The Gili Vibe

Here I am, sitting in my home office in the southernmost tip of Germany, looking out the window at the snow falling. It is April. I cannot be farther removed from my happy days on the Gilis, a place I came to love, a place where I met friends that are still good friends today. A place also where I unfortunately lost some good friends… A place where I met and fell in love with my partner in crime, the mother of my children, my wife.

The place to which I am now, finally, also returning. This time with a family. A wild, two-year- old son and a newborn daughter, who I still need to meet as she’s currently rather unwilling to leave the cozy confines of her mother’s womb. Returning to a place I loved, sometimes hated, but most importantly, a place that has never left my heart since I first jumped off a boat and felt the Gili sand between my toes.

What makes the Gilis so special?

Ok, first and foremost, before you can understand the Gilis, you need to know one thing. It’s not one place. There are three islands and they’re different. They each march to the sound of their own drum but still there is that distinct vibe on all three of them. The only way I can explain it is, they’re like siblings. Each an individual with their own specific traits, their own character but still they all come from the same genetic makeup and they do all share the same DNA. Not so strange if you consider the local population, they actually do all have a shared ancestry. Maybe that is what’s at the root of the vibe this island group radiates.

To get a feel for the islands don’t make the mistake to just hop over from Bali for a few days. Take your time, rather spend a few weeks if you can. Get to know the locals, get to know the expats, who came and never left. Figure out which island fits your character the best.

Are you the party animal, looking for action, maybe hop off the speedboat in Trawangan. Want to chill, hang out at a beach bar and maybe, just maybe go party when you feel like it, check out Gili Air. Feel more like chilling, enjoying the sunset, maybe dive or snorkel a little bit and still not miss out on beach bars, try Gili Meno.

The Gilis and I

The funny thing is, there’s a shift, it’s been going on for a long time. All three islands evolve over time. I first set foot on Gili Air, 25 years ago. There were 4 bars, 3 dive centres and every now and then, electricity. In the evenings we chilled, if we wanted to meet people for drinks all we had to do was jump on our bikes and check at which one of the 4 bars everyone was. The other 3 would be closed. The way back would be more adventurous as there were no lights to light the non-existing roads through the island but we always found our way. And picked up some lumps and bruises every now and then…

Trawangan was, already then, the party island, which we would occasionally visit for a night if we felt like ‘really going out’. This was usually good fun and always ended with a sore head and a rather unpleasant boat ride back to Gili Air the next morning.

Meno then, was always the rather quiet, mysterious one where as legend went, nothing really happened and apparently honeymooners sat under a palmtree and declared their undying love for eachother. However, the few nights I spent there were surprisingly pleasant and also ended with sore heads and an unpleasant boat ride back to Air. We discovered there was life on Meno.

Over the years though, coming back to the shift, the islands seem to morph into each other a bit. Gili Air seems to resemble Gili Trawangan more, Gil Meno looks more like Gili Air twenty years ago and Trawangan, well Gili T is Gili T, just more of it. The thing is, even though this may seem the case it’s not exactly what is happening here. They are still the same islands evolving at their own pace while keeping their own distinct character. Not one turning into the other.

Altogether, I’ve lived on the Gili’s twice with seven years in between for a total of five years. Mostly on Gili Air where I’ve left a big chunk of my heart, but also on Gili T, where I left a big chunk of my liver, and now, I’m going to Meno. With a family of my own. This time after a nine year break. I can’t wait to see how the islands have evolved, how the feel is. What the vibe is these days. How they’ve evolved.

The biggest question is, what’s going on with the Gili Vibe, is it still there, has it changed…?

So what's this Gili Vibe then?

Your big question though still is, what on earth is this Gili Vibe? This may not have been satisfactorily explained by yours truly in this writing. With a reason though, come find out for yourself. Spend some time there, have a few sore heads, sit on a beach for no reason, look at the stars, go dive, fall in love, live….

