The Reef Resort is pretty damn glamorous and at the same time, gorgeously remote. Located on Gili Meno in the Gili Isles, it’s a short hop from Lombok or a 60-minute fast ferry ride from Bali – but being surrounded by ocean and with no motorised transport, it feels like the middle of nowhere.
We’re here for a few days to explore the surrounding coral reefs and we arrive looking far from glamorous ourselves, having jumped off a dive boat, luggage above our heads before proceeding to reception in our wet suits, dripping on the immaculate wooden floorboards.
It’s been a rather frenetic day, which started with me recovering from a night’s bout of food poisoning before our departure from Bali at the port of Padang Bai (an exercise in organised chaos that took longer than the boat ride), a bumpy trip across the Lombok Strait, transfer from ferry to dive boat, 60 minutes of coral reef and turtles and our arrival here. Phew.
Let the holiday begin. Our beachfront bungalow, or rather, traditional Lumbung, has loungers and hammock downstairs, four-poster bed upstairs, gorgeous outdoors bathroom.
Between Lumbung and beach there’s also a four-poster day bed. So far it’s looking like the perfect place to hang out after a full day’s diving.
After we’ve spruced ourselves up a tad, we head for dinner, which is served to us on a table set on the water’s edge. Dinner is a 3-course affair, a divine selection from the menu (chosen by chef) accompanied by a very nice Italian prosecco, a new find, we’re told by the Beach Club manager.
The three Gilis are described to us in a Goldilocks’ kinda way. One Gili Island is too loud, one is too quiet and one is just right. But obviously, each of them is right for someone – depending on your lifestyle. Gili Trewangan is Party Central – backpacker friendly, pumping beach clubs and full moon parties. Gili Meno is for honeymooners, quiet, laid back and 5-star service. Gili Air is (for some) Just Right – somewhere in between, with a reasonable collection of restaurants and beach clubs.
For us, Gili Meno is just right – even though we’re clearly not honeymooners. We came here to dive, not to party, and the quality of the service, food and accommodation at Karma Reef – all bliss to come back to after a full day’s diving.
So after an exhausting day, we’re rejuvenated, relaxed and after managing to fit in a dessert of baclava and ice cream, we retire to our four-poster bed, ready for another day of action.
We’re diving with 7 Seas Diving, a dive operator based on Gili Air, and they have very kindly offered to pick us up each morning from nearby Gili Meno. This first class service from 7 Seas Diving was something that continued over the three days we stayed there. They are a great little operation staffed by people from all over the world, and yet operating like one big family.
Staff here are all extremely passionate about their chosen part of the world, the beautiful (and plentiful) reefs that surround the islands, and genuinely want to ignite that passion in their guests.
The diving is a mix of wall dives and coral gardens, all jumping with life and more turtles than you can count on two hands on most dives. In fact on one dive I was constantly in danger of resting my hand on one while getting out of the way of another.
Another highlight was a dive site called Deep Turbo where we descended about 20m through crystal clear water into an enormous school of batfish.
Our diving day starts at a very civilised 10-ish am and ends mid-afternoon, so we have time each day to explore Gili Meno.
On Day 2 we opt for a tour of the (not very big) island by horse and cart. There is no motorised transport on any of the Gili Islands – it’s either by foot, bicycle or horse buggy.
The rather small horses (not much bigger than a Shetland pony) make me feel like an amazon or something crouched in the back of the tiny cart and we jump out whenever the route gets too sandy to save the poor beast from struggling too much. On the way round we visit the island’s turtle sanctuary – perhaps the secret to its large population of turtles.
The turtle hatchlings are kept in a holding tank until they develop hard shells, making them less easy to pick off by predators. And they are incredibly sweet – hawksbills and green turtles all clambering over each other and racing around.
Each evening as we wade ashore from our diving day we were greeted by another first class meal and first class service at Karma Reef and on our last evening, we’re treated to a blissful 60-minute couples massage in the shade of a marquee on the beach, followed by a little cruise out to watch to sunset on the far side of the island. A perfect end to our little Gili sojourn.
It could well have been a honeymoon I suppose.
Where to stay: Karma Reef Resort & Beach Club opened earlier this year. The traditional Lumbung style villas are all beach front and air conditioned. You can choose to dine at the Beach Club or have meals delivered to your veranda. Enquiries: email@example.com
Who to dive with: 7 Seas Diving are a global family-run business, if there is such a term. If there isn’t, I just invented it. A mix of staff from all over the world who operate like an extended family and make you feel like you’re being taken care of in a very personal way,