SEVENSEAS Marine Conservation & Travel Issue 22, March 2017 - Page 95

lazy afternoon for a short 45 minute snorkel and saw eight turtles. That's right, eight, in 45 minutes! Eating, swimming, coming up for air and lazing on the seafloor, we saw them at their best. If your significant other is not already a keen snorkeller, take it from me that this will get them into it!

I should of course mention that this took place in September, and sea turtles are rightly known to make some of the greatest migrations on earth. Turtles from Indonesia have been found in waters at least as far as Western Australia, so there is a chance that we just hit a sweet spot for turtle numbers. Either way, I take no responsibility if you end up seeing nothing but beautifully clear, deep azure waters, as you snorkel undisturbed by boatloads of groups frequently found in such biodiverse areas.

The lack of expected crowds is because Gili Meno is not the easiest place to get to. The closest airport is on the south of Lombok, which doesn't have a great number of connections, and the so-called 'fast-boats' have been at the centre of some well known, and sadly fatal incidents in the past few year...basically they have a tendency to explode. The "public boats" meanwhile feel like they will tip over and sink if they hit a wave wrong.

If you have the budget, AirBali run helicopter transfers to Trawangan, by far the safest and most scenic method of transport here. Catch a public boat (or private charter) across to Meno and a cidomo (horse cart) to your hotel. Or just walk it, after all it isn't far wherever you stay! If you don't have that kind of budget, you can fly domestically to Lombok Airport from a few places (including Bali) at a fraction of the price of a helicopter. From there get a taxi to Bangsal and then a public boat to Meno.

For those who do want to boat it, be aware that seas can get very rough here, and remember the aforementioned safety record of 'Fast-Boat' services. I heard talk of the Dive Shops on the islands running speedboat transfers to Bali's Amed Town at slightly higher cost, and with far greater comfort and safety, but if you can't get one of those make sure to do your research. Most of the speedboats are dangerously overloaded, with improperly sealed petrol tanks and smoking on the rear deck allowed. Buy direct, as touts and agents in Indonesia will often show you a different leaflet or picture than the boat you end up on.

If you have a lot more time than money, it is possible to get the 'slow boat', a large and solid vehicle ferry that makes the crossing to the port of Lembar in around 5 hours. This is incredibly local, but surprisingly comfortable, with air-conditioning and power outlets on the inside decks and a tuck-shop cafe on board serving always dependable Indonesian Coffee. Adding in transfer time to Bangsal and across to Meno, along with what I would call 'fluid' scheduling means you can expect to spend 2 days to get from Bali all the way to Gili Meno though.

None of this should stop you from going, quite the opposite in fact. Plan your trip, and spend a few days on Gili Meno. Find yourself a patch of heavenly beach all to yourself, rent some snorkel gear and get into the beautiful shimmering sapphire water. Pack plenty of sunscreen, and always remember to take precautions and let someone know where you are going and when you will be back if you head out alone. The Gili's are small, and close to each other but are also home to strong currents and deep water. In case you don't like the suggested ways of getting here - do not try to swim between the islands!

March 2017 - Sustainable Travel