Having amazing animal encounters seems to be a theme on my bucket list, so it should be no surprise that when I heard that you could snorkel with turtles in the wild in the Gili Island I immediately added this destination to my itinerary.
The night before our tour we’d had a storm with relatively strong winds, so I was a little nervous about the sea conditions. Nevertheless, I was also excited to see some sea turtles so we packed our dry bag and set off for the 9:30am meeting point.
When we arrived we were pleased to see we’d picked a small tour with a group size of 12. Once we were fitted with our snorkeling gear we boarded the little boat that would be our base for the day and set off.
The waters were a little more rough than this desert girl would have liked thanks to the storm the night before, but once I got over my nerves I had a good time.
Our first stop was off the coast of Gili T (the party island) to see the turtles. I donned my fins and mask, waddled to the side of the boat and slipped into the water…only for my mask to fill with water! Sea water stung my eyes as I fumbled to right my mask. We swam for about 10 minutes following our guide who was on the lookout for turtles. Throughout the entire time I struggled with my mask and snorkel. It turns out the opening of my snorkel was facing forward which explains why I kept getting mouthfuls of water whenever I looked down. I put this down to my inexperience with snorkeling, not the equipment they provided because once I’d fixed my snorkel and worked out how to suction the mask to my face, I was all good.
By the time I’d fixed my mask our guide was beckoning us back on to the boat. Disappointed that I’d messed up my first opportunity to see turtles I awkwardly climbed back on the boat and took my seat. We flew over the water to our next dive site dragging our snorkel guide behind us as he continued to search for turtles.
At our next dive site we had more success. In fact, we didn’t just see one turtle, we saw four! It took a while to for me to see the first turtle even with the guide explicitly pointing it out since it blended into its surroundings so well. As we continued swimming we sighted our second turtle and it was surfacing! I was fortunate enough to get footage of me swimming along side it (don’t worry, I made sure to keep my distance and not to touch). During our 15 minute swim we saw a total of four turtles! It was such an amazing experience and well worth the $30 AUD I paid for the experience.
When we’d finished frolicking with the turtles we returned to the boat and set off for the next dive site on a turtle high.
Gili Meno has 2 dive sites: the statues and the coral garden/blue coral. The waves at the statue site were really rough and we could see people struggling to get back on their boats. For this reason our guides told us we wouldn’t stop there; it was too dangerous.
We did however, stop at the coral garden which was a lot more calm. The site is known for it’s blue coral which I didn’t think would stand out that well against the blue of the sea. I was wrong. It was so darn pretty. We spent 15 minutes frolicking with the fish amongst the coral.
Our final stop was at a beach side resturant on Gili Meno. It took quite a bit of maneuvering through rocks and coral to get the boat to shore but our guides were clearly experts. I enjoyed nasi goring on the beach as we watched the beginnings of a storm roll in. It was then that my earlier nerves came back with a bit of attitude since I could see the waves getting more aggressive. Thankfully the storm hit after we’d left the beach and were away from the rocks and coral surrounding the beach.
The ride through the rough waters and freezing rain felt longer than the 15 minutes it was. I focused on my meditation breathing while one of our poor guides stood on the bow of the boat trying to keep his balance and stay warm in the cold rain while he guided the boat through some of the more shallow sections that surround the Gili Islands.
The adventure ended with us safely back on Gili Air and running through the pouring rain back to our hotel.
Despite being a bit scared on the boat ride this was such an amazing and fun experience and I highly recommend it.
Location: The Gili Islands (I was on Gili Air)
Price: The cost and length of tours varies from operator to operator. We paid 300,000 IDR which is about $30 AUD and included gear hire.
Need to bring: As I said, there is no need to bring your own snorkeling gear but you can if you want. Otherwise all you need to bring is:
What sea creatures have you swam with? Share your experiences in the comments.