The Gili islands is an island group just off the coast of Lombok. The archipelago consists of the main island of Gili Trawangan and the smaller islands of Gili Meno and Gili Air. The islands each have their own ‘specialty’ and their subsequent atmosphere. But one thing is certain: Whichever island you choose, you’ll spend your days snorkeling in an azure sea and discover the amazing underwater world, drink from a coconut looking at the most amazing sunsets, read a book in your hammock and enjoy the relaxed life on the Gili Islands.
Although the most famous Gili Islands are the aforementioned, there are more -less know- Gilis between Bali and Lombok. By the way, ‘gili’ means ‘small island’ in Sasak, the native language on Lombok. More Gilis are: Gili Nanggu, Gili Tangkon, Gili Sudak and Gili Gede.
There are sealed roads on the Gili islands, so there is no motorized traffic. Explore the islands by foot, by bike or by horse and carriage (although I don’t recommend the last one).
From Bali to the Gili Islands
Although the Gili islands are closest to Lombok, the archipelago is also easily accessible from Bali. Boats leave from Bali to The Gilis multiple times a day from a number of harbours. The trip takes about a half an hour from Bali. Places in Bali where the boats leave are Sanur, Padangbai and Amed. A ticket costs between 200- and 400,000 rupiah.
It’s also possible to get to the Gilis from Nusa Lembongan. All boats from Nusa Lembongan to The Gilis make a stop at Bali, so the whole trip takes about two to three hours. Be sure to sit on the deck; beautiful views, sun, music and cold beers are awaiting you. If you suffer from sea sickness a lot, it’s also a good idea as you won’t feel it as much when sitting outside. As if this isn’t enough, there is also a chance to see dolphins! We saw them on two out of three boat trips. The boats stop at Gili Trawangan and Gili Air. If you want to go to the middle island of Meno, you’ll need to take a ride in a smaller boat from one of it’s neighbors.
From Lombok to the Gili Islands
The Gili islands are only ten kilometers from Senggigi on the island Lombok. From the tourist spots in Lombok like Senggigi and Kuta (there’s also a Kuta on Lombok) you can buy tickets to is islands. From the port on Lombok, the ferry takes about ten minutes. A ticket from Senggigi costs around 100,000 rupiah. If you want to go from Kuta, it’s easily 200,000 rupiah. Another possibility is to go to Lombok Harbor yourself. From here every hour a local boat leaves to the islands. It will cost you 15,000 rupiah. Quite the way to save some money.
From the Gili Islands you can also buy a ticket for the public boat that you bring to Bangsal on Lombok. A ticket costs 12,000 rupiah. The boat leaves as soon as it is full. In Bangsal you can then arrange transportation to Senggigi or Kuta. Be sure to bargain!
The biggest island of Gilis is Gili Trawangan. The island is especially a favorite place among backpackers who like to party. Even though parts of the island are still dominated by local culture, bars and restaurants are dominating is island for a good night out. If you like movies, you’re in the right place on Trawangan. Every night a number of beach cinemas pop up to show an array of movies. Be sure to visit the nightmarket on Nusa Trawangan to enjoy various Indonesian foods.
Air is the island closest to Lombok. The island is so small that you can easily cycle around the island in one and a half hours. On Air, the bars and restaurants can mainly be found at the coast around the island. Land inwards you’ll find some warungs (local restaurants) and mini markets. Although it’s possible to have a few drinks, most of the bars close around 10pm. On Gili Air you’ll find yourself in bed at decent hours to get up early in the morning to do some diving or snorkeling;)
Gili Meno is the smallest island of the three and is located in the middle. It is the greenest island and also the quietest. The island is especially visited by couples and is a popular destination for honeymooners. Gili Menu is ‘The Romantic Island’. Gili Meno is also the best destination for snorkeling because it’s in between Trawangan and Air. On all three Gilis it’s possible to see turtles, but you’ll have the biggest odds. What also stands out is that Menu has a fresh water lake!
Travel between the Gili Islands
Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air are all so small that you can basically discover them in one day. But of course it would be a bad idea to say goodbye after one day! A nice option is to take the morning boat to one of the other islands. From Gili Air, for example, you can catch the boat every morning to Gili Meno or Gili Trawangan. At the end of the afternoon you can take the boat back to Gili Air, or you can choose to spend a night on the other island. The fare from Gili Air to Gili Meno costs 35,000 rupiah. The fair to Gili Trawangan is 40,000 rupiah. If you do not get up early or have enough hours, you can arrange a boat that takes you to another island. Of course, this costs a little more.
Snorkelling and diving at the Gili islands
The Gili islands are famous for its amazing underwater world. Unfortunately, the coral is not as beautiful as, for example, around the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia. but when you’re going to snorkel, you’ll have more than 90% chance of catching a turtle. Even without a snorkeling tour. In addition, there are sea hoses, starfish and fish in all colors of the rainbow. Snorkelsets and flippers can be rented in many places for around 30,000 rupiah a day. Diving is also an option on the Gilis. Numerous diving schools can be found on is islands where it’s possible to take classes or just do a single dive.
Do a cooking course on Gili Air
Like on Bali and Lombok, the food on the Gili Islands is amazing. Why not learn to make it at home? Cooking classes are about 275,000 rupiah. Most classes offer three dishes after which you’ll be stuffed;)
Safety and health on the Gili islands
Police on the Gili islands
There’s no police on the Gili Islands. Don’t worry, it’s for a reason, because the vibe on the islands is just very relaxed. Bikes can’t be locked and why would they? If something happens where you would normally talk to the police, you can go to the island’s head. All three islands have an island head whom makes sure things are running smoothly on his gili. Easy job, if you ask me.
Getting high on the Gili Islands
Thourghout Indonesia drugs are illegal and there are pretty strics laws about them. On the Gilis however, they are allowed. Don’t be surprised if weed is offered and a lot of bars have magic mushrooms on the menu. Although it seems like drugs are legal on the Gili Islands, they are not! They are allowed, but not legal by law. Be cautios.
Malaria on the Gili Islands
Although the Gili Islands are a risk zone when it comes to malaria, it’s not necessary to take malaria tablets when you visit. There are a lot of mosquito’s, however. Use deet and wear long clothes because you will go nuts if you’re on the wrong spot.
Medici on the Gili Islands
Although the islands are very small,you will find several clinics open 24 hours a day. Also, the clinics have a small pharmacy where you can go for medicine.
Accommodation on The Gili Islands
The Gilis have accommodations in a lot of sorts and sizes, from resorts to dorms. A lot of places (even the cheap ones) come with free breakfast, so we’d definitely recommend choosing an accommodation with breakfast when visiting the Gilis.