Gili Meno is the smallest of all 3 Gili islands, the most tranquil and peaceful, with beautiful white beaches and amazing snorkelling just few meters away from the beach. It gives a family feeling of one big village with cows and chickens running around. No motorbikes or dogs. Perfect place for honeymoon. Or is it? Let’s сheck the real Gili Meno

What to expect – the real Gili Meno

While all mentioned above is truth, there is also dark side of the Meno, which is often neglected and could lead to the dissapointment of unawared visitors. Following are the facts which everyone who wants to visit Meno and wants to know what’s real Gili Meno about.

 

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Map of Gili Meno with points of interest

Rubbish
Unfortunatelly this is a problem of whole Indonesia. The rubbish is freely discarded along the streets and yards of the houses. Kids are playing in the fields with piles of trash all around and cows are left to feed on plastics. It is awful and sad view.
The situation is much worse inside of the island where common villagers live who lack the enviromental awareness. Along the beaches the situation is much better, but still far from perfect. This is real Gili Meno.

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Cow feeding on plastic – true honeymoon destination

 

 

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Kids playing among the rubbish – normal day at Gili Meno

Beaches
There is actually only small part of island which has beautiful white sand beach. It starts at the harbour and goes to the south end of the island (see infographics pic above). The rest of the island shore is covered with dead corals and seaweed which makes it very difficult to get into the water and swim. That’s the price for amazing snorkeling just metres away from the beach.

If you want to know where are the best beaches in Indonesia, read about Kei islands.

Prices and money
The prices on the island are generally 20%-50% above indonesian average. This is totally logical, because almost everything needs to be imported on the island by boats. If you want to have romantic dinner on the beach while watching sunset, you should count with prices starting at 40-50.000Rp (3euros) for the most basic meal and starting at 60.000Rp (4.5euros) for seafood. The competition is low and tourists are willing to pay. But don’t worry budget traveler, you can still eat in middle of the island for 20-25.000Rp.
The laundry will cost you 20.000Rp for 1kg of clothes which is 5x more than usual price. It’s because all the water is taken from the sea and needs to be desalted first.
There are 2 ATMs on the island. One is next to the Mallias Bungalows south from the harbor and second even bit more on the south close to the Kontiki Cottage. Better bring some cash to the island with you, because ATMs might run out of the money, especially in the high season.

What to do there

Snorkeling
The best snorkeling area is from the harbor to the north of the island. Better start in the morning before all snorkeling boats in order to raise the chances to see turtles and herds of fish swimming around beautiful corals. Watch the current first – if it goes north, start close to the harbor and let the current bring you up to the north part of the island. Stay just on the edge of the reef as the currents are very strong and if you don’t check your position regularly you might end up drifting all the way to the Lombok. You can rent snorkeling set on every corner for 35.000 – 50.000Rp per day.

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Our first turtle at Gili Meno

But if you are serious about snorkeling or diving and want see what can Indonesia really offer, read about Banda islands – top 3 Indonesia snorkeling place.

Bird park
In the middle of the island is a bird park where you can see huge varieties of different birds – Peafowls, Pheasants, Hornbills, Eagles, Pelicans, Macaws and parrots galore. Entrance fee is 50.000Rp.

Turtle  sanctuary
In the southeast of the island there is turtle sanctuary which consists of several pools with small turtles which are kept there until they are 8 months old and can be released to the sea. It has real impact on the turtle population. You can observe when they are released and even release turtle on your own for a donation of 150.000Rp.

Walking

You can easily explore the island on your own feet. Walk along the beaches and circle whole island in 1.5 hour. You can also dip inside of the island and see the life of locals. Nothing is too far on Meno.

Where to stay and eat

Luckily for budget traveler there are already several very pleasant homestays under 15 euros for double room per night, breakfast included.
We stayed at Putri homestay, which cost us 14 euros per night. Spacious and clean room with air-con, water tap and a private bathroom (bit salty water tho). Small private patio in front with free coffee and tea. Wifi is not super quick, but for isolated island pretty good. Breakfast is great with pancakes, eggs, fruits and juices. Close to the mosque. Book few days ahead to get to lower price, otherwise you will pay 17 euros/night.

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Putri homestay

If full, you can stay in nearby Lake Island Bungalows of similar style. No air-con (with fan), water tap or free coffee, but few euros cheaper. Choose one of mama’s amazing juices for breakfast.

Last but not the least option can be Oce deh Homestay with great reviews and budget prices. We didn’t stay there, but heard only good things.

Nearby is also BeFamily warung, which serves very nice food for reasonable prices. Tasty curry chicken with rice for 25.000Rp.

If you look for food budget option on the beach, check Ya Ya Warung. Located north of the harbor, it’s the best combination of good food and reasonable prices with pleasant setting under sun lounges overlooking the sea. The cat next to us ordered fish and coke :).

