How to Be A Sustainable Traveler In The Gili Islands - Top Tips.
Updated: Mar 1, 2020
I am so excited to be in the Gili Islands, a little slice of heaven. So whilst here, I wanted to share all my top tips on how you can be a more sustainable traveler, for anyone who may be visiting in the near future and wants to make a lasting impact on the environment and help keep these islands beautiful.
I didn't think being a sustainable traveler in a remote island would be so easy! To start with, I am so impressed with the effort local businesses are making on the Islands from beach clean ups, saying no to plastic and educating children in the local schools. I have been to many Asian countries and I can see these islands are really leading the way to make positive changes. If I had not already started to make changes in my life to be more eco friendly, then this visit would definitely have made me think!
WATER REFILL STATIONS
So taking your own water bottle is a must, when you are in a hot climate you drink a lot of water, right! By carrying our own bottles we did not need to buy a single plastic bottle during our holiday, we just refill! 1 week holiday x 2 people = 42 plastic bottles at least saved! Go us! Now, I actually cant believe I used to buy them!
The Gili Islands make this really easy, they have a network of refill stations all over the Islands, some are free and some ask for a small fee. You can download the app to let you know exactly where the refill stations are.
Refill My Bottle is part of a Plastic Free Paradise Campaign started by GiliSharkConservation who not only raise awareness about shark and marine conservation but also assist the local community in helping the Gili islands to become a plastic-free paradise!
I love this project as not only does it allow travelers to be more environmentally friendly but it creates awareness of single use plastic and encourages mindful businesses.
SAY NO TO PLASTIC
So following on from single use plastic bottles, an easy way to make a difference is to say no to all plastic. We took our bamboo straws with us (I did have to run back to the hotel a couple times as I left it in the room) but I am happy to say we didn't need them that much, most restaurants provided bamboo straws. We even got a little complacent and forgot to check towards the end of the holiday and ended up with a plastic straw, noooo! Your Instagramable (is that a word) coconuts look so much cuter with a bamboo straw too!
A great way in which you can contribute is a beach clean up!
So I hate to say it, but I would not have even thought about doing this until recently, but what a great way to make a difference and get involved. It is not just people dropping litter but the strong currents washing up all the rubbish onto the beautiful beaches. Not only do we need to keep the beaches clean so we don't have to sunbathe next to someones old toothbrush but also for well being of the sea life and ecosystems. This article from WWF explains more about marine pollution.
Every year 6.4 million tonnes of plastic, with all the toxins they contain, pose a threat to sea life and ecosystems.
Many businesses around the islands are organizing weekly beach clean-ups and underwater clean-ups.
They have Debris Free Friday organised by the Eco Trust, they have a beach clean up every Friday at 5pm. The location of Debris Free Friday changes every week to ensure they can clean the whole island, so make sure you check out their schedule online.
The beach clean up we did was organised by Oceans5 who also usually do their beach clean ups every Friday at 5pm. The underwater clean-up happens every Friday morning at 8.30am as part of Project Aware’s ‘Adopt a Dive Site’ initiative, they are located just next to the harbor so you can pop in and check details when you arrive.
I could probably write a whole post on the beach clean up we did, but here is a just a brief look.
There was about 10 people who joined the clean up and even 2 people walking by stopped to help out when they noticed what we were doing. In total we collected 4 big bin bags of rubbish and we only walked about 100 meters down the beach! It was more fun that I expected, I just imagined I was hunting for pirates treasure, although I didn't find any! But I did find a few flip flops, tons of straw, polystyrene cups, a fake nail, a paint brush, a toothbrush along with lots more! Not only is a beach clean up good for the environment, it is also a good way to catch up and make new friends who share your passion for conservation!
After doing the beach clean up, all I saw was rubbish everywhere, I don't want to put anyone off visiting as it is a beautiful beautiful place, they just need a little helping hand to handle the rubbish situation. We visited Gili Meno for 1 night and as we were walking back to the hotel we started picking up a few bits of rubbish along the way, but then we couldn't stop, we even conveniently found a bin bag. by the time we got the hotel we had a big bag of rubbish. I am not saying you need to spend your holiday picking up rubbish but doing the beach clean up really inspired me. Picking up even a few plastic bottles will keep millions of pieces of microplastic out of the ocean, so even a little bit of effort on your part results in a much larger overall effect.
