You just spent a week in bustling Bali with its omnipresent and maddening motorbikes… You are longing for the perfect break away from the tourist hordes… You heard about the beauty of the Gili Islands but you also heard about the hassle getting there. In this article, I will not only tell you HOW to get there, but also WHAT to expect, and WHERE to stay, eat and relax. Hop on a fast boat with me and let’s go glamping on Gili Meno in Karma Reef Hotel!
About Gili Meno
Gili Meno is the smallest of the three Gili islands, located right next to Lombok. Away from Gili Trawangan’s crowded nightlife, this island gives you a real Robinson Crusoe experience. Did you know that this was a deserted island until 1998? Meno houses currently ca. 500 permanent inhabitants and is only 2 kilometers long and 1 kilometer wide. You can walk around the island in about 1 hour! It is an island without cars or motorbikes, without dogs and without police. That’s because there is no criminality of any kind in this tiny paradise! Are you fond of having the beach for yourself and to laze away in a hammock with a book? Yes: Meno is a dream coming true.
Karma Reef hotel
One of the best places to stay in Gili Meno is Karma Reef, a stylish and sophisticated yet relaxed resort with a laid-back atmosphere. You feel welcome right from the moment you jump off the boat with your luggage (nope, there is no jetty on Meno). Karma Reef is located right next to the port and the staff awaits you with open arms. This is the moment you realize you won’t have anything to worry about anymore, you just stow away your shoes and surrender yourself to this paradise.
You can either choose between a five-star villa and a luxurious safari tent dotted along your private beach. As a huge fan of glamping, we decided to treat ourselves to a taste of bohemian luxury on the beach. This one-bedroom tent has a plush king-size bed, air conditioning, an en-suite bathroom with hot water rain shower, wooden floors and a private open-air terrace with stunning ocean views. I adored watching the sunrise from our terrace, taking pictures with my feet in the sea! Make sure you get up early enough to see the sun rising behind Mount Rinjani in Lombok: spectacular!
Dining at Karma Reef guarantees you high-quality ingredients and offers an original combination of Mediterranean and Asian cuisine. The Belgian General Manager and the Balinese Chef both share a passion for exquisite food and drinks. I can assure you: freshly grilled prawns won’t taste any better than here! The staff goes fishing at night in order to serve fresh seafood the next day. Make sure you reserve a table for the seafood BBQ night on Wednesday or Saturday! Furthermore, you can try out the traditional Indonesian Rijsttafel (every Tuesday and Friday) or the famous Tapas & Wine night on Sunday. In the meantime, word got around about Karma Reef’s great food and during high season tourists are lining up for a table in the restaurant. Don’t forget to try one of the Karma signature cocktails! My favorite is Karma Citrus Smack (gin, basil, lemon and elderflower): my ideal companion while watching the sunset with my toes dug deep into the sand.
I know, it’s very appealing to stay in your hammock reading your book and freshening up every now and then with a quick dive into the sea… But if you are curious what else this Robinson Crusoe island can offer you, just read on:
- Scuba diving: The Gili islands are famous for its underwater life. Rent a pair of fins/flippers and a snorkel and go scuba diving! The good news is that you don’t need to pay an expensive boat trip: most of the snorkel areas are accessible from the beach. Absolute must-sees are the Turtle point (north-east side of the island), Meno Wall (north side), the statues and Meno slope (east side). The statues are quite remarkable, consisting of 48 life-size figures standing together and curled up on the ground. This piece of art was created by Jason deCaires Taylor, a well-known underwater sculptor, and is expected to become covered in coral over time. The east side of the island is without any doubt the best place to watch the most impressive turtles, bodaciously colored fishes and eye-catching coral reef! One tip: don’t bring anything you can’t take with you in the water, and let the current bring you right back to your Karma Reef tent. What an amazing experience!
- Massage on the beach: approach any vendor on the beach and she will most likely be willing to give you an (affordable) massage on the spot. Although you shouldn’t expect the best Balinese massage ever, the complete experience with the sound of the waves and the rustling of the palm trees is absolutely worth the money!
- Try out the authentic Indonesian Rijsttafel (“rice table”), which refers to the Dutch colonial period. Several Indonesian dishes are served in the center of the table surrounding a large basket of steamed white rice. Popular side dishes include egg rolls, sambals, satay, fish, fruit, vegetables, pickles, and nuts.
- Saving best for last: if you leave the Karma Reef Hotel around 5PM and you start walking around the island via the western side, you will have the most spectacular sunset show you have ever seen! After ca. 45 minutes you reach the northern side of the island, where you have a perfect view on the sun setting behind Mount Agung and Gili Trawangan!
How to get there?
It’s almost unbelievable that transport to Gili Islands is so badly organized. I heard too many horror stories from other tourists about pick-up buses not arriving in time for the boat, about low-quality fast boats with occasionally opening doors and water entering and wetting passengers and luggage, about lack of proper safety measures, etc. Going to Gili Meno, I made the mistake booking with Sindex and I am still thanking all the Gods in this world that I survived that boat trip. Don’t ever book your ticket through booking portals!
On my way back to Bali, I bought a ticket via Eka Jaya, and I can definitely recommend you booking with this company: they have taller boats, decent safety measures, air-conditioning inside, and a very safe upper deck (which is actually the best place to enjoy the boat ride). Make sure you check the number of stops before you book! Boat trips will take you between 1 and 4 hours… You can either leave Bali from Serangan area or Padangbai. Most boats stop first at Gili Trawangan. If you didn’t book a direct boat to Gili Meno: no worries! There are frequent official transfer boats between the three islands for ca. 80.000 IDR per person. You can also negotiate with local fisherman and arrange a private boat.
Karma Reef Hotel is located right next to the port. Don’t forget to take off your shoes before you jump off the boat. There is no jetty, as the previous one has been destroyed by a storm. Don’t worry, there will be enough men helping you with your luggage. Ready for your perfect break?