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The cat ordering a fish at the next table

How to get there

Coming from Bali you have several options how to reach Gili Meno depending on your budget and time.

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How to get to Gili Meno from Bali

Budget option
The cheapest option is also the most time consuming one.
First you need to get to Padangbai harbor (Bali) where the public ferry to Lombok departs from. The best way is to use Uber, Gojek or Grabcar application. It is very comfortable and cheaper than official taxi. We paid 125.000Rp for whole car from Ubud  to Padangbai.

Next step is to buy ticket for public ferry from Padabgbai to Lembar – Lombok. The price is 40.000Rp and the ferry goes every 1 hour – 24/7. The ferry ride takes about 4.5 hour, depending on the sea roughness. The cabin is air-conditioned, but if you want to avoid all-ride-long very loud Karaoke by the man who definitely should NOT be singing and doesn’t know about it, better sit outside. It’s in the shadow and the wind is blowing – its quite pleasant. We would recommend to group with other travelers during the ride, it will save you money in the next part of the trip.

Before reading on you should know that Lombok has its own rules when it comes to tourist transport. There are areas where blue bird taxis are not allowed to come, because the business is stricly for local touts/mafia. Lembar harbor is one of them, so don’t expect to see the taxis there.

Once you leave the ferry in Lembar there will be many local sharks offering you shuttle bus to your next destination. You can try to hassle for good price (don’t accept anything over 50.000Rp/pp to Mataram, 75.000Rp to Sengigi or 90.000Rp to Bangsal harbor). The bigger group you are the better price you should ask for. If you are not satisfied with the offer there and it is still during the day, just walk out of the harbor and there you will see local Bemos to Mataram. Bemos cease to run after the dark, so better plan the trip the way you come here earlier and have more options.

At this point it might be late afternoon already and the public boats to Gilis won’t be available anymore, so you can spend a night in Mataram or Sengiggi. We found very nice homestay in Mataram for 11 euros for double room, aircon, breakfast included, just in city center. In nearby mall you can supply yourself with snacks and dehydrated soups (pop mie) as in Gilis the prices are much higher.

From Mataram you can take bluebird taxi to Bangsal harbor for 120.000Rp whole car. It will bring you just to the gates of harbor, but no further. From there you can walk about 500m to the harbor itself. During the walk you will be most probably approached by locals trying to sell you their boat service. Just ignore them and continue to the ticket office on the left side. Public boats to Gili Meno are leaving at 10.00, 14.00 and 17.00. The morning boat costs 14.000Rp, both afternoon ones 25.000Rp. Buy your ticket and wait. You can have your last cheap meal here. We bought nasi goreng in nearby warung for 10.000Rp.

When your time comes prepare to get your feet wet, because the boats are coming to the beach. Also be aware that locals will try to help you with your luggage to the boat. It’s not the sign of good will, after that they will ask you for some ridiculous fee. They just try their luck. The boat ride will take about 30 minutes and you are at your final destination – Gili Meno.

Fast boat from Amed or Padangbai (150.000 – 300.000Rp)
If you can find your own way to any of these ports and you don’t want to go through all the hassle above, you can buy there speed boat ticket straight to Meno.

We admit that considering how much time you save with this option (fast boat goes only 90 minutes) this is the option to consider. The boats are leaving either from Padangbai or Amed harbor.

Despite Amed harbor is closer to the Gilis you will end up paying more there. Expect around 300.000Rp for one way. From Padabgbai you can get as low as 150.000Rp in low season for one way. It’s always better to buy return ticket to get to the best price. In Padangbai you should be able to buy return ticket for 250.000Rp.

Officialy you can book the ticket online, but the price is extremely over the reality. Its always better just to show up at the harbour and bargain for the best price.

Fast boat plus shuttle bus package (250.000 – 650.000Rp one way, 400.000 – 1.200.000Rp return ticket)
The most expensive way, but its stress free, pleasant and very efficient.
The package is created door to door. The shuttle bus will pick you up at your hotel wherever on Bali you are, bring you to the fast boat, the better tours will offer your very nice service including drinks, sea sickness pills, suncream,… You will be spoiled and before your realize that, you will be at Gilis.
The price might fluctate based on the season, quality of the service and how much you can bargain. Amongst the best evaluated are Gili Getaway, which provide full service, but you pay for that – a lot.

Conclusion

Gili Meno is a great escape from touristic places like Bali and Lombok. Even in main season you will feel slow pace of island where you can find your peace of mind (unless you work for Greenpeace). The snorkeling is great with abudance of fish and turtles. The main beach have nice white sand and on south cape you can have it all for yourself. But because of the ever present rubbish we just can’t call it paradise.
Still we would recommend to visit the island while it still has its own identity and before it will meet the same destiny as other two Gilis. How do you like real Gili Meno?

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Aerial view of Gili Meno

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Big blue gecko on our shower wall