This post sees Rory, one of the founders of dewerstone, take a trip out to Indonesia and as part of that trip, go kayaking between the Gili Islands.
From the left: Gili T, Gili Meno & Gili Air. Photo credit www.gilibookings.com
Paddling between the islands is doable, but it's not a daily occurrence by any means, during my time there I watched plenty of people hire kayaks with the best intentions only to turn back and stick to exploring the coastline. Whilst paddling around the coastline is enjoyable for novice paddlers, unless you have experience of sea kayaking and a good grasp of what the currents are doing, you need to think carefully about crossing between the islands - always seek advice from the locals, not just the ones that want your money!
So our plan was to paddle from Gili T to Gili Meno, around Gili Meno and back to Gili T. Including the crossing this is about a 7k loop.
Whilst the essentials are pretty obvious, we were on the water for a lot longer that we expected, so take plenty of water and plenty of suncream. You also shouldn't snub the life jackets offered to you, whilst they may have been purchased in the 70's, the possibility of needing them is pretty high.
So... We paddled across from Gili T to Gili Meno, it only took about 15-20 minutes constant paddling and at the time we did it, the current wasn't too strong. It's worth noting that the currents, the wind and the weather generally digress as the day goes on, you want to make sure you do this in the morning!
After a little snorkel we ditched the kayak on the beach and went for a hike around the island. It's a stunning place, unlike Gili T it's barely inhabited and has this real feeling of remoteness, it really is paradise. There is a beautiful lake 10 minutes walk inland and although it didn't look great for swimming in it provided a great spot for appreciating the peaceful island life.
After the hour or so of walking we returned to the kayak, with the intention of paddling to 'Turtle Point' - this is where the majority of snorkel trips from Gili T take you, we found the currents to be pretty strong and took the opportunity to tie on to a locals boat. This quickly led to a bit of pirating and soon the boat was ours.. Well briefly, they were English / Italian ex-pats so sure enough the kayak was tied up behind the boat and we were heading back to Gili T for a beer with our new found friends!
Don't panic, the kayak trip didn't stop there. Once our impromptu lunchtime beer was over, they towed us back to Gili Meno and dumped us off on the Lombok side, drifting just off what we would soon find out was a rather treacherous reef break.
Whilst I love kayak surfing, it's never normally in a double sit on top kayak and although compared to what I'd usually paddle at home, it was still an enjoyable surf in - even if it did handle like a tanker!
After a little chill time on the beach and letting the excitement of the surf in and the comedy of our impromptu boat trip calm down we decided it was time to paddle back out through the surf and get on with kayaking around Gili Meno.
The paddle out was interesting to say the least. The first capsize was fairly standard, the second was brutal. After the first capsize and some seriously exhausting paddling, we'd managed to get out past the break and we were feeling pretty pleased with ourselves. That is when the freak set of waves came in. I won't ramble on about how big they were, but the first one was large enough to send our kayak reeling backwards over itself and us plummeting in to the reef itself.
First off we both surfaced ok, but the kayak was gone, it had caught a wave and was racing off towards the beach. Thankfully. Losing the kayak to the current would have been game over. Once on the beach it was apparent I was bleeding from several places and that I'd split my foot open nicely and in an awkward place. This is why you should always be wearing a Dewerstone t shirt, they make great impromptu bandages! (As I write this almost two weeks later, the V styled cut on my foot has only just started to heal properly, it's going to leave a decent scar that's for sure!)
In true English style we didn't give in, we lugged the kayak around the coast a little until the surf died down and then continued on our paddle. Boy were we glad we did. If it's possible to stumble upon paradise twice in one day, on the same island, we did. The beaches are beautiful, the views are idyllic and the water is incredible.
Around the middle of the coastline on Gili Meno we stopped for lunch. This was no doubt one of the best lunches I've ever had and it was all because of the view. The views of Lombok in the distance are stunning and knowing that we'd kayaked there ourselves pumped up the feel good factor to eleven. The most amazing thing about this place is that no matter where you stop for lunch on Gili Meno, you're going to have this feeling!
So lunch over it's time to carry on paddling, we spot a couple of tourist skiffs a little off the coast so paddle out to see what the fuss is about. As soon as we've got our masks on and eyes underwater it's clear we won't have to spend much time searching, because there's turtles right here!
Whilst the turtles camouflage in the video blog makes it a little hard to spot, finding them out here is generally pretty easy. This little guy was only about 30 metres off the Gili Meno coastline. As a rule of thumb, spend enough time in the water, you'll spot them!
By this time it's mid afternoon and we know we need to think about getting back to Gili T. The weather often closes in around 4pm and it would be unwise to be paddling back as the daily hour long thunderstorm comes in. There's no doubting the weather window was closing in rapidly as we made the crossing, it was significantly choppier paddling back across and we could really feel the pull of the current.
Plenty of people will tell you that the view from Gili T back to Lombok is special, especially when the sun goes down, but seeing the contrast between the bright sunshine over Gili Meno against the darkness of the thunderstorm over Lombok, whilst floating between the islands..
Now that is special.
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