Pictures by Kristen Dillon
The beach sand on Gili Trawangan is white hot and feels like someone is running a razor along the fleshy parts between the toe and the rest of the foot. Across the water puffy clouds gather around the volcano cone while sparkles dance across the water. At first glance it's easy to mistake the shimmering water for reflection but in reality the cascading diamond gleam comes from the frolicking of schools of leaping fish.
Time is meaningless, space is everywhere.
This is going to be the greatest day ever.
The best way to arrive someplace new is by boat. It's the anticipation of watching your destination slowly grow closer and then stepping ashore and into adventure.
Boat is the only way to get to Gili Trawangan, the largest of three sand-ringed nipples of land poking from the sea just off the north coast of Lombok, Indonesia.
Trawangan, or Gili T to the backpacker crowd who've been going there for decades, is known for world-class scuba diving and a super mellow vibe. There are no motorized vehicles allowed on the island - its few dirt streets are populated by cimodo , single-horse drawn buggies. No dogs allowed either, which means the place is crawling with cats their tails kinked so that they look like they've been slammed in a door (it's a genetic glitch brought on by all the inbreeding).
With the fishing industry on the decline and no real options to farm on an island just 30 metres high and about 4 koilometres around, tourism is the only real industry left for the 800 residents of Gili T. Drinking and eating spots fuel much of the economy, apparently there is a small surf spot that "sometimes" breaks, but for the most part, the Gilis are a dive destination.
Five reputable dive schools pepper the main, the only, street offering all sorts of instruction and trips. (A good way to suss out a dive operation is to ask where the nearest decompression chamber is. If they don't know you better shop around.)
The coral reefs and clear, strong-currented waters surrounding the Gilis make for excellent drift diving and are home to walls wrecks, turtles, reef sharks, stingrays, eels, octopus and more colourful fish than your dentist's aquarium. Snorkeling is cheaper and almost as good and boats can be chartered to explore the smaller, mellower Gili Air and Gili Meno.
With huge diesel generators providing power to the entire island the Gili locals will never be considered eco-sustainable, but they do their part. As all provisions, even drinking water, must be shipped in via boat, all garbage has to go the same way. Everyone is encouraged, via posted signs and word of mouth, to minimize their garbage and reuse plastic water bottles, which can be refilled for a fraction of the cost of a new one. Rather than beg, local kids will clean up the beaches and "cash in" their garbage for rupiah , the local currency.