Gili Trawangan Travel Guide
Gili Trawangan, or simply Gili T as it's often abbreviated, is the largest (but not by much) and most visited of the three Gili Islands off the northwest shore of Lombok, and has earned the title of ‘Party Island’ amongst the world’s travelers.
Once a backpacker’s haven, discovered in the 1990's – with basic beach huts and simple bars, serving concoctions that offered ‘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.
Despite its party vibe and the growth of recent years, Gili Trawangan retains a truly chilled out vibe and unadulterated feel. This is basically due to the physical constraints of the tiny size of the island limiting indefinite development, the fact that no motorized traffic is allowed anywhere on land and the local village government rules restricting building height to below the tree line.
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.
It’s highly recommended to book your accommodation Gili Trawangan in advance during the peak season (Jul-Sep and the Christmas/new year period) 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.
For the quieter areas to stay and relax, simply head to the west or north of the island where some of the newer boutique resorts are found along exclusive stretches of beach. There are gorgeous views toward Bali and it's volcanoes in the distance, ideal for amazing sunsets. At low tide on the west coast you can enjoy fascinating rock pooling in the broad shallows, seeing all kinds of marine life hiding just beneath the calm surface.
BEST THINGS TO SEE ON GILI TRAWANGAN
Sunset – As the sun starts its journey back towards the horizon, take a stroll up the hill for an unforgettable sunset.
Head away from the main beach and through the village to the foot of the hill, where clearly-trodden paths wind their way upwards. Passing through coconut groves, grazing cattle and wandering goats you’ll eventually be rewarded with stunning 360° views of the 3 Gilis and of Lombok and Bali beyond. Don’t forget to bring your camera!
If a walk up the hill is bit too strenuous then how about a trip in a Cidomo (horsecart) to the east side of the island where you can relax at the Gili Teak Beach Club while enjoying a cocktail as the sun sets over Bali.
Turtle sanctuary – Green and loggerhead turtles are now common to the waters around the Gilis. If you go diving, you're almost guarunteed a sighting at many of the dive sites around the islands.
To ensure the on-going survival of these amazing sea creatures, sanctuaries have been set-up on both Gili Trawangan and Gili Meno.
Their main purpose is to save the turtle eggs from predators, hatch them and then raise the young turtles for up to a year before releasing them safely into the sea.
You can visit the sanctuaries, see the baby turtles in their pools and learn more about these fascinating animals. Donations to aid the volunteers in saving the turtles are always greatly appreciated.
BEST THINGS TO DO ON GILI TRAWAGAN
Dive! Dive! Dive! - The Gilis are now synonymous with scuba diving, so for those wanting more than what snorkelling can offer there’s no better place to take the plunge! Indonesia is home to over 3000 species of marine life - more species than the Great Barrier Reef and the Red Sea put together – so you can be sure that the crystal clear waters around the Gilis will captivate scuba divers of all levels.
For beginners there’s a range of courses available (PADI and SSI) from Discovery Dives to the fully certified Open Water course. If you’re already certified, you can join daily fun dives to one of the 20 dive sites around the islands. Expect to see green and hawksbill turtles, bumphead parrotfish and white-tip reef sharks along with an impressive array of other sea creatures, coral formations and plant life. Visibility is commonly in the 15-20 metre range; with drift diving being the norm due to changing currents.
For those divers wanting to further their diving education, the numerous dive centres all offer more advanced and specialty courses; some all the way up to instructor level.
Snorkelling - Since backpackers first started coming to the Gilis in the mid- 80’s the main attraction has always been the coral reef and its marine life; and the easiest way to enjoy this aquatic realm is to go snorkelling. Just a few metres off the main island beaches the sand drops-away to reveal coral heads, sponges and an amazing array of colourful fish life. Just remember to watch out for the current, especially at low/high tide. If you don’t have your own equipment, masks, snorkels and fins are readily available to rent from the beach-side kiosks or dive centres.
Party on a boat! - Set sail on the crystal clear waters of Gili Trawangan with Jiggy Party boat! Leaving mid afternoon on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays there is no better way to soak up the sun and scenery as you swim, snorkel and dance your way around the 3 Gilis! Enjoy a picture perfect sunset and then party late into the night with a whole crew of new friends! Just ask around on the island to find out when the next party boat is scheduled.
Aquaflight - Currently unavailable. Experience a radical new water sport that is rapidly gaining in global popularity.
Forget swimming with dolphins, how about swimming like a dolphin instead?! Spend time soaring and spinning through the air, diving into and out of the tropical waves.
Essentially a water jet strapped to your feet, Aquaflight gives you constant thrust that you can use to suspend yourself a few feet above the water's surface in a controlled hover. By pointing your legs in different directions, you can take specatcular dives into and under the glistening sea, exploding powefully back out into the air at will. Experienced staff will guide and train you so you'll get the hang of it in no time, all the while in capable and safe hands.
