Hi guys, tell us something about yourselves.

We are three friends and business partners, all originally from France.

  • Cindy: former scuba diving instructor in Gili Air
  • Lise & Rodolphe: a couple and former scuba diving instructors in Gili Air

How did you get to know each other?

We met on Gili Air – a small island in Indonesia, near Bali. We all worked as scuba diving instructors. It didn`t take much on a tiny isle like Gili Air. Same job, same friends, same parties and here we go!

Lise, Rodolphe and Cindy

Lise, Rodolphe and Cindy

Tell us briefly your story and how did you discover the Gili Islands?

Lise: I worked 7 years in Paris for an event management agency. Suddenly, I got the urge to escape from the daily routine. So, I packed my bags and set out on a 7-month long solo trip through South-East Asia to find out what I really want to do. I decided to become an underwater photographer to combine my two passions – diving and editing. I came back to France to improve my knowledge in order to realise my dream. At the same time, I met Rodolphe – my spouse and we decided to open a guesthouse somewhere in Asia.

Rodolphe: Scuba diving has been leading my life for the last 20 years. I completed a Sports Teaching degree and a few years later, I specialised in hyperbaric treatment. That gave me the opportunity to work as a scuba diving instructor and I could perform jobs such as underwater repairs. Thanks to my profession, I got a chance to travel and work around the world, including French Indies, France, Thailand, Egypt, New Caledonia and Indonesia.

The dream under construction

The dream under construction

Cindy: I spent 8 years working in human resources and hotel management in Paris when I decided to have a longer break in 2011. I left for South East Asia to learn about new cultures and explore new places. During this trip, I fell in love with Gili Air, learnt to dive and became a professional scuba diver. I returned to France after a while but only to realise I didn`t want to get back to the Parisian lifestyle, and so, I returned to Gili Air and started to work as a diving instructor. After few years in Gili Air, I got a desire to start my own business, however, I couldn`t do it on my own – being a solo female doesn`t make it any easier here.

When and how did the ‘Villa Saia’ project start?

We (Rod and Lise) wanted to set up the business long time ago but our tight budget did not allow us to do it in France. As we had already known culture quite well, the next step was to get to know the administration and law. That’s why we needed to get a job locally first in order to experience daily life and make connections. After the ‘first test’ was passed successfully we proceeded with the project and bought a piece of land of 12.5 acres in 2014. In the meantime, we were looking for another business partner to support us financially. That is how Cindy joined us and Villa Saia was born.

Villa Saia, King size bedroom, open-air suite

Villa Saia, King size bedroom, open-air suite

What was it like to deal with the local people and the Indonesian bureaucracy?

When you start dealing with people from other cultures, you have to start from the scratch. Everything is different, from the quality of service to building material. Obviously, one cannot expect an Indonesian electrician or a plumber to deliver the equivalent performance to the one in your country. One needs to be prepared for the same concept when it comes to deadlines, quality, design and taste. It was extremely important to be present at all times and double-check every single step and move to get the job done according to our expectations.

Regarding the local law and bureaucracy, it wasn`t easy either. When setting up your company, you have to work with consultants and pay heaps of money to get all the paperwork done. H