Gili Meno is sandwiched between the other two Gili Islands and is known for it’s laid back atmosphere and draws in many a honeymoon-er. There are fewer groups of young people and more couples or families with children. There is much less choice in the way of accommodation and food, but Meno had everything we needed to occupy us for three nights. Everything felt much more rustic with local restaurants  and guesthouses lining the beachfront (development had not spread into the centre of the island yet).

Luckily, we both felt 100% when we arrived on the island and quickly settled in to our new beach hut at Ana Warung Bungalows. Again, the bathrooms were built open aired and the showers run fresh water. There’s something quite satisfying and wholesome about showering like this, that we’ll both miss when we go home. We could see a slither of the beach and sea from our verandah at Ana Warung and ate breakfast on the beach every morning with our toes in the sand.

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We were eager to make the most of our few days left on these tropical islands and in Indonesia. We planned to embrace every opportunity to sunbath, snorkel, eat seafood and generally beach bum around. We enjoyed a Bintang on the beach at Diana’s Cafe and settled down on our beanbags for yet another glorious sunset on the powdery white sand, spotting Bali’s Mount Agung in the distance. We’re really going to miss staring out into the horizon without a care in the world.

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We’d heard a lot about the turtles that reside among the coral reefs surrounding Gili Meno and we hadn’t seen any on our trip so far, so we were very excited at the prospect of spotting some on our first day. We headed out early in the morning to beat the rush of boat trips from the other islands. Feeling perky and refreshed, we donned our water shoes, snorkels and waded out.

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The water was very shallow at this time of the day, yet the waves looked quite formidable. This combination of shallow water, razor sharp coral and big waves meant that the task of wading out to the point where you can see turtles was quite dangerous. If we swam with our heads under the water then there was a danger of being cut by coral, but standing up left us unbalanced, and the waves knocked us under anyway. We weren’t making much progress after 20 minutes of hard swimming and wading. The water wasn’t getting much deeper but the waves were increasing in force. Lawrence was thrown off balance by one big wave and scraped his left foot on some coral. It was a nasty cut even with his water shoes on. We turned back at this point, not enjoying what should have been a relaxing snorkeling experience and decided to try again later in the day.

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We sunbathed, read our kindles, cleaned Lawrence’s bleeding wound and sunned ourselves before it was time for round two. We’d seen a few other couples attempting to brave the waves but no one had managed to swim past the point we’d reached earlier in the day. By this point the boats had arrived so we knew exactly where the turtles were judging by the bobbing heads in the water. We were determined to make it this time and waded out again with a few other people following our lead. We got further than earlier in the day, but we still struggled with the same issues. The coral was tricky to walk on even with protective water shoes and Lawrence’s grazed foot was stinging in the salty water. We didn’t want any more injuries and after one colossal wave sent us tumbling back a few meters under the water, we were done.

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Determined to see some turtles

We decided that hiring a boat the following day would be a better idea, allowing us to see more of the coral reefs, fish and of course the turtles. We didn’t want to leave with any regrets so we went ahead and booked a private boat trip for 9:00am the following morning. This took the pressure off and meant we could relax for the rest of the day. We did continue to snorkel, it becoming easier throughout the day as the tide came in. Then it was another beers at sunset kind of evening before devouring the biggest pizzas for dinner.

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We were up bright and early the following morning ready for our private boat trip with a local family run business. It was just the two of us, the driver and our snorkeling guide on the little boat. He hopped into the ocean first and we followed his lead, swimming close behind and watched in awe as he pointed out all of the amazing sea life that Gili Meno boasts. We finally saw TURTLES! They were quietly resting on the seabed, avoiding the snorkeling frenzy above them (other boats and tourists had joined us by this point) but the clear waters made it very easy to spot them. Some came up for air, gliding through the dappled sunlit water with elegance.

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Our boat trip lasted 2 hours and we were snorkeling for about 90% of the time. We saw plenty of amazing sea life and colourful coral, as well as an unusual underwater statue which was a haven for fish.

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We were spoilt with the number of turtles we’d seen and felt content to return to shore at 11:00am for an afternoon on the beach.

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On our final night on the Gili Islands we treated ourselves to a fine dining restaurant at Mahamaya. We ordered grilled Dory fish wrapped in banana leaf, and shared a white chocolate crème brule for dessert.

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We had to make our way to Gili Trawangan the following morning in order to catch the death boat back to Bali. It was interesting to see Gili T for a few hours but we were glad with our decision to avoid staying the night there. The island felt dirtier than the other two, much busier and had less charm. However it did offer a lot of great cafes and restaurants. We had an amazing vegan lunch at Pituq Café.

We were not looking forward to the journey back to mainland and things weren’t looking good when we were told (an hour late of course) that our boat was ready, however we had to go to Lombok first, baring in mind this was located in the opposite direction to Bali. Everyone was already frustrated and some had planes to catch that evening, but we had no choice but to pile onto the boat and hope for the best. We were transferred on to a different boat when we arrived in Lombok, which immediately felt much nicer than the one we’d arrived on. It felt like a newer, more sturdy boat with comfier seats. The journey back to Bali was, dare we say, enjoyable! It was much smoother although just as fast. Some passengers who decided to sit above deck got soaked by the monstrous waves, but we were pretty snug in our seats. It was dark by the time we arrived in Bali and the idea of getting a 3 hour shuttle bus to our hotel in Kuta was not appealing. We paid for a 1.5 hour private taxi instead as it was already 7.30pm by this point. This meant we could check in to our hotel at a reasonable time and still go out for a quick dinner.

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There are worse places to wait

Kuta wasn’t the party central madhouse as some reviews suggest, although there are the party hot-spots that rave deep into the night. We stayed for one night in order to be close to the airport and wouldn’t recommend staying much longer. Kuta lacks genuine character and is full of tasteless souvenirs. We did manage to find a really nice place for breakfast called Crumb & Coaster, and had some great burgers for lunch after strolling on the beach. Before we knew it, it was time to hop in a taxi to catch our flight back to Singapore!