Gili Islands Overview

Only a few kilometres off the northwest coast of Lombok lay the idyllic Gili islands – Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. This archipelago of three small coral isles are rapidly becoming one of the most popular destinations for visitors to Bali and Lombok.

Although each island has its own particular charm they all boast powdery white sand beaches, crystal clear waters and some of the best diving and snorkelling opportunities in the region; so no matter which island you choose, whether it be to party or just to relax (or a bit of both!), you’ll always be rewarded with the key elements that make the Gili Islands an unforgettable tropical paradise. And with no cars, or any form of motorised vehicles to disturb the peace – getting around is either by ‘cidomo’ (horse cart), bicycle, or on foot – the laid-back rustic appeal of the Gilis has people coming for a days and staying for weeks! There’s also a strong environmental outlook on the Gili Islands, with efforts focused on reef protection and regeneration. The Gili Eco Trust was set-up to protect and monitor the environment, both under the water and on land. Through visitor donations they have managed to erect over a dozen artificial Bio-Rock reefs and ensured that local fisherman now use more sustainable fishing practices.

There’s a range of Gili Islands accommodation options to suit all budgets, with a steady number of new Gili Islands hotel and more luxurious villas being slowly added to the list. Over the years, the quality and choice of dining on the Gili Islands has come a long way, with restaurants serving everything from authentic Indonesian food to Sushi, Pizza and a good variety of western cuisine, accompanied by imported wines. Not only known to backpackers as a party destination, the Gilis are steadily becoming a great holiday choice for families too – a number of Gili Islands hotel and villas now cater for children, offering good value and additional services such as baby sitting.

Getting to the Gili Islands is easy, with a range of Fast Boat services direct from Bali. If you’re already in Lombok, private transfers from Senggigi can be arranged locally (mini-bus/speedboat) otherwise you can opt for the slower (cheaper) and less reliable public boats that leave from Bangsal harbour.

Gili Trawangan Schooner

THINGS TO REMEMBER

  • Don’t try to swim between the islands. They may not look that far apart but the currents that run in the channels between the islands can be very strong and unpredictable. There are plenty of chaep local boats to get you across.
  • Never sunbathe nude or topless, and cover up away from the beach (no bikinis). Although it may feel like Bali, the locals are Muslims so it’s good to show some respect.
  • When snorkelling or diving you should avoid touching the coral or any other marine life…..take only pictures, leave only bubbles!
  • Malaria and dengue are found throughout Indonesia and although the risk is minimal in the immediate region, there are plenty of mosquitoes. Staying covered around sunrise and sunset and using repellents (DEET 50%) throughout the day and night will ensure your stay isn’t an itchy one.
  • Avoid locally distilled spirits such as Arak, as well as cocktails containing local spirits. There have been a number of cases of Methanol poisoning in 2012/13, the most recent being at Rudy's Bar on Gili Trawangan which was fatal. Stick to beer and wine.

Gili Trawangan

Gili Trawangan

Gili Trawangan is the most visited of the three and has earned a ‘Party Island’ reputation amongst travel enthousiasts internationally. Once a backpacker’s haven – with basic beach huts and simple bars, serving concoctions that offer ‘free lunar transport’ – Gili Trawangan has undergone some dramatic changes over the past five years and now caters to a decidedly more upmarket crowd, often with family in-tow, all seeking that tropical island experience with the luxuries of home.

Aside from the laid-back beach culture, the main draw of the island is scuba diving. Accommodation choices range from budget guesthouses through a large selection of mid-range beachfront hotels,  to resorts and luxury villas.

Gili Air

Gili Air

Although closest to mainland Lombok, Gili Air lays somewhere between the tranquillity of Gili Meno and the bustle of Gili Trawangan – making it a great option for backpackers and families wanting to get away from the crowds and acquaint themselves in local culture. As with Meno, the pace of life is slow and endearing but like Trawangan there’s plenty to do, such as diving, snorkelling and even some surfing by day, to live music and restaurants at night. There’s a surprisingly wide range of accommodation on the island to suit every budget, on the beach or set back in the coconut groves.

