Gorgeous island marred by trash
Published/Last edited or updated: 17th February, 2017
If you fly from Bali to Bima, just as the pilot announces you’re starting your final descent towards the eastern end of Sumbawa’s yawning Teluk Saleh, look out the right window and you’ll see a white-sand island ringed by coral reefs. This is Gili Pudu.
The savanna island is minuscule – you can walk around the entire thing in about 45 minutes or to its peak in about 30 minutes. Those with time on their hands could easily, dare we say, leisurely snorkel around the entire island in a couple of hours. The reef is in remarkably good shape — and in a far better state than the beach, which is an absolute filth-fest of plastic cups and other detritus left behind by daytrippers who don’t know any better.
Seriously Indonesia, when are you going to start educating people about waste management?
About two thirds of the island is ringed by what would be a stunning white-sand beach if only all the rubbish wasn’t on it. The interior is lush waist- to chest-high savannah. It feels like absolute A-grade monster snake territory, though we saw none. Bring a pair of sturdy shoes (yeah okay, or flip flops) to make the climb to the summit easier, The views, because the grass is so high, may disappoint.
On the eastern side of the island, there is what remains of a house that was (if we got the story right) built by a foreigner who lived on the island with his dog. Visitors at some stage or another killed the dog because they thought it was wild, so the foreigner packed up and left, “donating” the house to the island. Whatever the truth, the house, like the beaches that surround it, is in a pretty deplorable state.
The house reef is in close — just five minutes will have you out to it and it sits on the cusp of a gentle white-sand decline into the depths. it’s not a broad reef, but we saw plenty of live and soft corals plus tonnes of reef fish. Despite the metric tonnes of trash on the beach, there was very little in the water or mixed into the coral itself.
So with beaches so filthy, is it worth coming here? We’d say yes. Firstly, so that you can take a photo of the garbage then post it on Facebook/Twitter/whatever, saying “WTF Indonesia?” And, well, the snorkelling is pretty good, as is the boatride, so it makes for a solid day out. Buy a fish as Kempo’s expansive fish market and barbecue it on the beach here – go snokelling and ask your boatman to turn the fish when it looks done. And while we’d not suggest it is your responsibility to totally clean up the island, do make sure you leave nothing behind, and if you want to take a few sacks (or a boatload) of plastic Aqua cups back with you, then gold star!
So, how to get here? The port town is Kempo, around a 45-minute drive or ride from Dompu. You basically take the road that runs west to Calabai and stop at Kempo. Once at Kempo you need to find a boat. The local price to Gili Pudu is around 150,000 to 200,000 rupiah, depending on the number of people, but if you are not Indonesian, or if even one of your party is not Indonesian, your chances of getting a boat at that price is a big fat zero. We were offered two boats at 500,000 rupiah and bargained one down to 350,000 rupiah — it was the best we could manage (with two Indonesians and one foreigner as passengers).
To find a boat, basically turn left as the road curls around the traditional market in Kempo and look for any group of women sitting around. Ask them for a boat and take it from there. Be prepared to bargain hard, but bear in mind they know you’re already there and have limited bargaining leverage!
Getting to Kempo from Dompu is easiest by motorbike — the road surface is good and it is a dead easy ride. If you don’t have your own transport, you could ojek it from Dompu. Villages in Kempo said 50,000 rupiah was a fair fare, but when we suggested that to an ojek in Dompu, he laughed in our face. Try at around the 75,000 mark, and you want them to wait. The third option is to get a bus, as the bus to Calabai passes straight through Kempo, but if you’re taking this approach, we’d suggest leaving Dompu early as you’ll need to get the bus back too (unless you are continuing on to Calabai of course, in which case you could leave your packs at the house of whomever you rent a boat from).
It’s a bit of a hassle to reach, but hardly insurmountable, and it will help to have a few travellers to share costs with. Yes, the beach is dirty, but maybe one day it will be cleaned and then you’ll be laughing.
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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