The new year that is 2014 began early, and ensure it got off on the right foot, then what better way to kick things off with a healthy serve of Banana Pancakes (they were tasty enough, however the Pineapple Pancakes the following morning were better).
Our snorkeling trip (booked the previous day) was scheduled to launch around 10:30 in the morning, but for whatever reason (perhaps a lot of bookings were no shows after waking with sore heads, or failing to wake in time), we found ourselves shunted from beach to beach, slowly meeting bigger groups of people, before eventually a boat was brought to shore.
Assuming that several snorkeling tours had now been merged into one, we finally hit the seas, under fairly grey skies. At least the day remained warm!
So the schedule was for 4 different snorkel spots at a variety of locations around the 3 Gili Islands, with lunch on Gili Air sandwiched in between snorkel sites 3 and 4. Another fun point of note as we left the shores of Gili Trawangan, was that this (like many of the tour craft moored near the island) was in fact a glass bottomed boat.
As we cruised north, parallel with the short coastline of Gili Trawangan, we were treated to unobstructed views of hordes of local Indonesians celebrating on the shore with music and fireworks (although the pleasure and spectacle of fireworks is seriously diminished when they are fired during daylight).
Reaching what was supposed to be our first snorkel site, the conditions were a bit too rough, so after a bit of searching, another was found. There was a current here, so the plan was people would enter the water (and basically float along with the current), after which the boat would relocate and collect us further down the coast.
Conditions were a bit choppy, but once in the water, it certainly didn’t feel so bad. Given that in most places, the depth was only a metre or two, it did mean that on occasion, we did get buffeted about making my photography efforts a bit difficult.
It was an ok site, with quite a few fish and some coral (not all of it was dead like in Rinca Island) but after half an hour or so, most people were ready to move on.
Site number 2 was the one that had most on board most excited, as it had a reputation as a great location for spotting sea turtles. The same deal applied. We’d all enter the water together, then slowly make our way to an area some distance away, the only difference was one of the crew had also donned a mask and flippers and would be joining us.
Immediately this site was different. With the water depth ranging from 3 to 10 metres, the coral looked healthier, and the variety of sea life was also far greater.
It also wasn’t long before the first turtle sighting occurred as well, although sadly the encounter did not play out as I’d envisioned. In my imaginings of the event, I could see this graceful form gliding by, with me awestruck by its size and beauty.
The truth is, it played out very differently. I mentioned earlier how a crew member joined us in the water for this particular site. For a guy who had just minutes earlier been chain smoking (I’m certain he could squeeze in half a dozen in between sites), his lung capacity underwater was incredible.
He was also very adept at spotting Sea Turtles, so when he finally cried out that there was a turtle below, the sea became writhing morass of fairly amateur snorkelers (ourselves included, although we were more competent than many) converging on one location hoping for a glimpse.
Factor in the fact that the turtle was at about 10 metres depth, all we really got to see was a shell outline from above. But we did at least see it!
There was another turtle sighting, and it too played out in a similar manner, and before long, most people were back on the boat as we moved on.
With many bodies now wet, and the wind whipping off the water, many people on board began to get quite cold. The skies had begun to look even darker and the rough seas were such that our guide actually had a pretty worried look upon his face. The decision was made to abort from our next site, stop for lunch on Gili Air, and hope for an improvement in the conditions.
Our impressions of Gili Air were good. In fact it had a pace much slower and more akin to what we’d actually expected from Gili Trawangan. After a short wander (in drizzling rain), we found a restaurant, and ordered feed.
As we sat, the rain really set in and after a exceptionally long wait for our food, we finally returned to our boat where the decision was finally made to abandon the last 2 snorkeling efforts for this trip.
It was a shame, however many people were by now cold and didn’t fancy getting wet once more, and the conditions in the water remained very poor (I think most people were comfortable with the decision).
But wet really set the tone for the rest of our time on Gili Trawangan. Eventually we even gave up trying to avoid the puddles, resigned to simply walking through them.
By morning the rain had finally ceased, although during the night we did discover that the rains had left our bathroom and part of our bedroom in a very wet state. Fortunately none of our bags were anywhere near the offending puddles.
A final circuit of the island presented us some locals feeding (of the Bovine variety), so inspired, we checked our bags in for the afternoons fast boat (fortunately apparently, as 1 boat we would later learn was cancelled due to rough weather) and grabbed some lunch of our own.
You can only begin to imagine Sarah’s relief when we saw the vessel for this voyage was double the size of the minnow that she got seasick on, during the outbound voyage…