Ali Bastian and her brother experience tranquility, relaxation and yoga on the Gili Islands
The phone rang a few weeks back, it was my little brother Nick. I say little, in my head he still is 6 years old and I can definitely beat him at a BMX race. He is in fact 29 and despite my best efforts, he is no longer willing to race me. I settle in for the usual, ‘Are you going home this weekend?’ ‘What shall we do for mum’s birthday?’ ‘Have you got time to go out and buy something… Because I haven’t.’
This was, however, a phone call with a difference. ‘Al, I’m leaving my job and setting up my own advertising agency. I have two weeks break and I need to get away. I’m thinking the Gili Islands. Are you in?’
I had never heard of the Gili Islands. I had no idea where to find them. After about 20 seconds on Google images, I knew one thing for certain, I was in.
Indonesia was the destination, and the scatter of three Gili Islands are, in fact, a short boat ride from Lombok, which now has its own International airport. Gili Meno is the smallest and most secluded, Gili Trawangan the largest and as I later discovered, the party island for gap year students. If you’re over 30 they probably won’t let you over the border. After a little research, we decided on Gili Air, and boy are we glad we did.
Switch your phone off, leave your laptop at home and escape from it all on this beautiful, small but perfectly formed paradise island. At a leisurely pace you can stroll around the island in about 90 minutes. The only other ways to get around are by bike, or you might choose to arrive at your hotel, as we did, by donkey and cart which certainly added to the sense of adventure!
We stayed in Sunrise Bungalows, a group of traditional Indonesian villas nestled in lush green gardens with panoramic sea and mountain views. For me, there is something about a return to this kind of simplicity that encourages another level of relaxation. Sleeping under mosquito nets, listening to the sound of the geckos and gentle lapping of the ocean, I soon feel a million miles away from everything and so very happy in the knowledge that my little brother, tucked up in his bungalow next door, is experiencing exactly the kind of head space required before he embarks upon his next exciting chapter.
We found a couple of options for yoga classes on the island but after asking the advice of other travellers, it seemed that H20 Yoga and Meditation Centre would be the place for us. Nestling in lush green gardens, set back a little from the beach, H20 has created a most peaceful and relaxing retreat. It offers two yoga classes a day, an introduction to meditation practice, workshops and a whole variety of holistic healing treatments.
At the heart of the retreat is a beautiful circular Yoga Shala with a high domed natural thatched roof where all classes take place. As Nick was new to yoga, it was wonderful to enjoy classes suitable for all levels taught beautifully by teachers from all over the world. The words, ‘Al, can I show you this flow I’ve just learned?,’ were not words I ever imagined would come out of the mouth of my little brother! Thanks to our special time spent at H20, another new yogi is born!
A blissful nightly ‘yoga by candlelight’ practice soon became our ritual along with stronger morning Hatha and Vinyasa classes. You can buy bundles of classes with 10 passes at roughly £3.50/class.
Two weeks on a desert island moving between my hammock and the yoga centre is all the activity I need but for the more active traveller the island offers some of the best diving on earth, breathtaking snorkeling, paddle boarding and kite surfing. Or try free fiving – a three-day course promises to teach you breathing techniques to safely explore the ocean on a single breath up to 40 metres!
As another cloudless day draws to a close on Gili, we hear Safari Bar is the best spot for the evening to grab a bean bag and listen to some live local music. My brother and I leap onto our hire bikes to race up to the northern tip of the island to witness the spectacular sunset. He is six and I am 10, and we are pedalling as fast as our little legs can carry us, the cool breeze in our hair. I win… secretly, I know he let me.
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