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Awesome Air

Sun, sand, some diving and sunsets...what more could you want!

I think the title says it all but we had a great time on Gili Air so much so that we ended up extending our stay TWICE...and here's why...

Day 1

Packed again we trundled down the road to the harbour to get our ticket for the slowboat to Gili Air.

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With the 'slowboat' only taking half an hour (the last slow boat we were on took 2 days!) we didn't understand why people would take the 10 min speedboat for nearly 5 times the cost. Also you have great views of the islands and Lombok to take in, so not a bad way to spend your time.

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We'd heard good things about Damai Homestay online so we decided to book ahead. When we arrived on Gili Air only about 5 people including us got off the boat, a huge comparison to the hoards that had got off with us and the other boats at Gili T. Hardly anyone was around apart from a few horse carts and their drivers snoozing in the shade, there was no one asking if you had somewhere to stay, no one following you with the 'good price'. As we discussed whether we would walk all the way to the other side of the island given that we had no idea where the Damai really was someone said "Are you Daniel?", the homestay had kindly organised a horse cart to pick us up and I was pleased to see that the horse seemed in good condition.

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The island is smaller than Gili T and criss crossed with small paths. Some parts of the main 'road' around the island are too narrow and sandy so the horse carts need cut through the centre to get to the other side. It was instantly a different experience as we passed people's homes, cows, chickens and coconut trees all with the jingling of the bells on the horse cart in the background.

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We were so excited as we pulled up to the homestay through a grove of coconut trees and we were not disappointed.

The view from our room...

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Sometimes its the little touches that make the difference...

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Coconut teapots

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Kittens under tables and trying to catch crickets...

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And having the sea at the end of the lane...

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It wasn't long before we couldn't resist the beach any longer, we followed the lane around the island past sleepy restaurants and beach bars and we soon found ourselves on a stretch of beach all to ourselves although still in earshot of some chill out tunes being played from the last bar we had passed.

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We whiled away the afternoon on the beach, soaking up the sun and cooling off in the sea.

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When I was a kid I used to spend part of the summer holidays with my Nan in Bournemouth and we would spend ages on the beach collecting shells (I think I still have a box with some in at home) so I was like a kid again scouring the beach for shells and soon enough in I had quite a collection... Although most of the time the hermit crabs had already nabbed the best ones.

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Check out this guy that walked in front of us in the lane to the homestay!! Easily 2.5m long and we re not even on Komodo!

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On Gili Air there is a 'party' which rotates between the main bars on the island but instead of rotating every other night, I think it is every other week so when we saw the poster saying it was happening on the other side of the island that night we decided to check it out. We had a vague idea where it was so headed along the coastal path with our trusty torches. It was a good job we had them as certain parts of the path have no lighting at all and with just the light of the moon it got a bit spooky in places, particularly when we knew there were some big lizards lurking about. Somehow despite being a small island we seemed to miss where this party was so just stopped off at a restaurant for some food whilst we watch a group of men fishing in the dark with their head torches.

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Day 2...

We decided to take advantage of the snorkelling gear and headed to the beach to see what we could find. I also wanted to see if I could wear fins yet and fortunately I could...just!

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Close to the shore we came across a school of tiny silver fish, there were literally hundreds of them and as we swam through they parted and then regrouped behind. At one point all you could see around us was shimmering fish. We had noticed that the beaches were lined with white broken pieces of coral and so it took a while to get out past the bleached coral to live ones. We would later find out that this bleaching was an after affect of El Niño which changed the water temperature, the change in temperature makes the coral release the algae that it coexists with to photosynthsise. This makes the coral more brittle and susceptible to damage.

The water is really shallow and you could be really far out and still stand up, it was worth the extra kicks to get further out as we saw a lot more fish then we had closer to the beach, colourful parrot fish, trigger fish, banner fish the works. I annoyingly had a dodgy snorkel which kept letting water in so went back in to chill on a day bed whilst Dan kept exploring.

On our way back to our room we were approached by a girl who asked us whether we were divers. It turns out she was from Gili Air Divers and as part of Earth Day they were doing a clean up dive the following day which we could take part in for free. We signed ourselves up straight away!

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One thing we loved about the Gilis was seeing the local people going about their daily lives. Although a smaller island than Gili T, Gili Air has the largest population of the islands with many local people preferring to live on this quieter island and going over to the larger island for work.

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This is the Gili equivalent of an ice cream van, which plays the most annoying music!

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Sunset on Gili Air in amazing and if you head to the north end of the island you can grab yourself a bean bag and watch the sunset in the distance over Mt Agung in Bali.

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Day 3...

Excited about the clean up dive in the afternoon we had a chilled morning...well you can't really have any other type of morning here. Dan went off to the yoga studio down the road.

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Although I could now put fins on my toe wasnt right and balancing all my weight on one foot was still impossible so I stayed back at the homestay and played with the kittens.

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We got to the dive shop at 3pm and filled all the relevant paperwork and got kitted up. It was all a bit chaotic as lots of divers and non divers had turned up to help with the clean up but there was a good vibe and soon everyone was checked in and sitting down for our briefing.

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We were given a presentation on the environmental issues around the Gilis such as the affects of El Niño I mentioned earlier. One of the biggest problems is rubbish which due to the strong currents that pass through this area result in rubbish from the rest of SE Asia coming here and at certain times of year you can even see 'islands of plastic' floating passed.

