Gili Meno Turtle Sanctuary

The Gilis are known for their large number of sea turtles on the surrounding reefs and have even been dubbed, ‘Turtle capitol of the world’. A name that’s definitely not wasted on this group of islands!  You are basically guaranteed an encounter with at least one of these magnificent sea creatures whether you go snorkeling or diving.


Turtles are very stable and have been around forever. But they have problems adapting. When humans came along, turtles came under serious threat.

Turtles are very stable and have been around forever. But they have problems adapting. When humans came along, turtles came under serious threat.

The Turtles of the Gilis

You’ll find two different species of turtles roaming the azure waters around the islands, green turtles and hawksbill turtles. You can easily tell them apart as they are rather different in appearance. Green turtles, first of all, have a more rounded shell which is usually kept very clean. Yes, they actually groom themselves! Second, they have a more rounded snout than their counterparts. The Hawksbill actually derives its name from the birdlike beak they have. Their shells are also more jagged and often covered in barnacles and sea moss.
Green turtles live mostly on a diet of seagrass with which they play an important role in keeping the eco system healthy and functioning. Healthy seagrass provides for an excellent nursery for many fish species while at the same time it protects the coastal areas from storms.
Hawksbills prefer using their ‘beaks’ to scrape the algae of reefs which also in turn helps the reefs to stay healthy. Both species, each in their own way, perform a very important role in the reef eco systems. Protecting and cultivating them is a must.
Unfortunately, both of them are on the list of endangered species, hawksbills even as critically endangered. However, on the Gili Islands the world is still a little bit more in order as both species seem to thrive there. The question is, why do they thrive on the Gilis and struggle elsewhere around the world?

Why is there so many turtles?

We may find part of the answer with the local population itself. About 200 years ago, fishermen from Sulawesi arrived on the Gili Islands. They began to form temporary settlements because of the abundance of fish in the surrounding sea and also the presence of fresh water on Gili Air. After a while they chose to stay there and the current population consists of mainly their descendants and some ‘fresh’ arrivals from Lombok itself.
Fortunately for the turtles, the local population that now inhabits the islands, unlike their Balinese neighbors, didn’t develop a taste for turtle meat. So, they have been mostly left alone.
Also, throughout the years multiple efforts have been made to stimulate their numbers around the islands by means of turtle sanctuaries. One such sanctuaries is currently on Gili Meno where a team of dedicated people works to ensure the Gili turtle population stays healthy. They hatch around 500 eggs per year and only release the ‘turtle babies’ once they’re a few months to one year old. Turtle releases take place every few months. You can be part of a release which involves a small fee which is donated back to the turtle sanctuary.
Growing them to a certain size gives them a much better chance for survival. In the wild usually only one in a 1000 survives to reach adulthood. As these odds seem staggering, it’s all part of nature’s design as every year when the turtle eggs hatch they provide many other species with a necessary supply of food. Many fish, birds, lizards feed on the hatchlings and as brutal as this may seem, it all plays a role in nature’s never-ending circle of life. Once they manage to reach a certain size they’re more or less safe from most predators. Although tiger sharks do have a taste for grown turtles and the jaws to deal with them. Fortunately for the turtles but maybe unfortunately for the divers, we don’t think tiger sharks have ever been spotted around the Gili Islands.

The Sanctuary

The Gili Meno Turtle Sanctuary is located on the south-east beach of Gili Meno, just a short walk on the beach from the main jetty. When you get off the jetty just turn left.
It’s easy to find the hut and its numerous pools with turtles in different stages of their ‘young’ lives. The sanctuary is usually open to visitors seven days a week from 9am to 9pm. Well worth a visit and the staff there are more than happy to answer any questions you have about these awesome marine creatures.
Don’t forget, they rely heavily on donations to keep their project afloat so they will be very happy with anything you can spare. Whatever you give, it’s a really small price to pay for helping ensure the Gilis stay the turtle capitol of the world.

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.