One of the top 5 things to do in Bali is to visit the Gili Islands! The Gili Islands are an archipelago of three small islands – Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air – just off the northwest coast of Lombok, Indonesia. There are three islands to choose from including: Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno and all are worth a visit.
I’ve visited Gili T and Gili, and found them both super different, Gili T was the party island, whereas Gili M was like a paradise island. Getting to the islands is easy, with boats leaving from Padang Bai on the mainland and it takes about two hours to reach the islands. When you’re there why not head in to the water for some snorkelling, wander around the island talking to locals and try and find some wild sea turtles. While the three islands all have things in common they are each very different. Here is all you need to know about a weekend on the tropical island paradises of the Gili Islands….
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Gili Trawangan is the largest of Lombok’s Gili Islands and the only one to rise significantly (30 m) above sea level. Measuring 3 km long and 2 km wide, it has a population of around 1500 people. The name Trawangan originates from the Indonesian word Terowongan (Tunnel) due to the presence of a cave tunnel built there during Japanese occupation in World War 2. Of the Gilis, Trawangan is the most developed and geared towards tourism. The main concentration of settlement, recreation, accommodation and diving business is situated on the eastern side of the island. On Gili Trawangan (as well as the other two Gilis), there are no motorised vehicles and instead the main means of transportation are bicycles (rented by locals to tourists) and cidomo (a small horse-drawn carriage). Gili T is also famous for partying – out of the three islands, this is where you will find the pubs, clubs and party goers!
This is the smallest and quietest of the islands. Situated in between Gili T and Gili Air, it is the epitome of chilled out. Gili Meno is the middle of Lombok’s three northwest coast Gilis and only has a population of about 500, mainly concentrated on the centre of the island. The main income comes from tourism, coconut plantation and fishing. On the west side of the island there is a small shallow lake that produces salt in the dry season. Gili Meno has swimming beaches all around the island, and a turtle sanctuary where you can find out all about turtles, their habitat and that the island is doing to save the turtles! The island attracts fewer tourists than Gili Trawangan and is the quietest and smallest of the islands. However, honeymooners are often drawn to the crystal clear water and idyllic, secluded white beaches.
This is my favourite because it was the perfect mix of the islands, not too crazy and still chilled enough that you feel relaxed. I spent a whole week here in 2015 and fell in love with this island. Gili Air is the second smallest of the islands and the closest to mainland Lombok, making it popular with honeymoon couples and travellers seeking a quiet retreat. The island offers excellent snorkelling and scuba diving off its east coast, and turtles can be seen along the coral reef. Other water sports such as Stand Up Paddleboarding and Kitesurfing are also now available so it makes for the perfect balance between adventure and relaxation.
Things to do in The Gili Islands
- Enjoy the nightlife in Gili T
- Relax on the beach with cocktail in Gili Meno
- Take a snorkel day trip – you are guaranteed to see turtles!
- Cycle round the islands – Gili T is the biggest and it only takes an hour to cycle round the full island
- Go on a boat party from Gili T and dance to music all day long
- Get your PADI certificate and go scuba diving in this amazing place.
- Take an Indonesian cooking class and then eat your dishes!
- Try SUP – stand up paddleboarding
- Visit the Gili Trawangan Turtle Hatchery
Things to know before visiting The Gili Islands
- Motorized travel of all type is outlawed within the Gili Islands. Be prepared to explore by bicycle, foot or a horse drawn carriage called a cidomo.
- There are cash machines on the islands so don’t worry about having to take loads of cash over from mainland
- The sale of drugs should not deter families or seniors from visiting this lovely and interesting area of Indonesia.
- Make sure you have enough sunscreen before you go to the islands because it is super expensive on the islands
- Unlike Bali, the Gili’s are part of Lombok and are predominantly Muslim, so you will hear the call to prayer 4 times a day
- Do not be alarmed if you hear whispers of ‘magic mushrooms’ on the streets in the night from locals. It is common and almost every street vendor and shop sells weed and mushrooms
- Be careful of cheap spirits and cocktails and bars! Buy branded alcohol and from reputable bars and restaurants
WHERE TO STAY IN THE GILI ISLANDS HOTELS
Where to stay: I have stayed at many hotels in The Gili Islands, here are some of my favourites.
Gili T Accommodation
Gili T: The Trawangan Resort – Rates starting from $100USD per night.
Gili T: Gili Breeze Tropical Bungalows – Rates starting from $30USD per night.
Gili Meno Accommodation
Gili Meno: Fantastic Cottages – Rates starting from $15USD per night.
Gili Meno: Villa Mojo – Rates starting from $250USD per night.
Gili Air Accommodation
Gili Air: Grand Sunset Gili Air – Rates starting from $45USD per night.
Gili Air: Manta Dive Gili Air Resort – Rates starting from $45USD per night.
Gili Air: Scallywags Mango Motel – Rates starting from $20USD per night.
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Thank you for reading and as always happy adventuring!
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