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One of the main reasons for plastic being such a problem, other than the massive increase in tourism and not having the infrastructure to dispose of rubbish properly is the 'banana leaf effect'. This refers to packaging as until relatively recently in the islands history local people used banana leaves to wrap up food and once it was finished they would just throw the leaf on the floor, this behaviour remains today only the banana leaf has now been replaced with plastic. We were told more about our responsibility as divers to pick up rubbish if we see any on our fun dives if it is safe to do so. How a lot of places on the island now offer to refil your water bottles with drinking water for a small charge which is cheaper than buying a new bottle of water and means the one you are using is not thrown away. Basically the importance of the 3 R's: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Wetsuits on and armed with huge bin bags and gloves we made our way to the boats. I couldn't take the weight of the tank on my back on my foot out of the water, so had to ask for help which made me feel a bit pathetic when everyone else was carrying their own! But that was soon forgotten as we speeded off to the harbour area for Operation Clean Up... Again the James Bond theme tune sprung to mind.

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With so many divers going into the water the boats spread out and each group took it in turn to do the backward entry into the water. Our dive master was a local guy called Alex and we were grouped with a French couple. The visibility was poor to begin with but got considerably worse once everyone started picking up rubbish from the bottom. There was so much sediment flying around we soon lost Aex and at times could hardly make each other out but we stayed together and soon found Alex again. We had to be careful which rubbish we picked up as some might now have coral growing on it, if that was the case we were to leave it. We picked up all sorts from plastic bottles & bags, cans & crisp packets to cement bags and a bowl.

At one point Dans weight belt unexpectedly came undone, these are cumbersome to deal with out of the water let alone underwater whilst holding a bin bag full of rubbish and with gloves on. Alex and I went to help him sort it out so all was fine. In the commotion somehow my ring came off and there was no way it was going to be found. I signalled to Dan that my ring was missing which we both found funny as this is the 7th 'engagement ring' I have lost since we've been away, good job I left the real one at home! The problem was that the other couple had seen me signal to Dan that my ring was missing and were now intently searching the seabed for it! It was hard to sign underwater for them to stop looking but somehow what I did worked. We all had a laugh about it when we got back to the surface at the end of the dive and it was very sweet of them to try to find it.

It was an afternoon well spent...

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And we couldn't help ourselves and decided to book some dives

Day 4 & 5

When Dan was still sleeping I would slip off down to the beach to see the sun come up, how could you miss this! (Just for the record I did try to wake Dan but it didn't go down too well lol!)

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And I got to say hi to the dustbin man...

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For the next two days we did morning dives and then chilled out in the afternoon, mainly at our favourite haunt called Scallywags which had amazing chairs that Dan could do more sleeping in :)

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It was fantastic being out on the dive boat in the morning. The crystal clear water and the views of the islands and the mountains on Lombok and Bali were amazing.

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We even got to see flying fish and somehow managed to get a pic of them! I ve never seen them before and it was stunning when loads of them came out of the water at the same time.

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Our first dive was at Jack point and was the first time we tried a 'negative entry' into the water. This is where you do a backward roll off the boat with no air in the BCD and keep descending straight away rather than bobbing back to the surface and descending the normal way. I was not massively comfortable with this method as like to double check mask and regulator again once in the water but we gave it ago...and this one definitely needs more practice as I ended up on the surface anyway lol! The fiasco of negative entry over we continued our descent and were soon in the company of a big turtle having a good back scratch on some coral.

The highlight of the dive was when we were surround by a huge school of Jack fish. They were everywhere and all around us, it was really impressive and we could tell that our dive master Souk was really excited about it. Turns out that even though he has dived 100s of times that this was the largest school of Jack Fish he had ever seen, so it was quite special. Unfortunately there were no underwater cameras available so have no pics of it though.

I don't think there is better way to start the day than diving and a nice cuppa tea.

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The second dive spot the next morning was at Shark Point and within minutes of descending we saw our first white tip shark but unfortunately we didn't get a good look as it was swimming away from us. Having seen one so soon we hoped to see more but they illuded us. We did get to see some other cool stuff though like two huge lobsters, cuttlefish and a big grouper.

It was during this time that I found out that someone I had known at uni had passed away. Even though we werent close it was very sad news and hard to comprehend that someone who had been part of loads of fun times at uni was no longer with us. Dan and I were already feeling after being away for so long that we appreciate our friends and family so much more and want to make a huge effort to see everyone when we are back. Its odd how when someone is just down the road you may not see them because you might be tired or you think I can pop by tomorrow..but when your 100s of miles away and cant just pop round or tomorrow doesn't come then thats such an opportunity missed! Make the most of today!

Day 6...

It was our last day on the island and as we were pondering whether we should stay for just one more day or make a move on to Lombok we had a message from a dear friend from home who had managed to book some last minute flights and would be joining us in Lombok in a couple of days time! You can imagine how excited we both were and decided we definitely should head to Lombok to scout out the area and figure out where we wanted to base ourselves for the fun that was to come.

This definitely made it easier for us to leave but not without taking in one last sunset.

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It was beautiful and made better by the local families that had come down to the beach to fish in the low tide, it was lovely to watch them all together

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And these two didn't have a care in the world :)

Sxx

Posted by doyledan 17:09 Archived in Indonesia

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