From Amed we headed down to the city of Padang Bai, past the resort area of Candidasa, to catch the ferry over to the island of Lombok. We stayed the night in Padang Bai and the next day we arraigned our travel over to Lombok and the island of Gili Air. Lombok is a mostly Muslim island, compared to the predominately Hindu island of Bali. The Gilis (Trawagan, Meno and Air) are different than the rest of Lombok in that as small islands, there are no motorized vehicles on land (just horse carts). The rest of Indonesia is packed by motor scooters puttering around on the small roads, but these islands are tranquil thanks to the lack of motor vehicles. The sounds on the islands are limited to the ocean, crowing roosters, the call to prayer from the mosque, and the occasional late-night full-moon party.
The Gili islands are semi-autonomous from Lombok, and are governed by village heads on each island, which allows for a relaxed and somewhat free-wheeling tourist culture. We visited Gili Air, which is supposed to have less tourism than Gili Trawangan, since it is high season right now. On our first night we had a hard time finding a place to stay that was within our budget, so we ended up sleeping in hammocks on the second story of a restaurant/bar with a great ocean view. We also met a great Belgian couple in the same predicament, who also stayed there for the night. We all found some cheaper accommodation the next day, but waking up in the hammock to watch the sunrise, then drifting back to sleep, was a great way to start our stay here.
We did some dives and snorkeling in the various coral gardens, it was really beautiful. We saw an amazing amount of fish and other exotic life forms. We even did a dive at dusk, to see the transition of the coral reef to the nighttime activities. The colors and sheer diversity of creatures were amazing. Some of the reefs have been damaged by dynamite fishing in the past (which is now banned) and you can see some of the areas where the coral is still dead. We also heard that warmer water has killed some of the coral areas as well.
We bought a hammock and spent many of the hot afternoons lounging in the hammocks on our deck. From the island, you can see Mt. Rinjani on Lombok, which recently erupted and still puffs three months after the eruption. In the evenings we would watch the sunsets and eat excellent fresh seafood at incredible prices. We feasted on squid, tuna, prawns, mahi mahi, etc., all while relaxing on the peaceful shore of the islands.
Gili Air also has a small village of locals and walking the island we often saw then climbing coconut trees, and other pursuits of daily living. One of the Belgians had visited Gili Air before and knew some of the locals, so it was nice to speak with them and have them show us parts of their island.
The houses are built on stilts (to stay away from bugs?) and have woven bamboo walls, which help with air circulation and to keep them cool. Our bungalow had similar construction to the local houses, with wooden floors up on stilts, a thick thatch roof, woven bamboo walls and a nice shaded porch. The island has some huge spiders (one lived in the rafters of our room, but the locals say they are good), and healthy population of geckos (including a large gecko living in our bathroom).
We had a great time in Gili Air, and six days slipped by quickly and pleasantly without our notice.