Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Size Doesn’t Matter on Gili Nanggu

Gili Nanggu, situated just off west Lombok, is a small island of 12.5 hectares. Yet the island feels a lot bigger than this, with its undisturbed corners of natural beauty and numerous swimming spots.

The underwater world is also stunning with lots of brightly colored fish swimming close to the beach in the warm tropical water.

Traveling to the island is relatively easy — it’s a 45-minute boat ride from Lembar Harbor in Lombok, or a 15-minute boat ride from Taun Harbor, also in Lombok.

A taxi ride into Lembar from Selaparang International Airport takes about 45 minutes to an hour, while from the airport to Taun takes about 90 minutes.

Boats can be chartered from either harbor at any time of the day. Local operators charge about Rp 150,000 ($16) for a boat from Lembar with a maximum capacity of six passengers. From Taun it is about Rp 25,000 cheaper.

“Visitors are mostly foreigners from Europe, usually couples — honeymooners — because of the serenity and peacefulness here,” said Suherlan, or Herlan, a staff member of Gili Nanggu Cottages and Bungalows. “Vendors, like jewelry sellers [often spotted on the other islands in the Gilis], are not allowed to enter the area.”

The island has 10 cottages with timber floors and seven bungalows, with prices ranging from Rp 250,000 to Rp 350,000 per night with breakfast included.

Although cheaper, the cottages trump the bungalows due to their beachfront location. The upstairs bedrooms have large windows that open out onto a view of the sea and the balmy breeze.

Inside each cottage is a bed with a mosquito net and a fan. Some cottages also have a sitting room.

The bungalows are set back from the beach, just a short walk along a track.

The simple hut-like structures sit on a raised platform and the room comes with air-conditioning and an attached bathroom.

The resort has a restaurant serving local and European cuisine. Grilled fish is also available as local fishermen bring their catch to the island.

One of the most intriguing things about the resort is the conservation program it runs for the endangered Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) — locally known as penyu sisak . The turtle is one of seven species of sea turtles found in the world. The name “hawksbill” refers to the turtle’s hooked beak.

The Gili Nanggu Sea Turtle Conservation Program has been functioning since 1995.

Adult sea turtles lay eggs once a year. If you are lucky enough to visit Gili Nanggu when the baby sea turtles are ready for release, you can take part in this natural conservation activity and help give the sea turtles a future.

“Fishermen around the area used to sell the turtles and the eggs to traditional markets in Lombok and Bali to be consumed or for religious purposes,” Herlan said.

Turtles are said to be used for offerings in Balinese ceremonies, but in fact this is rarely the case. People like to eat them, and most of the turtles that are sold illegally end up in the cooking pot.

“To stop the species from disappearing, we buy the eggs from the fishermen and hatch them here,” Herlan said.

The eggs are purchased for Rp 500 each from the fishermen, usually during the rainy season in February and March, Herlan said. For 45 days, the eggs are buried under the sand until they hatch. A year after, when they are strong enough to survive, the turtles are released into the ocean.

“Guests can participate in the conservation program by paying Rp 100,000 to release a turtle,” Herlan said. “It is a nonprofit program as the money goes to the cost of purchasing the eggs and breeding the turtles for a year.”

Turtles are released every month by visitors to the island, Herlan said.

Gili Nanggu makes a wonderful holiday spot at any time of the year, but it’s best to avoid Muslim or school holidays, when the island is more crowded than usual.

How to get there
Boats can be chartered for one-way trips to the island from Lembar for Rp 150,000 and from Tuan for Rp 125,000. Reservations are required.Peak season is from June to August.
Tel. 0370 623783 or 081 237972299

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