What is the sunset on a paradise island, familiar to most of us only from postcards, really like? The slowly vanishing rays of light, mixed with thoughts of timelessness and of detachment. Of the feeling of having no restraints, and the mind being free to wander where it wants to go.
It is hard to describe that moment, when you face the beauty of the world and understand how small you really are. I wonder if this feeling has something to do with the deep, thoughtful conversations we’ve had with the people we have met here.
We lay in a shelter made out of bamboo trees – one of the many that line up the northern end of Gili Air. The big girls, dressed in the saris they bought at the island, are slurping their freshly-squeezed juices with a long straw.
Snorkel goggles, dripping wet, hang from the bicycles’ handlebars. The day has been one of snorkeling among colorful fish and corals, as well as spotting a giant lobster, a sea snake and sea urchins. They will be the topics of tonight’s nightmares.
We eat a peculiar but delicious combination of bruschetta, pasta, pizza and satay skewers. Never mind that they don’t form a harmonious entity.
The pearls of sweat brought on by the daytime heat begin to subside as the sun plummets behind the horizon. Another day in paradise.
Guide to Gili Air, Indonesia
- People come to Gili Air first and foremost to snorkel and dive. The waters are clear and you can admire the corals at the shore. Renting a snorkel mask and fins for a day costs about 30,000 rupees. The rubbershoes are handy, especially for kids, as the water is at times shallow and it takes a moment to get to swim depths. The ground beneath the feet alternates between smooth sand and seaweed or coral, which can break the soles of the feet.
- Do not touch the fish or other sea life when you swim or snorkel. Avoid walking in seaweed. Some of the fish hiding there are poisonous.
- Especially the eastern part of the island is full of enchanting beach restaurants, whose style resembles that of the Caribbean. The alcoholic drinks of choice on the island are customarily cocktails and beer. Wine is expensive and the domineering brands seem to be Hatten and Two Island. A bottle of wine costs about 250,000 rupees, whereas a big bottle of beer costs only 30,000 rupees. A lot of places have Happy Hour, promising two cocktails for the price of one, which is a pretty good deal. One cocktail costs about 70,000 rupees. The freshly-squeezed alcohol-free fruit juices and smoothies are heavenly and cost only 25-30,000 rupees.
- A delicious and abundant dinner for two kids and two adults – kids’ with fruit juices and adults’ with a couple of cocktails – costs about 250-500,000 rupees, depending on the spot. At the Wahrung-restaurants, run by locals, the price is less than half. Getting take away or a quick snack from these places is a great idea. The restaurants in the village in the middle of the island are also significantly cheaper than those on the beach street, but they do not offer views of the ocean.
- Gili Air is a beautiful little island that you can ride your bicycle around in just over an hour—depending, of course, on how many times you get stuck marveling at the beautiful beaches or hanging out at the beach restaurants. The roads are partly sand, so be sure to rent a bike that has really thick wheels. Renting a bike costs about 50,000 rupees a day. With a bike it’s also handy to go see the sunset, take the laundry to be washed at a cheaper place, and get groceries from the island’s only grocery store/general store, Siti Market.