestay, about 100m back from the beach, I was woken each morning by the mosque’s call to prayer and Yusup delivering breakfast to my terrace. After only a few days I would walk along the beach path and bump into people I knew. On my last day on Gili T, I stayed indoors with a bout of travellers’ tummy and was greeted later that evening with, “Hey, where ya been? We missed you”.
Gili T can easily capture your heart. It’s a great place to dive (lots of people learn here), to snorkel, to chill on the beach, to party, and to lose yourself with a smattering of mind altering magic mushrooms on your pizza at Rudy’s. For me, it was all about the diving, my dive buddies, sunset yoga and a few Bintangs in the evening.
I dived six times with Big Bubble – they were brilliant. I met reef sharks, turtles, witnessed Jamil the dive guide battling a female Titan triggerfish after we swam too close to her nest, and was held spellbound by male and female pharaoh cuttlefish swimming together, changing colour as electrical charges pulsed through their bodies. One of my favourite moments was watching a black and white banded sea snake weave its way to the surface as sunbeams shot through the water. And on land one evening, I had tears in my eyes as I watched a turtle lay her eggs on the quieter northern section of Gili T’s beach.
I had great dive buddies. Joe, a professional poker player, was brilliant company. We dived, chatted over great food and beer, and he introduced me to Gili T’s sunset yoga class. I laughed when Travis the banker, my other dive buddy, introduced himself to Joe and said, “Poker, trading, same thing really.” The Big Bubble dive crowd were great and we all adored Wayan, our favourite divemaster. It is such a cliché to develop a crush on your divemaster, but in my defence, Travis, the 6-foot, macho Canadian banker wanted to marry Wayan and I feel sure Joe would have let him win at poker.
I settled into a gorgeous routine of diving, eating, yoga, drinking beer and chatting with friends on Gili T. But after a few days it was time to head to Komodo and my liveaboard dive trip. Turns out diving on Gili T was just the warm up act…
JacDaly’s photostream on Flickr.