Only a kilometre from Gili Trawangan and set in the middle of the three islets lies the real Robinson Crusoe experience of the Gilis with some of the best beaches to be found.
Only two kilometres long and one wide, Gili Meno is the smallest of the three islands and by far the most peaceful and under developed. It’s possible to walk around the island along the beach or paths of Gili Meno in under two hours.
Most visitors are attracted to Gili Meno for the lure of total escapism and it is therefore very popular with honeymooning couples and adventurous castaway types.
The dining scene is predominantly local cafes with grilled fish on the beach as dusk approaches.
Lazing around in a hammock, reading books and playing chess with the friendly locals also ranks very highly on the daily Meno agenda.
For divers and snorkelers, the island boasts the infamous ‘Gili Meno Wall‘ where during the day turtles freely swim by and giant gorgonian fans hang amongst the colourful corals. At night divers can witness huge Moray Eels and the entertaining Spanish Dancers, baby cuttlefish and a whole array of crustaceans.
GETTING to MENO
Most visitors arrive via Gili Trawangan then jump on a connecting island hopper boat for the fifteen minute trip over the channel.
Boats depart from Gili Trawangan at 9.30am and 4.00pm daily (Cost is approximately IDR 23,000) and from Gili Air at 8.30am and 3.00pm (a twenty minute ride, Cost is IDR 25,000).
Visitors from mainland Lombok leave from Bangsal harbour in public boats for the twenty-five minute crossing (IDR 25,000). Purchase tickets only from the concrete Koperasi Karya Bahari building and not from the touts that line the roads into Bangsal.
There are no set timings for the crossing from Lombok to Gili Meno, it’s up to the captain once the boat is full but it is possible to charter your own public boat for a fixed price of IDR 190,000 or buy up remaining available tickets for a speedier departure.
The most popular stretch of sand on Gili Meno is to be found to the
left of where the boats pull up on the beach. This southern beach strip is where the majority of accommodation getting there beach life on the island is to be found. There are no hawkers to disrupt a day’s sunbathing and the beach huts lining the sand offer a perfect respite from the heat where visitors can buy drinks and snacks from the neighboring warungs.
Snorkeling equipment can be hired from any of the local operators. Swimming is perfectly safe in the calm waters here but don’t venture too far out from the shoreline.
As with Trawangan, visibility is constantly good year round. Expect to see Hawksbill and Leatherback turtles, schools of Batfish, Blue-spotted stingrays and many varieties of hard and soft corals. If you look hard enough you could be lucky enough to find rare and unusual nudibranchs amongst other lesser-spotted micro critters.
Although it may not appear so at a first glance there are actually a fair number of places to eat along the beachfront all with spectacular views over to Lombok or Gili Trawangan. Balenta is on the north of the island and specializes in local Sasak cuisine with Mount Rinjani and mainland Lombok as a dramatic backdrop.
Bibi’s Café is part of Villa Nautilus and has the usual mix of Western and Indonesian dishes with reputedly the best pizzas on the island.
The Jungle Bar is to be found inside the Tao’ Kombo bamboo huts set up literally in the bush! A quiet and secluded spot on the far southern tip of the island.
Malia’s Child is a popular gathering spot for budget travelers and serves a heady mix of Indonesian and European cuisines.
The Rust Bar and Restaurant right at the harbour front is street side in a central location with cool music and plenty of punters hanging around for after dinner drinks.
Don’t come to Gili Meno expecting to find the top level of accommodation as on Trawangan. The charming Thai style huts on the main beach are very popular as they are the only rooms on all three islands that are situated actually close to the water’s edge.
Mid range bungalows are generally situated slightly back from the main path whilst budget rooms can be found dotted throughout the whole of the island and can be found just along the main strip.
The thatched bungalows and rooms are situated in a shady tropical gardens on the northern part of the island.
There’s a mix of cheaper rooms and better-appointed bungalows with freshwater shower facilities and fan. The beach out front is quiet and charming in its own right and visitors will find few distractions or disturbances.
There are not too many activities to be found on Gili Meno, which is part of its appeal. Those who simply cannot refrain from some form of activity will find the Bird Park in the center of the village an entertaining distraction for a morning or afternoon.
The Gili Meno bird park hosts over three hundred birds in a natural, free environment.
Peafowls, Pheasants, Hornbills, Eagles, Pelicans, Macaws and parrots galore are amongst the feathered citizens and ambassadors gathered from all over the world.
Accommodation is also to be found onsite but most make the trip for the guided tour of the park, restaurant and pool table.
The Turtle Sanctuary plays an important role in protecting and hatching baby turtles for release into the Gili waters. Small donations are welcome to this worthwhile cause.
Apart from these two pursuits it’s back to tropical beach-combing and book reading activities to whittle away the Gili Meno hours..