Oh, I think I forgot to mention you get a free local beer and if that's not a good reason to join a beach clean up, then I don't know what is!
BUY LOCAL + NATURAL
I found this amazing little shop called sustAIRnable selling handcrafted earth friendly products. Many of their products are made by local artisans empowering women in Lombok. They have a variety of eco products from cutlery, coffee, water bottles to handmade soaps. The most amazing thing is the refill station, so if you run out of any shampoo/condition/body lotion you can also refill, which is also great for local businesses.
I bought a vanilla and milk shampoo bar and I wish my website had a scratch and sniff function because it smells amazing! I also bought my all natural sun protection, which has no oxybenzone, no palm oils and is reef safe.
I am writing another post about eco friendly sun protection - so watch this space. They also gave me a free bamboo straw which is part of the their business card- what a cool idea! Loved this little find, highly recommend you pay them a visit. They are just opposite Oceans5 dive resort on the main street up from the harbor, so you cant miss it!
Here's some other shops around the area, which unfortunately I didn't get a chance to visit, so I will let you explore.
There are no cars or motorbikes on the islands, so most people walk or ride bikes. There are also Cidomo (horse-drawn carts) but I cannot recommend using them as I have read concerns about the treatment of the horses. Most hotels have bikes to hire.
Prepare to get a sore bum as the paths are a little bumpy, but getting around by bike is a great way to explore
WHERE TO STAY
Hotels can provide different environmentally friendly options from energy sources, whether they are getting rid of their waste in a sustainable manner, and how they are helping the local community. I love exploring new places so whilst on Gili Air we stayed at two different accommodations and would highly recommend both of them. We stayed at Munusia Dunia Green Lodge, this place was extremely relaxing and peaceful. Not a plastic bottle insight! This lodge is located on the west side of the island, close to the beach, so you can enjoy an evening of sipping cocktails in the sunset not too far away. This place has a lovely breakfast served on the terrace with a great view over the trees.
We also stayed at Bambu Cottages, on the east side of the island so perfect for sunrise if you can get out of your comfy bed! The first obvious sustainable benefit of Bambu Cottages is that their huts are made from Bamboo, which is an incredibly sustainable material as discussed here from Bamboo Grove. The place is decorated with handicrafts made locally, which is what makes this place feel more homely and supports local communities. Bambu cottages are highly concerned about the preservation of the local environment and do not provide and plastic bottles or bags and they encourage you to be as eco friendly as possible. As well as being a business who is part of the Refill My Bottle initiative they also sell some local made bamboo cutlery and toothbrushes so pop in and say hi!
That's the sustainability factors, but I cant mention Bambu cottages without telling you how incredibly helpful and friendly their staff were. Highly recommend this place for a relaxed friendly stay. Also, if you happen to like freediving or want to give it a go they are right next door to Freedive Flow.
There are also plenty of home-stays on the island, which is great to support the communities and get a real experience of local life at the same time.
Another option, which was unfortunately fully booked during our stay but we heard from a couple other travelers that is was amazing, was VillaNangka This places is actually owned by Rose and Andreas who are also the co founders of the shark conservation, so I highly suspect they are just as environmentally conscious when it comes to their accommodation too. They state, Villa Nangka is a place where you will immediately feel at home and where we – together with our wonderful staff – will make sure your stay will be a memorable and unforgettable one!
But be careful, as we also stayed in another hotel on Gili Meno, which claimed to be an 'eco villa concept resort' but it was far from it with plastic bottles in the room and straws. We were a bit disappointed, so hope this post stops you from falling into the trap we did.
The Eco Trust is an excellent resource for travelers in the Gili Islands, they share so much information on waste management, eco tourism and the Biorocks. The Biorock technology is a novel technique helping to create artificial coral reefs.
If you are fascinated about Biorocks and want to learn more about this incredible reef restoration technique Eco trust offer a week intensive programme to build and sink your very own artificial coral reef! I may have to go back for this!
You can also do 2 months of eco warrior volunteering!
As mentioned above check out GiliSharkConservation to see their contribution to conservation and environmental education.
You can help the earth while traveling to the Gili Islands, but these tips apply for traveling anywhere! Don't under estimate your influence and it can be the small things that make a big difference! Any questions, I am happy to help and here's a little video for you to enjoy. Have a nice trip xx
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