Sign in or Create your own Travel blog
Select Location: 

View Entire Trip

Share |
    

Saturday 25 May 2013
Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

Welcome to diving paradise

Wow. How do I even come close to describing how great the last three weeks have been? 

I had always planned to learn to dive on this trip, although the intention was to learn in Cairns. Then I shared a 9-hour bus ride with a Montrealian (Montrealite?) named Ian Valade and things changed. He was a Dive Master who had worked in Lombok and other dive schools in the area. By the time we reached Wellington I had a list of great dive sites around SE Asia, a few dive school recommendations and the reassurance that I could learn to dive there safely and for half the price of Cairns.
Despite this, I still looked in Cairns, but there was nothing that really grabbed me. They were all big places with the air of shipping people in and out on a conveyor belt, rather than somewhere more personal where I'd feel safe. So I enjoyed snorkeling but carried on round the coast to Brisbane.
Fast forward a month and I found myself in Bali, saying goodbye to Ailsa at the airport, knowing I still wanted to learn to dive and now was the time to stop procrastinating and get on with it. I used a combination of Google, Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor to look at Bali, Lombok and the Gili Islands, deciding on the Gilis. Most dice centres had excellent reviews, but their criticisms were consistent - noise from the street parties going on til 4am most nights of the week. This was one thing I really didn't want. Despite doing a Discover Scuba Dive in Cyprus many years ago, I was still pretty nervous about learning to dive and I didn't want to be stuck in a party hostel with hundreds of pissed up backpackers coming in at all hours - eek, that makes me sound old, but there you go.
Then I came across a smaller dive school called Lutwala. It seemed to be a much more relaxed place away from the party scene and a very friendly vibe. I was impressed with their website - all their information easily accessible and an introduction to each of their instructors. I sent them an e-mail with a list of questions and received an answer in under two hours. Fern had not only answered my questions, but added more information to help me too. And that, as they say, was that!
I booked my boat to Gili Trawangan and enjoyed my last few days in Ubud with Aimee.
Getting to Gili T proved a little more stressful that was entirely necessary and I fell for what was probably a very common scam - I guess it had to happen sooner or later. I had booked a one-way fare to Gili T as I was not sure what date I would be returning. My pick-up arrived nearly 45 minutes late, which was not very amusing as I had been waiting since 6am. When we arrived at Padangbai, the harbour town, the driver asked to see my receipt. This was fair enough as I hadn't shown any form of ticket until that point. He saw it was one way and explained I could buy an open return for less than two singles, so I agreed, having not realised this was an option before. So I followed him into the office and paid the difference, receiving two tickets in return. Now this was the clever bit on his part and the still being half asleep bit on my part. I was more concerned about keeping an eye on my backpack, which had gone on the back of a pickup, so I didn't realise that he took me to a different ffice from the one I had booked with. I showed them my GiliGili Fast Boat flyer so make sure they didn't try and pull a fast one on me with the price - and they didn't - but what I didn't realise was that this was not the GiliGili office at all but the Sea Marlin office. I paid the difference in the GiliGili fare, but this was actually more than a return would have cost with these guys anyway. I exchanged my receipt for the nice clean GiliGili speed boat for a return ticket on a much slower, dirtier and decidedly more crowded boat and didn't even know it until I reached the jetty 25 minutes later. As the bags had gone on ahead, I wasn't even sure if my backpack had gone on this boat or the GiliGili one and nobody could tell me. So I spent a very uncomfortable 90 minutes trying to work out what had happened, how it had happened and whether I was going to find my luggage at the other end or not. Luckily, when we finally reached Gili T, I saw the beautiful sight of my red backpack being passed up through the hatch and onto the beach.
My next challenge was to find Lutwala Dive. After asking around I was told it was a 'very long way' and I would need to find a cidomo (horse and cart - the Gilis have no motor vehicles, only bikes and cidomos) as it was too far to walk. I tried unsuccessfully to flag down passing empty cidomos, but they all said something into their radios and drove off. I didn't know whether I was meant to be waiting for one or not, but eventually I was advised to walk up to the harbour instead and try there. The 'harbour' turned out to be a short stretch of beach covered in piles of materials and bags waiting to be loaded onto longboats. I would have missed it entirely had it not been for all the waiting cidomos. The first guy tried to charge me 80,000RP and wouldn't be bartered down as 'the coast road is broken'. I doubted that was true, so kept asking about but eventually gave in and agreed 75,000RP as I was told it was a fixed price fare on the island.
We set off along the main road, lined with bars, hostels and dive shops on one side and beachside bars and tables along the other. After a few minutes, we suddenly turned off the main road and headed off into the centre of the island, now surrounded by coconut palms and following a dirt track barely wide enough for the cidomo to fit down. There was a part of me that was distinctly uncomfortable with this change of scenery and the thought that nobody knew where I was at that moment, but luckily this proved unnecessary worry as the cidomo driver pointed out the back of the Lutwala property only a few moments later. Fern was waiting at the gate as we pulled up outside and she helpfully confirmed that the fixed price fare was in fact 50,000RP, not 75,000RP and the cidomo driver didn't argue. Where was she in Padangbai at 8am this morning!?
She showed me into the dorm to drop my bags and then sat me down with the magic words 'Would you like a drink? There are some cold drinks in the fridge' and gave me an ice cold Diet Coke. For all the times I try to give the stuff up, it was exacty what I needed at that moment. I had made it to Lutwala at last!

Lutwala Dive is a big open fronted house with an indoor/outdoor swimming pool in the centre of the building. The pool is shaped a bit like a lollipop, with the 'lolly' at the front of the building, partly outside, while the rest of it stretches all the way to the back of the building. The stairs form a bridge over the 'stick' and lead up to the private part of the house. The dorm room sleeps 8 and is tucked in the back corner. From my bed, I could take five steps and jump in the end of the pool and swim my way forwards to the teaching area at the front of the building. Perfect!
There was a comfortable bodega in one corner of the garden where we had most of our teaching. Next to this is the dive equipment area and the front of the pool. It was big enough to have three teaching groups in the water at once without feeling too crowded, especially as Lutwala keep the groups small. Unlike the dive factory/schools in Cairns and in the main village area on Gili T, who have up to 8 people per group, Lutwala has four Instructors and three Dive Master Trainees to assist them with a maximum of four people per group. In my Open Water course it was just me and a French guy called Jerome. Our Instructor for the first two days was a South African guy named Roland and our DMT was an Indian girl named Rupi, who was sharing the dorm with me.

0 Comments for this Travel blog entry

Zobeedoo's Big World Adventure, Part I

Travel blog by zobeedoo

Marahau Bridges, Abel Tasman

Marahau Bridges, Abel Tasman


The first part of my trip will take in South East Asia, New Zealand and Australia. I'm looking forward to seeing new places, revisiting some old places as well as meeting friends and family along the way.

visitors: 291,453

Currently in:

Orchard Road, Singapore

Buy this Blog on CD!  More...


Makes a great gift for anytime!

Photo Album

  • DSC_0164.JPG

    Fraser Island

    Australia

    DSC_0164.JPG
  • DSC_0160.JPG

    Fraser Island

    Australia

    DSC_0160.JPG
  • DSC_0156.JPG

    Fraser Island

    Australia

    DSC_0156.JPG
  • DSC_0149.JPG

    Fraser Island

    Australia

    DSC_0149.JPG