And come to Meno if you want to meet me. I will be there for a while.

What are Biorocks?

What are Biorocks?

Have you heard about the famous biorocks? Biorocks are the key element of a hugely successful reef restoration project. The Biorock process was developed by Wolf Hilbertz and Thomas Goreau, a Jamaikan and German team of marine biologist and architect. Creating a biorock involves passing a mild electrical current through a metal frame which is placed on the seabed in a place where it is intended to grow a new coral reef. Actually, the process encourages the electrolysis of seawater. Electricity is used to promote the growth of calcium carbonate and other minerals, which build up on the surface of the metal.

“Our past, our present, and whatever remains of our future, absolutely depend on what we do now.”


Hard corals quickly attach to this material. Alternatively, they are being attached to it manually.  Thanks to the electric current and the base minerals, coral growth is accelerated by up to four times. Once the structures are placed in the ocean it usually only takes a few days for fish to find it interesting and stick around. The new artificial reef of hard corals usually attracts a lot of marine life to settle in. Biorock structures are in place in Indonesia, the Maldives,  Papua New Guinea, the Seychelles, Japan, the Caribbean and the Pacific. The biorock process is being promoted as a way to rehabilitate damaged coral reefs in all tropical areas.

Biorock reefs turn infertile dead and dying areas into pristine reefs full of fish in just a few years. This is also true for regions where natural recovery is impossible. All that’s needed is water that is not too hot, muddy or polluted. Even when other coral on natural or artificial reefs dies, Biorock corals continue to thrive. Thus, the biorock technology doesn’t only make the reefs grow faster, it also protects corals against bleaching events. Bleaching is caused by warming sea temperatures which in turn is a result of global warming. Coral reefs all around the world have suffered massively from high water temperatures and are threatened by further warming. Corals growing on biorock reefs have 1600% to 5000% times higher survival rate during a bleaching event and could help not only the restoration but also the  preservation of coral reefs worldwide.

Why do we need biorocks on the Gili Islands?

Luckily, we still find beautiful coral life on the Gili Islands but some areas around the Gilis were subject to destructive fishing methods in the past. The fishing methods included dynamite and cyanide fishing. Thankfully those times have passed but there are still threats to the coral reefs. Even though anchors are unaccepted and illegal in the Gilis, they are still used by unregistered snorkel tours and import boats in certain parts of the islands. An anchor, once dropped leaves an area of destruction. Unfortunately, the Gilis were also affected by the two major bleaching events that followed el Nino in 1998 and 2016. Unfortunaltely severe el Ninos have an increased frequency and more durable corals are needed to stand tall against a warming ocean. With help from coral restoration and biorock technology in the Gilis, more corals will survive these threats. This again sustains life underwater, provides oxygen and protects beaches from erosion.

Who is in charge on the Gili Islands?

On the Gilis Island, the Gili Eco Trust has established a large number of biorock structures to promote coral restoration. The Gili Eco Trust was founded on 2000 by the dive shops on the Gili Islands to financially support SATGAS, a local initiative to protect corals on the Gilis. In 2004, Delphine Robbe, coordinator of the Gili Eco Trust, brough the biorock technology to the Gili Islands. Since then, more that 150 biorocks were placed in the water around the Gili Islands, fostering a lot new coral reefs and a vast array of fish. Since 2006 the Gili eco Trust hosts biannual biorock workshops. Some of the older structures have by now collapsed under the weight of corals. Newer structures are still standing and you will also find research plots with coral nurseries. The biorocks shelter a lot of marine life such as giant frogfish and schools of razor- or shrimpfish. These Biorock structures shelter plenty of life including giant frogfish and small schools of razor- or shrimpfish.  Cuttlefish, octopus and scorpionfish are also abundant around the biorocks and they are one of the best places to find ghost pipefish. Biorocks are absolutely awesome on a night dive but also day dives are usually full of surprises and beauty.