This post is part of the series Bali
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This post is part of the series Gili Islands
Other posts in this series:
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I simply don’t really know where and how to start writing about my Gili Islands experience. My aim is not to reinforce haters. My aim is not to blame the Gili Islands for being an overrated tourist destination. My aim is not to insult Indonesia for being not able to cope with the exploding mass tourism and overwhelming garbage problem. My aim is not to discourage people from visiting the islands. My aim is not to offend travelers who really love the Gilis as a travel destination.
These are just my thoughts after seeing the Paradise being swallowed by the garbage, global warming, unsustainable tourism and irresponsible local practices. My aim is to encourage travelers to increase their environmental awareness. To encourage travelers not to be “blind” while traveling. To encourage bloggers to tell the truth about the things they experience, not only the good ones.
Let’s talk about the 3 most famous Gili Islands (Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air) which are located to the north west of Lombok. The islands are famous for their white sandy beaches, paradisiac tropical coral reefs, clear turquoise waters, amazing sunsets, incredible diving locations and sea life. But the truth is somewhere in between…
For us, Gili Air was not only a great opportunity for snorkeling and scuba diving but also was the best escape from Mount Agung and the possible upcoming volcanic eruption. Read more about our Vulcano experience here:
Last year we visited the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia – no cars, no motorbikes and no distractions other than the tropical island scenery. I cried out of joy! I had never seen something like this – amazing coral reefs, sea creatures, and colours which you cannot see above the ocean level.
And the Gili Islands have pretty much the same promises. Again, I was expecting beautiful beaches with soft white sand and clear blue waters with “Nemos” and turtles swimming around … The first thing that we noticed from the speedboat while traveling to Gili Air was the coastal line of Gili Trawangan stuffed with boats and other monstrous ferries (some of them looked literally bigger than the island itself) along the entire stretch. Another 20 minutes later we arrived at Gili Air. At least the coastal line was not as crowd as the one from Trawangan.
The first thing I noticed after arriving at Gili Air was the white beach, but not the soft sand beach like the Perhentian’s one, but white beach made out of hard dead corals which can also cut your feet when walking without some swimming shoes or flip-flops …
And after my first snorkelling tour to Gili Meno I cried again, but this time not out of joy (like during snorkeling in Malaysia).
Only 10 minutes of snorkeling is enough to recognize that most of the inshore coral is dead and much of the coast is very shallow. You can spot plenty of turtles which makes one happy for a while, but these turtles are searching desperately for some seagrass among the graveyard of dead corals.
There is no doubt that once upon a time, the coral reef of the Gilis had been magnificent and pristine, but in 2017 it looked like a lunar landscape. Yes, the water is crystal clear, but this fact only helped us to see the result of the global warming, unsustainable tourism and irresponsible fishing methods of the locals during the last decades.
Probably only some novice travelers won’t be able to see the disappearing paradise. For some of them a bit of sunshine, the turquoise waters, and several fishes are sufficient factors for being in the paradise. But the truth about the Gilis is the result of the quick and easy cash through not environmental friendly tourism and the resulting consumerism.
On the other hand, the lack of education and a civic consciousness of the locals has ended up in some additional destruction of the reef. The type of fishing called Blast fishing or dynamite fishing helped the climate change to transform the reef to what you can see in the images – a coral desert. The coral reef of the Gilis is all that remains from years of reef bombing done by fishermen looking for faster harvests.
Recent Studies report that 86% of Indonesia’s reefs are at serious risk of being completely destroyed in this way.
The coral reefs of Indonesia were brutally bombed during the last years. These local activities led to further overfishing, as well as in massive decline in stocks of multiple species and coral destruction. But Bali and Lombok are not the only areas who have been significantly threatened by global warming and illegal fishing – the whole Coral Triangle (Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste) is in a struggle with vast development, pollution, cyanide poisoning and dynamite bombing.
Dynamite fishing is a practice of using handmade bombs from potassium nitrate put in empty glass bottles in order to easily collect as much fish as possible. In Indonesia, the fish bombing was a practice which was firstly introduced in the western parts of the country. The practice has been made illegal, but as you can imagine – illegal practices are not something to stop the fish bombers from still damaging the coral reefs.
Recent statistics suppose that Indonesian fishermen have raised awareness and the reef situation has improved. We can only hope and believe that this statement is nearly true.
But what can we do as travelers and tourist? As far as it is possible, to be aware of the local problems. Not to invest in activities and organization that are additionally harming the environment. To respect the nature. To pay more for eco-friendly opportunities. To collect our garbage and to reduce it as far as possible. To not overconsume, no matter what. To spend in Environmental protection. To share not only the Good but also the Bad and the Ugly on Instagram and Facebook. The help in growing the level of environmental awareness. To be more responsible in making any decisions that could threaten the life of species on our planet.
Because we don’t have another Planet to care about…
Accept responsibility for your actions!
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