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We were delighted to wake this morning to patches of blue sky but the wind and swell made us apprehensive about our snorkeling trip. With the help of Google we saw that stronger winds are forecast for the rest of our stay so we made our way down the east coast of the island to the boat operator. This time we walked down the beach instead of the road and we were saddened to find the shoreline littered with rubbish including lots of shoes that presumably floated here. We passed a cafe burning their rubbish, sending billows of black smoke into the sky. We also passed large bales of empty plastic water bottles, presumably waiting for a barge to pick them up.
Our boat operator greeted us enthusiastically, fitted us with life vests and masks/snorkels for both children, flippers for my daughter, and masks/snorkels and flippers for us. He then took off quickly and beckoned us towards the boat, sharing laughs with his friends as he passed them. The boat has a narrow hull and bamboo outriggers and glass panels on two sections of the bottom.
The moment that we entered the water we were transported into a wonderland of colorful fish and coral. We shared exclamations through our snorkels as clown fish, angel fish, squid, and countless reef fish passed by. Snorkeling with life jackets worked really well for our children and we kept a hand on one each to keep them from being swept away by the currents and waves. The conditions prevented us from snorkeling at some of the sites normally visited but we were very happy with the 3 sites off the three islands that constitute Tiga Gili (Gili means small island). The guide helped to lead my daughter and pointed out specific fish to us. He also called the boat to pick us up when the current carried us away.
We saw a lot of broken, dead and damaged coral due to anchors but also I read in the Lonely Planet Guide that the use of explosives for fishing has damaged the reef. I spoke to an Australian diver who said that the dive association are placing, onto the damaged sections of reef, metal cages with an electric current passing through them to encourage coral regeneration. He said that it’s obvious that it’s working and within 5 years the reef will be largely repaired but he was disappointed by the amount of rubbish on the sea floor.
We stopped on Gili Air (the closest to Lombok) for a stroll and lunch. We found that it’s much less developed than Gili Trawangan and even more relaxing. We saw cidomos (no motorized vehicles are allowed on any of the 3 Gili’s), small local food warungs, huts, fishermen repairing nets, and small villas for tourists. It has a lovely feel and I’d like to stay there one day.
We had a great time on the snorkeling trip and I think that we did the right thing to pay just over double the price for a public trip and get a private charter instead so that we could go at our own pace and allow our children space and time.