Our final stop was the Gili Islands where we stayed on Gili Air but did lots of island hopping. Over a year ago, a massive earthquake caused appalling damage to land and sea; many people died and families lost their homes and businesses.
In our first 24 hours, we couldn’t understand why there was literally no fish in the sea. We could walk for over 200 metres out to sea and would not see an ounce of marine life – just waves of dead coral…it was awful!
Then a dive company beside where we were staying told us this too was because of the earthquake. It was just horrific to think that in less than 24 hours of a natural disaster, how quickly a beautiful healthy biosphere could be crushed.
There is of course a good side to this. Conservation societies are creating artificial coral reefs which they call ‘biorocks’. They have this brilliant and simple method of making a shape out of steel rods, and once this is secured on the seabed, a low voltage electric current is run through the structure. The resulting electrolytic reaction forms a stable platform for corals to cement onto.
The divers find live coral that has been snapped off by passing boats or manta rays, and attach the very small pieces all over the structure…that’s it!
After one week, the coral has grown significantly and fish are buzzing around the coral; after six months is it a marine paradise and the structure is barely recognisable as the coral has taken over. It truly is a sight to see!
Conservation at work
Another trip to Gili Trawangan we met the Gili Eco Trust where we learnt about their work and incredible dedication to the island and the marine life. We saw everything they’ve been making from rubbish they find; we visited the re-cycling centre, and went on a snorkelling tour to see the amazing bio-rocks they’ve made. These guys are REAL eco-warriors, and I’m delighted to say we’ll be working closely with them so watch this space!
We did daily beach cleans which was a shame were necessary because we really hoped the story would be different from the mainland, But similarly, there is no refuse system for the locals who live in the middle of the island so they mostly burn their rubbish. And if they’re spending the day by the sea, they leave their rubbish on the beach.
Also, not all tourists are environmentally conscious. On the up side however, all of the many dive companies carry out beach cleans on different days and attract a great turn out as we witnessed.We saw lots of mini re-cycling bins provided by individuals. Again, it all boils down to the same issue: if the Indonesian government could supply a refuse system and educate the less fortunate locals, the bin would be used.
Another great conservation programme on Gili Air is the ‘Gili Shark Conservation’ which tags and counts shark species, and teaches schoolchildren about the importance of the biodiversity. They also carry out regular beach cleans.
The only down side was that because they were so busy, we couldn’t spend as much time with them as we had hoped. At least we did get to see the amazing work they’re doing!
Swimming with turtles
Our final adventure on the Gili Islands was to this for Flossie was mind blowing. She was a little worried at the beginning as she knew this was also shark territory. But as soon as she saw a turtle in all its glory and freedom and most importantly for Flossie, ‘plastic free’, she was off…there was no stopping her!!
We were also delighted to hear from Sian at ‘Gili Eco Trust’ about a turtle they had rescued which had the most horrific tumours in both eyes. The pictures were SO sad, but the good news is that like ‘Seal Rescue Ireland’, they managed to capture the turtle and it has been sent to a hospital on the mainland.
We’re looking forward to hearing from Sian when the turtle is healed and released back into the ocean! We will post ‘before and after’ photos when we get them.
So that’s the end of this incredible trip. We’ve made some amazing friends and we’re so glad to say we’ve made lots of really important connections for the charity so that we can work together to do what we can to help solve and educate about plastic pollution.
Indonesia is the most beautiful country and does not deserve the terrible press it still receives about ‘the plastic river’. Negativity never solved any problem on this planet. Positivity, being active, giving support, really helps a lot more and that’s what is needed here.
We really look forward to working with many of the organisations and schools here, and we look forward to visiting all the amazing places and people again when we return in a few years.