UV Dive - Unfortunately UV Dive is currently non-operational. Ultraviolet or Fluro Diving takes you out to the reefs around Gili Trawangan at night and exposes the vibrant colours that are usually hidden to the human eye. You'll be amazed at the visual wonders awaiting you in the nocturnal shallows - nothing short of an ecological full moon party unfolding on the ocean floor!
Fluorescence occurs when ultraviolet light is shined on corals and fish containing proteins that absorbs some of the UV light and reflect it back at different wavelengths (colours).
Expect to see incredible fluo pink scorpion fish, orange crabs, yellow shrimps and moray eels, green, pink and yellow corals. Enquire at Manta Dive on Gili Trawangan.
Gili Yoga - Yoga is an ancient science that improves flexibility, circulation and strength, and cultivates comfort and stability in all aspects of life. Gili Yoga offers yoga classes, workshops and retreats for anyone who wants to learn and evolve. Based out of Freedive Gili, sessions are held in their purpose-built outdoor ‘shala’.
Horse Riding - With a variety of horses to suit all levels of rider, Stud Stables offer a unique opportunity to discover Gili Trawangan on horseback. Quiet paths will take you through serene coconut groves and lead you out for a ride along sandy beaches – truly a wonderful way to explore the island at a leisurely pace.
Hold your breath! - Ever wanted to swim like a fish without all the equipment? At Freedive Gili they’ll teach you all you need to know to become a breath-hold diver. Whether you’re a complete novice or a more experienced apnoea diver, their range of certified courses will train your body to be more efficient with oxygen and provide you with all the skills necessary to have you Freediving to depths of 20 metres (or more!) in no time.
Your instructors are both recreational and competitive Freedivers who love to share their passion and expertise with you. For some it may be about diving deep while for others it’s a way to peacefully interact with the marine life; either way, it all starts with one breath!
Soothe your body - Some of the more expensive hotels and villas offer spa and beauty treatments but for a traditional Sasak massage, a session with the legendary Pak Ali (Mr. Ali) is not to be missed. For over 15 years this man-of-few-words will soon ease away any aches and pains, leaving you totally relaxed and ready for whatever the day throws your way. If he’s not available, Pak Sahir is pretty good too! To find them, enquire at Manta Dive. Alternatively there are a number of new Spas on the islands, Gili Spa and Azure Spa on Gili Trawangan are both recommended.
Motorised water sports - Although motorised vehicles may be absent on the islands, there’s still the possibility to enjoy a range of speed-boat powered activities on the water. Choose from Banana Boat rides at Villa Ombak (Gili Trawangan) to Wakeboarding and Water-skiing off the shores of Lombok, arranged through Manta Dive (Gili Air) or The Beach House (Gili Trawangan).
Go for a paddle - Why not explore the clear blue waters surrounding the Gili islands for yourself and join one of Karma Kayaks’ guided sea kayak trips. Your certified Western instructor will teach you all you need to know to have you gliding over the ocean in no time. See the Gilis from a whole other perspective whilst encountering turtles and other wildlife on the way. Trips over to neighbouring Gili Meno can also be arranged, with a picnic lunch on one of the white sandy beaches.
Stay Fit - Gili Trawangan's first fully functioning Gym & Fitness Center, 'GiliFit', boats a rooftop Basketball & Football court, a Health Bar and console Gaming Room. Weekly activities and classes are available, such as boxing or water based excercise programs. Whatever your budget, you needn't sacrifice form while on vacation. Join GiliFit on your holiday to stay in shape, eat healthy, or chill out with fellow travelers. They offer free gym access to their on-site hostel guests.
BEST PLACES TO EAT & DRINK ON GILI T
With numerous cafes, restaurants and bars to suit all tastes and budgets, the Gilis now offer a wide range of dining possibilities from tasty street food to fine dining and everything in between.
Manta Cafe - Tucked away just next to the swimming pool at Manta Dive is a hidden lunch time cafe. Serving crisp baguettes filled with an assortment of delicious ingredients, smoothies, milkshakes, and a hearty all day breakfast. Don´t miss the chocolate brownies!
Just next to Manta Cafe you will be able to find Chappie's Bar which is a nice chill beach bar where you can enjoy a cold Bintang or Cocktail (they tase even better after a dive) with smiles and good vibes all around.
Gili Teak Beach Club - Set in possibly the most peaceful part of the island is a new resort and Beach Club. A great spot grab a bite and a cocktail while the sun sets over Bali.
Pizzaria Regina - Fresh, coal fired stone oven pizza's expertly made. Authentic Italian taste, with swift service. JL Ikan Hiu, Gili Trawangan.
Pesona - Chill on the beach with a sheesha and sample some great Indian food. The only real Indian food on the island and absolutely delicious. Some dishes can be extremely spicy so be careful!
