Gili Nanngu Island: Eco-immunizing an Indonesian oasis
Indonesia has to be one of the most awe-inspiring countries in the world. Its ocean life is perhaps the most spectacular of all its natural assets, which makes the sea the best way to see the country, especially the Gilis, seven orphaned isles dotting the Lombok Strait.
But as the three northern Gilis – Trawangan, Meno and Air – become more popular, the islands’ limited resources are struggling to meet the needs of a growing number of visitors. Further south, the 12-hectare Gili Nanggu has learned from its neighbors, and is taking some innovative steps, such as alternative energy sources, to prevent a strain on its environment.
Goodbye gas, hello wind
The owners of the island’s only accommodation recently constructed three wind turbines to provide 24-hour electricity without having to rely on a gas-guzzling generator. With only 10 cottages and seven bungalows, the island usually sees a maximum of 50 guests during the June to August high season. Dozens of day-trippers mean the turbines cannot provide all of the island’s necessary power, but they did greatly reduce the generator’s operating hours this summer.
To meet guests' bathing needs, the cottages provide saline seawater, and a rain collection tank supplements the 3,000 liters of fresh water brought daily from the mainland.
Gili Nanggu sits on the less abundant side of the Wallace Line, a faunal boundary that divides the Lombok Strait and separates the many fish, birds, and mammals on one side from the other. The island vegetation is a bit schizophrenic, a combination of conifers and frangipanis. But it is the hundreds of exotic fish that swim in the coral-fringed bay surrounding Nanggu that draw guests eager to peek into the shallow blue.
The offshore coral reefs are protected from fishing – though to support the local economy, the resort’s chef purchases the evening’s catch from local fishermen.
Save the Turtle program
Many of these fishermen, mostly Bugis from Lombok and Sulawesi, have also been co-opted into Nanggu’s Save the Turtle program, which seeks to protect the region’s fragile sea turtle population.
The program’s director, Novi Santoso, buys the eggs from participating fishermen during February’s breeding season. He then returns them to the sand, where they incubate for another 30 days. Once the turtles have hatched, Novi cares for them at the resort’s center until they’re ready for release, usually after six months to a year.
Around 5,000 turtles have been returned to the sea in the 14 years since the program started. Guests at Gili Nanggu can donate money to the initiative and can also take part in the turtles’ release.
The big green Gili picture
Like most island economies in Nusa Tenggara, the south-central Indonesian province that includes Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores, Timor and Komodo, Gili Nanggu depends on the sea’s bounty. But that dependence poses problems in an area increasingly threatened by environmental degradation. Indonesia’s 17,000 islands span a stretch wider than the continental United States and sit at the center of what is known as the Coral Triangle, a marine-rich area that contains 75 percent of the world’s coral species.
The Indonesian government has shown increased willingness to work with conservationists, with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono organizing a conference in May that culminated in the signing of the Coral Triangle Initiative, a multilateral partnership to safeguard the country’s natural resources. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), part of a consortium of NGOs supporting sustainable marine resource management, the Coral Triangle provides the 120 million people living within its borders with a yearly income of around US$2.3 billion.
But those who depend on the reefs are unknowingly destroying the source of their own livelihoods through over-fishing and pollution. And that fact worries environmental groups who say Nusa Tenggara is already one of Indonesia’s poorest provinces, with 30 percent of the population living below the poverty line, according to Indonesia’s Central Statistics Bureau.
To preserve the triangle’s biodiversity, the WWF is working in West Bali on an initiative aimed at promoting environmentally sound business and tourism practices. The Nature Conservancy has also partnered with the local government in Komodo to help better manage the national park’s ecotourism and reduce blast fishing.
And as evidenced by the homegrown efforts taking place on Gili Nanggu, even small change help shrink Indonesia’s big climate change footprint.
STAY: Gili Nanggu Cottage and Bungalows start at US$27 with bungalows priced at US$37 per night. If accommodation is full, visitors can rent a tent for US$5 and spend the night under the stars.
GETTING THERE AND AWAY: From Mataram, the capital of Lombok, visitors can take a 45-minute boat ride via Lembar Harbor or drive further south and take a 15-minute ride aboard a fishing vessel from Tawun.
Another alternative is Freeline Surf, which runs 4-14 day chartered sailing trips between the islands of Nusa Tenggara. You can cater your trip or join one of the company’s surf-oriented journeys.
CONSERVATION: To learn more about Gili Nanggu’s Save the Turtle program, visit the resort’s website or contact its office in Lombok. Tel: (62-370) 623 783 Mobile: (62) 0813 8500 8585, Friends of the Reef WWF project.