This underwater sculpture park is the basis for a manmade coral reef.
Located off the northwest coast of Lombok in Indonesia are the three Gili Islands: Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan. These islands are renowned for their sandy white beaches, swaying palm trees and pristine waters. They are home to a booming green sea turtle population, and in recent years the islands have become the focus for sustainable, eco-friendly tourism attractions both on shore and underwater.
One of the most beautiful attractions is a project called “Nest,” which was created and installed by British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor in 2017. Located just off the shore of Gili Meno, the smallest of the three islands, the underwater sculpture park features 48 life-sized statues based on the casts of real people. The statues, meant to symbolize the continuity of life, are arranged in a circle, with couples embracing and figures lying down. A few feet away lies another installation featuring three women lying down on their sides.
Located about 13 feet under the surface, they’re made from an environmental-grade concrete designed to create a reef environment where coral, algae and sponges can grow quickly. Although only a few years old, the statues have already begun to transform into part of the landscape. Schools of colorful fish dart between legs and arms, swimming around faces whose features have become distorted with coral and algae.
Not only do these underwater statues help preserve the integrity of the local ecosystem, but their existence is also an opportunity to examine the aesthetics of decay and metamorphosis in the setting of an underwater world. Taylor’s statues, which can be found in the waters of the Bahamas, Spain, and Mexico, encourage environmental awareness by reminding us of the beauty and importance of our seas and oceans.
Know Before You Go
The statues can be accessed by boat from the islands of Gili Air and Gili Trawangan. The statues are not far off the shore of Gili Meno and can be easily reached by swimming or renting a kayak.
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