Plenty to crow about

Gili Meno is known as the quiet is­land among In­done­sia’s party spots, apart from its roost­ers, writes Adam Gartrel

Sunday Herald Sun - Escape - - Your Holiday Snaps -

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.

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