Beneath the surface
Wednesday on the island ended up being wet. It wasn’t cold, but it was wet. This made for a good excuse to just chill for the day and enjoy drinks with new friends.
Thursday though, Thursday on the island actually meant Thursday off the island. It was snorkelling and island-hopping day. I had myself booked for a sunset cruise with Gili Hai BBQ Pontoons which included three ‘dive’ sites, some island hopping between Gili Meno and Gili Air, a BBQ lunch on the boat, some time exploring Gili Air, before heading back to Gili T to watch the sunset over the island.
Now in the interest of full disclosure, the only snorkelling I have done is in a swimming pool. I knew the basics of breathing through my mouth and not my nose, and making sure I had a seal on my mask. That was about it. I also knew that from the position of a spectator this had the potential to be both horrifying and hilarious. Little did I care though. I wanted to swim with the fishes and the turtles. There was no chance I was coming to the ‘turtle island’ without seeing a turtle damnit!
And so, with towel packed, lathered in sunscreen, hat and sunnies sorted, and underwater camera charged up, off I went to seek out the world beneath the surface.
It turned out that no one else was booked for the cruise, so this one was to be a private day on the water. It was a little uncomfortable getting onto the boat only to be outnumbered by the crew; the man at the helm, the cook, and my dive buddy. I was consoled by the thought that this reduced the numbers of witnesses to my less than graceful snorkelling though.
At this stage I should add that I couldn’t have been happier with my team. Each were friendly and accommodating. They were understanding of my snorkel-virginity, didn’t rush me, and allowed me to set my own boundaries and pace. I had a ‘buddy’ whenever I was in the water who was close enough to offer assistance should it be needed, but never over bearing or pushy. He was also keen to be the photographer and capture my adventure. He would hand the camera to me for clicking the environment and wildlife, then he would take the camera and snap me! These photos shall never be seen. So if you’re hoping to scroll down and capture an image of the great white whale, you’ll be disappointed. Ain’t gonna happen folks.
Anyway, the snorkelling…
… it was amazing!
No really, it’s incredible down there. It’s huge, and beautiful, and scary, and peaceful. In fact it’s quite lovely to be able to just let go of everything that is on your mind above the waves, and focus purely on the world beneath.
Site one for snorkelling was an underwater sculpture off Gili Meno. This piece, Nest, has been created in shallow water off the beach with the intention of becoming a man-made reef for coral and sea life. It is 48 life-size figures standing and curled on the sand. Personally, I found the sculpture a bit odd, but I do like the concept of rejuvenating the reef… and the fish seem to think it’s rather cool. There were lots to be seen.
Deep water and turtles!
Site two started in deeper water. I’ll admit it was the one time I felt a bit disconcerted about being in the water and so far out of my depth (literally). That was, until a turtle swam beneath us! It was such a delight to swim along with him. I got completely lost in just floating along with him. In fact, this was when it became apparent that I have absolutely no awareness of the world outside when I snorkel. I was happily coasting along with mister turtle when I got a tap on my shoulder from my snorkel-buddy. He pointed up ahead towards… an oncoming boat! I was so caught up in my turtle bonding that I was heading smack into the hull of a boat. Yup. That’s me. Lady Oblivious.
Mister turtle glided happily out to sea at this point, and we turned to shallower depths. Much more my comfort zone. It was here that we came across Hungry Turtle. He was nuzzling into the sea bed for munchies. We were able to get right up close to him. No touching, but close. It is requested that divers and snorkelers do not touch the turtles, and as much as I wanted to put my hand out and hold his gorgeous flipper, I was strong and held back. I simply hovered beside him. It was a truly wonderful experience. I was besotted.
The next stop was again in shallower water. I was handed a plastic bottle of bread and ‘goop’ (I don’t know what the goop was but by all counts it’s tasty to fish). All I had to do, apparently, was squeeze. So off I went once again. Mask on, flippers on, waddle to the edge of the boat like a duck, and splash into the water in the world’s least glamourous entry. No really. There was no graceful slip into the water. It was more a hesitant step down one or two rungs of the ladder and then splash. I’m more graceful at the floating part.
Off I went, bottle in hand. I paddled away from the boat, head already down engrossed in life under the water. Eyes wide open and brain quietly imploding at the beauty.
OMG! I was mobbed. There were fish everywhere around me. They luuuuuurve that food I think. They would headbutt my hand if I held food in it. Little delicate fish headbutting. It was so brilliant! I was part of the pack. I was one of the cool kids. I was fishus popularis. It was utterly utterly brilliant!
It did cross my mind for a fleeting moment that if the little fish liked this goop, was it also attractive to bigger fish… fish with teeth… shark type fish! I was soon distracted by all the colour and movement though that the thought was quickly forgotten.
After bottle two is was time to move on to our next agenda item. Food and island exploring.
BBQ tasties and Gili Air
On emerging out of the water and slowly boarding the boat (I wasn’t known for my rapid exit from the water) I was seated at the table with fresh fruit and salad and some yummy chicken delicacies from the BBQ. The lads were so lovely and we all tucked in to a late lunch / early dinner before chugging off to Gili Air, the smallest of the three Gili islands.
I had an hour to enjoy and explore the much quieter, slower, and relaxed environment of Gili Air compared to the larger Gili T where I’d been spending my days. Like all the Gilis there are no cars, just horse and carts, and tourists on bikes. I was quite happy to potter and enjoy a cocktail while I watched the world go by, and wander along the beach.
Turtle distress… no, wait…
We returned to the high seas and were making our way back towards Gili T to watch the sun go down over the islands when there was sudden activity on the boat. The lads were pointing and steering the boat towards what appeared to be a turtle in distress. They’re motioning for me to get the camera out and start shooting as we neared what indeed looked like turtle trouble.
I thought this was my moment! I was going to be turtle conservation rescuer person! LADY FRAN SAVES TURTLE FROM CERTAIN DEATH! I was looking forward to untangling the beautiful beast from fishing line or a plastic bag. I was already penning my soap box speech about the scorch of human kind of the gentle beings of the ocean. I will save you little fella. I will free you from the horrors of human littering and let you swim free.
As we drew closer it became apparent that there were two turtles. OMG! This was bigger than I thought. The animal kingdom saving its own. Was this one turtle desperately trying to save its kin? Was it a mother and baby?
… ummmm… no. No, it was none of the above scenarios actually.
It was turtle lovin’! The making of baby turtles. A rather awkward affair. One would have thought it might have been somewhat more convenient to perform this act on land. Apparently that is not the turtle way though and I am not one to judge.
I did, in a nature-documentary-not-creepy way capture the moment on film… for science and stuff. Feel free to avert your eyes should you be sensitive to turtle porn. I think it’s great though. If this results in more baby turtles to fill our oceans then go for it lovers. Populate the seas!
After the love fest and both turtles went their merry ways without even a kiss on the cheek, we too departed into the setting sun.
Mother nature put on a splendid show moving from the gold of dusk to the purples of sunset.
It was a stunning was to end the day, and my final adventure on in the Gili islands.