A lot has changed to The Gili Islands in as little as only a couple of years. Regardless of the tropical thunder storms and power cuts that remain a regular occurrence throughout most of the year, Gili Trawangan draws more and more tourists to it's shores and is increasingly earning a special place in people's hearts.
Getting To/From Gili T
Coming from East Java, our best option was to fly to Lombok, spend a night in Senggigi and get the ferry from there the next morning. Gili T is frequented by tourists that get the ferry from Bali, which is where we were heading next, but we were honestly a bit apprehensive of the long, two hour boat ride as it's known to get quite choppy. So, following our stay on Gili T, we decided to return to Senggigi (where we would've loved to have stayed longer) and flew to Bali. After reading some online reviews (and a whole lot of horror stories), we went with Super Scoot for 200,000 RP each and felt very safe throughout the first journey. It was a bit of a different story on the way back though, with waves crashing against the windows and water going right over the boat! Nonetheless, they got us to and from the island in one piece and our bags somehow managed to stay dry!
Staying On Gili T
When searching for somewhere to stay on Gili T, we were amazed by the amount of awesome accommodation options! We chose Lievera Bungalows, mainly because of the location and the price. It wasn't exactly luxury, but it was perfect for us and we liked it a lot. Our room was on the top floor of a two story woven bamboo-looking building. We had our own balcony and even an outdoor shower and toilet! Although Gili T is the largest of the three islands, everything was always within walking distance, so we soon learnt that location wasn't as important as we thought.
Where To Eat (Veggie)
Our mouths were watering when we saw how much veggie friendly food there was on the island! Our favourite restaurant was definitely Pituq cafe - we ate there every day! For smoothie bowls, the best place was The Banyon Tree, but we quickly found out how much the cost can add up. The restaurants aren't the cheapest on the island, but it can definitely still be done on a budget, especially if you check out the night market, which is apparently fairly vegan friendly as well!
About Gili Eco Trust
Whilst visiting the island, we were lucky enough to meet some of the guys behind Gili Eco Trust, which is an organisation dedicated to the conservation and restoration of coral reefs... But it certainly doesn't stop there! Since the trust was founded in 2000, they have done more and more to tackle issues of sustainability on the island, and it's now safe to say that the work they do truly seems endless!
As well as educating the locals (who have been known to use destructive fishing methods such as dynamite and cyanide) and installing mooring bouys to prevent illegal anchoring, the trust have been on a mission to inspire tourists to travel more responsibly and conscientiously. It was awesome to see how many eco-warriors they attract from all over the world as volunteers! Other work that they do ranges from school visits to running workshops and educational land/sea-based eco-tours. And let's not forget the care they've given to animals on the island either! Admirable stuff, hey?!
Snorkelling On Gili T
A tropical island wouldn't be much without a bit of snorkelling now would it? For a donation of 50,000 RP each, we got to go out with some of the guys from Gili Eco Trust to explore their collection of "biorocks" and, if you don't know what a biorock is, then don't worry... We didn't either!
A biorock is best described as a semi-artificial coral garden. A sculpture like structure is made from bendable steel bars, taken to the sea and sunken to the seabed, often by the volunteers! Damaged pieces of coral are attached to the biorock, and then comes the clever bit... A low voltage electrical current runs through the structures and an electrolytic reaction causes a layer of calcium carbonate to form around the steel bars. It provides something stable for the corals to grow on and the electrical current causes the corals to grow much faster and stronger! They also become more resilient to bleaching and warming waters! Gili Eco Trust now have well over a hundred biorocks dotted around the seabed that surrounds the island and, as well as offering a new home to a whole range of sea life, the biorocks protect the beaches and prevent beach erosion!
For many reasons, the snorkelling was an experience that we will remember forever... No, not just because of all the fish that we saw, or being able to dive down and "ride" the vintage vespers. After only 20 minutes in the water, when the scary looking storm clouds rolled in and forks of lighting started to strike the other close by islands, we unfortunately had to cut the snorkelling short. But, we now knew where some of the biorocks were and we could easily return for a longer look another day!
Since Gili T has recently become such a renowned party island, the rapid increase in tourism has resulted in a lot of waste being produced... We saw "the dump" for ourselves and let's just say that it wasn't very pretty! A lot of the waste finds it's way to the beach and, therefore, out to the ocean. Whilst the wind accounts for some rogue rubbish, a lot is simply litter that's been left and not disposed of properly, and of course there's the plastic bottles and bags etc that wash up and plague the tideline. Litter isn't just an eyesore - it poses a real threat to all life on this planet and someone needs to do something about it!
That's where Gili Eco Trust comes in... Every "Debris Free Friday", the gang gets stationed at a particular stretch of beach, along with beach cleaning organisation SeaMade and a wonderful group of willing tourists and locals to do just that. It's hard to believe that there were over 40 of us, a wave of eco-worriers, sweeping the beach and searching amongst the sand for non-biodegradable rubbish. The items that stood out the most were the cigarette butts. Gili Eco Trust typically find 4-6 thousand of them on every one of their beach cleans! With cigarette butts being one of the major culprits when it comes to marine litter, we can't commend Gili Eco Trust enough for putting such a high level of importance on them throughout the clean. Not only that, but an incredible 147kg out of the 178kg total rubbish collected was recycled. Meaning, only 31kg was sent to the dump, which was a record low!
Waste Management, Recycling and Upcycling
As the island’s infrastructure struggles to cope specifically with the amount of waste created by tourists, and the mountain that is The Dump continues to pile up, a big part of what the Gili Eco Trust do is find ways to improve the island’s waste management system, recycle as much of the waste as possible and change people’s mindset towards the waste that they throw away.
At Bank Sampah Gili Indah, recyclable materials are processed, crushed and shipped to another recycling station on Lombok. This process doesn't just protect the environment, but also creates lots of local jobs! As much as 10-15 tonnes of recyclable waste is transported from Gili T every 10 days, whilst a lot is also turned into jewellery, bags and more by the creative volunteers! These upcycled products can then be purchased at their store by tourists and local businesses alike! We even bought some reusable bamboo straws from them!
Gili Eco Trust also offer a bicycle tour around the island, to see the dump and the work they do at the recycling center but, unfortunately, we didn't get to do this tour. That said, we bet it would have been really interesting, and not to mention eye opening!
If you would be interested in any of the tours that Gili Eco Trust offer, then you can find their website here...
We highly recommend them if you're interested in spending some time volunteering too! They were incredibly enthusiastic about the amazing work they do and made us feel completely welcome!