Gili Meno

Gili Meno

Gili Meno may be the smallest and quietest of the three islands but it’s as close as you’ll get to a true tropical island getaway. Sandwiched between Gili Trawangan and Gili Air its stunning beaches and laid-back charm provide a great escape for honeymooners looking for seclusion or those just wanting to get away from it all! Accommodation is provided by a variety of small hotels and beachside bungalows; with more luxurious options slowly being developed. Dining is a casual affair with fresh fish BBQ’s dominating the menus of the beachside cafes. And when not relaxing, there’s plenty of great diving and snorkelling on offer as well as bird and turtle sanctuaries to visit.

 


A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO THE GILI ISLANDS

Getting between the Islands and Lombok is cheap and easy, simply use one of the many local services available by public or chartered boat. Fast boat tickets from Bali to the Gili Islands will get you to Gili Trawangan or Gili Air. To get to Gili Meno, you will need to catch a local boat from the jetty in Gili T or Air when you arrive.

No need to pre-book the local boats, the approximate rates in indonesian rupiah are as follows: Gili Trawangan to Lombok - Public boat: 13,000idr or Charter with 30 capacity: 400,000idr. Island hopping betwen the Gili's - 25,000idr. There is also a reliable Speedboat service that can be pre booked for about 350,000idr by sending an email to the following address: [email protected]

Gili Trawangan Manta Dive shop accommodationGili Trawangan is the biggest and most visited of the three and has earned the title of ‘Party Island’ amongst the world’s travellers.

Once a backpacker’s haven – with basic beach huts and simple bars, serving concoctions that offer ‘free lunar transport’ – Gili Trawangan has undergone some dramatic changes over the past five years and now caters to a decidedly more upmarket crowd, often with family in-tow, all seeking that tropical island experience with the luxuries of home.

Aside from the laid-back beach culture, the main draw of the island is scuba diving, with a number of professional dive centres offering courses and fun dives to all ages. Gili Trawangan accommodation choices start from budget guesthouses through to a large selection of mid-range beachfront hotels, going all the way up to resort-style hotels and luxury villas.

Gili Trawangan magic mushrooms ticket to the moon

It’s highly recommended to book your accommodation Gili Trawangan in advance during the peak season (Jul-Sep) to ensure you don’t end-up sleeping on the beach! There’s a wide variety of restaurants along the beachfront, offering everything from local street-food to high quality international cuisine, along with some of the freshest seafood BBQ’s around. And at the end of the day – when you’re done soaking up the sun or diving to new depths – there are plenty of bars to quench your thirst, with weekly party nights to keep you dancing to the early hours.

Gili Air, although closest to mainland Lombok, lays somewhere between the tranquillity of Gili Meno and the bustle of Gili Trawangan – making it a great option for backpackers and families wanting to get away from the tourist crowds and immerse themselves in the local culture. As with Meno, the pace of life is slow and endearing but like Trawangan there’s plenty to keep you entertained – with diving, snorkelling and even some surfing by day, to live music and socialising at night.

Gili Meno accommodation travel tips

There’s a surprisingly wide range of accommodation on the island to suit every taste and budget, whether it be on the beach or set back in the coconut groves. Dining options are also quite varied, with inexpensive local food available inland to grilled fish and international cuisine being offered at the many beachside restaurants.

Gili Meno maybe the smallest and quietest of the three islands but it’s as close as you’ll get to a true tropical island getaway. Sandwiched between Gili Trawangan and Gili Air its stunning beaches and laid-back charm provide a great escape for honeymooners looking for seclusion or those just wanting to get away from it all! Accommodation is provided by a variety of small hotels and beachside bungalows; with more luxurious options slowly being developed. Dining is a casual affair with fresh fish BBQ’s dominating the menus of the beachside cafes. And when not relaxing, there’s plenty of great diving and snorkelling on offer as well as bird and turtle sanctuaries to visit.