Plenty to crow about
Gili Meno is known as the quiet island among Indonesia’s party spots, apart from its roosters, writes Adam Gartrel
WE came to Gili Meno to get some peace and – cock-adoodle-doooooooo!!! – quiet. But the tiny island’s roosters (there must be hundreds) don’t really seem to care about our quest for serenity.
About 4am – two hours before sunrise – they begin their long, earsplitting wake-up call, metres from our villa.
My wife and I live in Jakarta, Indonesia’s noisy, traffic-choked capital. At least once a month we escape its confines in search of a quiet spot.
So we went to Lombok, Bali’s s p e c t a c u l a r but s t r a n g e l y neglected nearest neighbour. More specifically, to Gili Meno, a speck of an island off Lombok’s northwest coast.
Meno is one of three ‘‘Gilis’’ in the area. Gili Trawangan and Gili Air are party islands popular with backpackers. Meno, with only a handful of bars, is known as ‘‘the quiet one’’, and most backpackers steer clear.
None of the islands allow cars or motorbikes, meaning there’s no traffic noise – a major draw for two people wearied by Jakarta’s bustle.
No blaring car horns then, only screeching fowl.
Unable to sleep, we drag ourselves out of bed at an hour holidaymakers should never see. We set about exploring the island.
The only way to get around is by foot, bicycle or horse-drawn cart. Following the coast, you can walk around the island within a few hours. The beaches may not rival Bali’s best, but they’re not packed with tourists.
The best have palm trees, white sand, turquoise water, small waves and not a soul in sight. Beachside cafes dot the coast, offering drinks and fresh seafood.
Alternatively, you can wander the dirt paths through the island’s interior. There’s not that much to see, but it is peaceful, and the locals are friendly.
The closest thing the island has to a tourist attraction is the Gili Meno Bird Park. It’s like a mini-zoo with dozens of rare and exotic species from Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Australia and Africa.
Although one wonders how well the birds are treated, the park is impressive. It houses some truly strange creatures, and tourists can get up close to many of them.
‘‘ Have you had any bird flu here,’’ asks my wife, who has perched on her arm an exotic black-billed something-or-other that’s as big as a house cat.
‘‘ Yes,’’ says our young guide nodding enthusiastically.
Thankfully, we’re sure he has no idea what we’re talking about.
The bird park is good, but Meno’s main attraction is its underwater wildlife. We didn’t dive, but we went snorkelling and thought it top-notch.
We hired a boat that took us to some of the best spots, where we saw a many sea creatures and coral.
There were at least half a dozen sea turtles – the first four of which, being a child of the 1980s, I dubbed Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael – going about their business.
My wife claims she also saw a manta ray and a reef shark. I think she’s full of it, but maybe I’m wrong.
We stayed at the Villa Nautilus, Meno’s most upmarket option. It offers spacious, split-level villas and a cafe that does a damn good wood-fired pizza. Most of Meno’s other options are pretty basic.
We book-ended our time on Gili Meno with nights at Qunci Villas, a most excellent hotel in Mangsit, on Lombok’s west coast.
Qunci has great rooms, an amazing restaurant and it offers private boats to the Gilis. Oh, and best of all, there’s wasn’t a rooster within earshot.
You can reach the Gili Islands by boat from Lombok and Bali. There are many options, from slow local boats, to flashy speedboats.
Blue waters: A fishing boat hauled on to the beach.
No traffic: allowed. Transport on the islands are horsepowered with no cars
Paradise: a shady place to relax and soak up the island.