The Gili islands was a place I hadn’t heard of before. I stumbled upon it after a little research on destinations to visit from Singapore. As soon as I saw pictures I was desperate to go. I mean if you saw photos of this (see below) you would want to hop on a plane and get right to it. Right?
Where are the Gili Islands?
So where exactly are the Gili Islands located? Gili means small islands in sasak, the native language of Lombok. And so the main three Gili islands belong to Lombok, one of the main islands that form Indonesia. Located in the Lombok strait between Bali and Lombok, the three Gili islands can be reached by boat from either island. They are only visible from mainland Lombok from Sengiggi, resembling 3 flat pancakes in the sea.
The Gili islands are a relatively new discovery for tourist, experiencing their first backpacker visitor only 30 years ago.
Things to do on the Gili Islands
Although very small in area there is now quite a lot to do on the 3 small islands. The most active island is Gili Trawangan or as the locals like to call it ‘Gili Tra-la-la’, in reference to its reputation as the party island.
Firstly there are no cars or scooters allowed on the island. Therefore to get around the island people either rent a bike or pay for a cidomo – a pony/horse drawn wagon. And so bike riding is a popular activity.
Snorkelling and Diving.
The main attraction for the gilis is the reef. Gili Trawangan has become a popular place to obtain a PADI certificate with over 40 diving schools on the island. Diving and snorkelling are both popular activities when visiting the Gili Islands. The reef is known for its rich marine life and is definitely worth seeing.
Get in touch with more nature
With a bird park and a turtle sanctuary on Gili Meno, there is great opportunity to get up close and personal with nature. From Gili T or Gili Air you can take a private boat to Gili Meno.
Horse riding on the beach
On the sunset side of the beach, it is possible to live out romantic notions of horse riding on the beach.
Every evening there is a local food market at 6pm in the main square. Located across from the main jetty, it is a great way to sample some local food.
How to get there?
.Ok so here’s the catch to enjoying the beautiful aqua blue waters. Getting to the Gilis is tricky. This isn’t because of logistics but well… I guess because of tourist hassle. I had researched how to get to the Gilis before our trip however many articles couldn’t give a straightforward price on how much the boat from Bali was.
The lack of information on boat ticket prices made it difficult to budget this side of the trip but also hard to identify if/when we were being ripped off.
The other issue with getting to the Gilis by boat was the safety issue. Many boat operators functioned on a “pay and pack ’em in”. Determined to avoid this situation, I had a plan all worked out.
Unfortunately my plan didn’t materialise. The price of our tickets were decent compared to others (we paid 500,000 RP per person one way). However the safety was a huge concern. Our first boat was small for the number of people boarding. Worst of all the boat crew chucked luggage into a small cabin room where our life vests lay underneath. The trip took longer than we were told and most people felt ill by the end of it.
As we had already booked our boat back with this company, we were expecting the same back. Luckily the boat was bigger on the return trip and the life vests were above us and more accessible.
Which boat company?
Personally I would avoid Sumaya boat operators from our experience. We had a more civilised trip using Mahi Mahi from Lombok. Another recommendation from our accommodation on Gili T was Gili gateway. Boat operators running out of Padang Bai in Bali are the worst offenders for safety, so do your research.
Travel tip: Don’t take the boat back from Gili Islands and try and connect with a flight out of Bali on the same day. The boats don’t always run to schedule and you could miss your flight. At the very least you will feel absolutely exhausted from the boat ride so best to give yourself a day of chill.
Also, getting off the boat at the Gilis requires climbing down a ladder and jumping onto shore.
Where to stay?
There are plenty of options for accommodations from hostels to 5 star hotels. We stayed on the Sunset side of Gili T which is much quieter than the centre. The beach itself isn’t great for swimming with all the dead coral on the shores. You would need water shoes to navigate through the water.
We stayed at Le Pirate. A cute little eco hut resort and loved it. Except for the outdoor showers which caused mozzie bites to appear in undesirable locations!
If the three main Gili islands aren’t enough for you, head to mainland Lombok to Setokong. From there you can catch a chartered boat to the secret Gilis and enjoy more secluded beaches and underwater activities.
Have you been to Gilis? Would you like to go?
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