A two hour boat ride from the tourist destination of Bali, and a stone throw away from the surfer’s paradise of Lombok lays the small island wonderland of GIli Trawangan. This island is engulfed by turquoise waters, sandy beaches, and mesmerizing underwater life. But in recent years, a visually agonizing problem has appeared: Plastic.
Every day, boats arrive from Bali, Lombok, Nusa Lembongan, and Nusa Penida filled with travelers looking for a place to unplug. Although this has been great for the local economy, many of the backpackers or families passing through the island are unable to visualize the toll their single use plastic bottles, straws, and even cigarette butts are taking on this teeny tiny island paradise. Being on the island for 3 days, one cannot blame a turn-around traveler for this problem. In fact, no one entity is admittedly at fault. Simply put, it is the responsibility of the people to step forward and solve the problem. And this is just what the inhabitants of Gili Trawangan have done.
Originally founded in 2000 by local Scuba Diving shops, the Gili Eco Trust was directed at protecting the coral reefs around the Gili archipelago. Resulting from the implementation of uniquely designed bio-rocks, GET has since had a phenomenal effort in restoring a slowly bleaching coral reef. In the past 17 years, however, the Trust’s scope has expanded to becoming the preservation powerhouse for the Gili Islands.
One particular extension of the Trust has been their dedication to supervising and streamlining of the waste management on Gili Trawangan. An owner of Tir Na nOg Irish Bar describes his belief in the trust, “[It] is an amazing organization, filled with people who have nothing but gratitude for what the Earth has given us on Gili. Without them, I am not sure this island would exist.” By supervising the waste management, the Trust has developed a transportation system for rubbish and waste to be sent to Lombok, where, with their superior land mass and technology, it is able to be handled correctly.”
After doing some research, it’s backed up. Tir Na nOg “fights the good fight”. By the end of this year, they will have hosted two Charity Casino nights, a Great Gili Clean up, and provided several large donations to help provide what they can to the Eco Trust and create a sustainable island lifestyle. During the Great Gili Clean up alone, they picked up over 1000 kilos of rubbish in 2 hours. Uhm, #awesome.
And that is just the business that we happened to choose. After speaking to them, we’ve heard several other shops on the island are becoming more and more involved in preventing Gili from becoming a plastic playground.
One such business is Lutwala Dive, located on on the beautiful northern Halik Beach. Far away from the party-centric area of the south-eastern island, a deeply caring ideology has become ingrained into this scuba shops culture. Swerving from plastic like a woman from men at an overcrowded bar, Lutwala is heading home early, so to speak, from the single-use trend. Offering up coffee, tea, and water to its guests the only plastic you’ll see at this dive shop is that of which is picked up off the beach.
Just a 15 minute boat ride from Gili Trawangan, Gili Air hotels are practicing sustainable thought by encouraging guests to think about how they can help, providing guests with handbooks on how they can help. And on the quaint island of Gili Meno, lying between Trawangan and Air, hotels like BASK are simply implementing a no plastic policy.
The change is happening on the Gili Islands, but just as everywhere else, it is happening slowly. With continued consorted efforts like those from BASK, Tir Na nOg, Manta Dive and all other parties, the plastic pollution will go from being a problem to a memory in the Gili Archipelago.