Jali Kitchen - Reasonably priced, Jali Kitchen offers a variety of Thai, Indonesian, Western & Vietnamese cuisine. Just a short stroll from the beach, past Gili Golf. They are open from 07:00 untill 23:00 daily.
Ko-Ko-Mo (closed until April 2019) – Serving an eclectic mix of Asian and Western cuisine, such as home-made ravioli filled with mud crab and coconut to “Harvey” beef tenderloin from Western Australia, along with a mouth-watering menu of delectable dishes, all prepared from prime quality local and imported produce.
This is probably one of the more expensive places on the island, but certainly worth a visit!
Tir Na Nog - Irish Bar & Restaurant – Biggest Irish bar on the smallest island in the world! This ‘island favourite’ serves good food, great drinks and is the place for watching international sporting events on its giant screen. And if that doesn’t take your fancy there’s darts, table football, Wii games and even an outdoor pool.
The Roast House - Located on the street behind the art market on Gili Trawangan, this place sends mouthwatering smells wafting through the vicinity. Roast whole chickens, a range of tasty burgers to western taste and cool bintang beers all for a fair price.
Thai Garden - Original Thai Restaurant on Gili Trawangan with an authentic Thai chef. This sweet little place is a few meters away from the main strip on Gili T. The staff are friendly and the atmosphere compliments the great food, which though priced slightly above average, is well worth it!
Kayu Cafe - Gorgeous beachfront location and design. Smoothies, salads, sandwiches and sweets to go with the delicious coffee. Airconditioned inside and a rooftop open terrace boasting spectacular views.
Window bar - Sit on the beach and watch the sun set over Mt. Agung while having a cold beer and great food at a reasonable price. It is not as cheap as some places in Bali and you can taste something different each night if you’d like since the menu is quite extensive. Window Bar offers a 10% discount on all their unique fresh cocktails and beverages for Gilibookings customers if they use their discount voucher.
NIGHTLIFE ON GILI TRAWANGAN
Known to many as the ‘Party Island’, Gili Trawangan is where most of the after-dark action can be found, with bars often staying open until 2am and until dawn on party nights.
Monday @ Blue Marlin : The island’s legendary Monday-night rave with DJ’s spinning trance & techno. Look out for their themed party nights
Wednesday @ Tir Na Nog ‘Irish Bar’ : Probably the island’s busiest party night, playing anything from hip-hop to house, along with more mainstream dance-floor fillers
Friday @ Rudy’s : One of the longest running party nights on the island with something for everyone to stomp the night away – watch out for the Magic cocktails!
Sama Sama – For its great live music and impromptu jam sessions, this bar has gained lots of popularity over the years. Some of the best reggae music can be heard here every night, not only from the band but from the lively musical crowd too.
Lava Bar - Located right on the beach and part of the original Gili Hostel (now called Gili Beach Bum Hotel) popular with backpackers and a younger crowd, fun staff and the occasional whacky party. They also have a pool bar!
Horizontal Lounge – Adding a touch of glam to the island, this über-stylish lounge bar plays mellow grooves every evening to its discerning crowd of trendy cocktail drinkers. Occasional DJ club nights for those wanting to dance the night away under the stars.
Full Moon Party – During the peak season Full Moon parties are organised on the beach towards the southern part of the island, not too far away from the main strip. Normally hosted by locals, they play a mixture of hard house, trance and techno until sunrise. If you are looking for a good party on the Gili Islands this is definitely not one that you would want to miss.
Gili Air, Gili Meno and Lombok - Even though the Gili Islands are so close together and from a distance look very similar, in reality they are rather different. If you are staying on Gili Trawangan we highly recommend making a day trip to either Gili Air or Gili Meno. Both islands offer a much quieter island experience as well as some different things to do. You may even wish to venture over to the lush landmass of Lombok, with it's stunning volcanic peaks and jungle, though spending at least one night there would be advisable.
Public island hopper boats depart in the morning and afternoon and tickets can be arranged at the ticket office in Gili Trawangan harbour. These are really cheap at only around five bucks per person. Alternatively, private speed boats are available at a time of your chosing and can be pre-booked 24 hours in advance on Gili-islandtransfers.com, making the journey in just 5 - 10 minutes. You can also book a driver if you are destined for Lombok.
Highly Recommended: Gili Gede - Located on the South West coast of Lombok are a series of islands that are practically uninhabited. The most developed being Gili Gede has recently been made accessible by speed boat directly from Gili Trawangan and makes a fantastic day trip. The boat operates 3 times a week, the trip takes about 40 minutes, and you can spend 4 hours on Gili Gede.
Whether you want to have a boozy lunch at the new Kokomo Gede resort, relax on a deserted beach or get involved in some of the activites at Kokomo, you will experience a real change from Gili Trawangan. Just use the search box here to check the schedule and rates for Gili Trawangan to Gili Gede.