📍Gili Meno
📅 April 2018
♬ When You Leave, by Sergey Cheremisinov (licensed under CC BY 2.0, sourced from Free Music Archive)
🎥 GoPro Hero 5, edited with iMovie

“The ocean is this incredible space where I can disconnect; a silent world where I’m completely alone in my thoughts.” – Jason DeCaires Taylor, DAN Interview

I woke up before sunrise on my first day on Gili Meno and made my way through the darkness to the other side of the island in search of “Nest”, the underwater sculptures by Jason DeCaires Taylor. I was the only person there and it was an eerie, magical morning that I won’t soon forget.

It’s an alien thing for me – waking up before the sun – and while it seems to have been an automatic switch that set itself to island time almost instantly when I arrived, I’m not quite used to the concept yet. I slowly trudged down darkened lanes and through overgrown pathways, watching countless tiny shadows of frogs hop quickly out of my way as I went. I made my way down to the centre of the west coast beachfront, and stopped in front of the BASK sign. I wasn’t entirely sure where the sculptures were, but I knew that they were a BASK investment, so it made sense that they’d be directly in front of the sign. Good guess.

I’d been looking forward to seeing these statues for weeks, after reading so much about them and seeing countless images online. Aside from being an exquisite piece of art in the most surreal location, “Nest” was built from durable, environmentally sensitive pH neutral materials to promote a sustainable ecosystem and increase the overall reef biomass, which I wholeheartedly applaud.

The artist, Jason DeCaires Taylor, is a British sculptor, environmentalist and underwater photographer, whose underwater work spans multiple continents, and over the past decade, he has created several large-scale underwater museums and sculpture parks. As a former diving instructor, Taylor was inspired by the notion that the sea could be an amazing creative space for his art work, while using his artwork to set up artificial reefs to provide an alternate surface for corals and habitat spaces. His artworks draw attention to the main issues affecting our oceans, whilst highlighting its incredible fragility and wonder.

You can take a snorkeling tour to see the statues off the coast, but you don’t really need to. If you want to support the locals or simply just don’t want to go out alone, then try and get a guide to take you through as early as possible so that you don’t have to share this exquisite experience with 20+ boats and a hundred other people. But if you’re up for it, I highly recommend that you go alone at sunrise, like I did. I walked past this section of beach again later during my stay on the island, and have to admit to chuckling at the number of people in the water in the midday sun, all fighting for selfie space.

I want more of my moments to hold this kind of magic; the eery kind of magic that you find when you embrace the solitude of your experience; when you encounter the work of people making a difference; when you acknowledge the creative expression of beauty and human fragility. Moments that were not planned, precisely mapped or paid for. Just perfect moments, like this.