Gili Air is just right. Not too small and not too big, this sibling to Meno and Trawangan has exactly the right mix of island living and amenities, which makes for a comfortable, quiet stay.
The East side of the island is where it's at (quite literally as this is the only bit that's developed). There are cute little cafes, beach resorts, homestays, you can rent bikes and snorkel gear and it seems like everyone has mushrooms or weed to sell you. We've giggled a few times as we passed island locals calling out, "long hair, long life. Big banana, happy wife!"
There were around 45 of us crammed into a wooden boat, full of supplies and groceries for the island as we made our way to this little dot on the Indo-Pacific. We checked in to a cute little bundle of cottages, called Kokowa and were pleasantly surprised at the A/C, wifi connection, complimentary breakfast and outdoor private showers. There's something to be said about going to the bathroom under the stars. You won't know until you try.
We spent the last few days snorkelling just off the beach (the island is surrounded by reef), eating seafood BBQ skewers, lychee fruits, relaxing in our huts and taking it all in. Brandon and I had a romantic dinner on the sand and splurged a little on espresso and sorbet afterwards. And Justine and I worked out together, keeping each other accountable.
The first day we snorkelled, we had such an amazing experience! We saw a beautiful variety of fish and sea life and we were even able to swim alongside a beautiful adult sea turtle as he swam through the shallows! He was so magnificent, just gliding along, gold shimmering off his back as small, tropical-coloured schools of fish swam around him. He rose for a quick breath of air and then was down again, flying effortlessly along.
We swam a bit further, to the edge of the reef and wow, is that ever a humbling experience. With no idea what is out there, just floating on the cusp of the deep blue, you can't help but feel vulnerable and intimidated.
At one point, a large school of black fish with yellow striped tails hovered over the reef before swimming down as a school to eat off of the coral. There were tiny fluorescent blue ones, large, horned, football sized ones and we giggled as we pointed out the different fish from Finding Nemo. Such an amazing experience, and definitely one I won't forget.
Last night we were able to have another wonderful experience as we ventured out for an evening Hatha Yoga class at the local, Aussie run studio, H2O Yoga. We couldn't find the studio at first, as it's off the (one) beaten path a bit, farther into the jungle. Arriving just before it began, we signed up and eagerly took our places, already sweating in the open air, bamboo thatched hut.
With candles lit, a setting sun and 25 bodies ready to relax and realign, we began. The geckos croaked and birds chimed evening songs as we held our poses and breathed deeper into the stretches. Around halfway through the class, there was a rumble in the distance and all of a sudden the floor of the hut began to shake. We braced the floor and experienced an earthquake. It was so humbling.
Luckily for us, it didn't escalate into anything serious and we all wondered if Mount Rinjani, the nearby volcano on Lombok island, might be churning some ideas...
A little shaken, we all laughed it off and carried on with our class until the sun went down. Our final pose, shivasanah, was the most peaceful I've ever experienced. With 7 singing bowls, one for each chakra in the human body, candles flickering and the harmonious buzz of birds, bugs and wildlife outside the hut, I was able to settle deep into the peaceful pose and really be present in the moment. Such a beautiful experience and a really nice way to spend our final evening on Gili.
The last few days have been nothing short of relaxing and I would highly suggest paying this small, charming island a visit.