The three mantras. The three islands. The Gili’s have secured a reputation as one, two, three of the top places to visit in Indonesia.
Tell me about the Gili Islands!
The Gili Islands sit off the northwest coast of Lombok spanning away from the mainland and out into the crystal clear waters of the Lombok Strait. Characterised by their white sand beaches, beach bars, dive shops and complete lack of any motorised vehicles. In the best of ways, you feel disconnected from the world on here. Your own piece of paradise. Like you’ve stepped right into the pages of “The Beach”.
There are three Gili Islands:
- Gili Trawangan – the Island of Fun
- Gili Meno – the Honeymoon Island
- Gili Meno – The Island of “chill” (you heard it here first)
While geographically similar, each island has its own flavour and draws a different sort of crowd. Fortunately they’re only a short boat ride away from each other. If you have too much of one, hop across to another. Let’s have a sample of each…
“Gili T” as it’s commonly called is the largest and busiest of the three islands. The “Trawangan” part of the name means ‘tunnel’ and refers to a fortified bunker built by the Japanese on the island during WWII (take photos here!). Dive shops adorn the populated eastern shore, as do bars. If you want to, you can party every night and cure the hangover with a swim after a delicious beach bar breakfast. The Gili T vibrancy marries well with the chilled out nature of all three islands. People stroll the streets while bikes weave back and forward. Kids play in the water while the local mosque’s call to prayer decorates the sounds of fun everywhere. There are hundreds of ways to enjoy yourself. Impress your friends when you return home and take one of the many popular cooking classes. Ditch the heavy tanks and learn to free-dive. New friends come easy in such a happy place. Burn the candle at both ends. Stay up late and embrace the day early. Nowhere better to do it than Gilly T! The island of fun!
The Honeymoon Island is the smallest and most secluded of the three Gilis. At contrast to Gili T and only a few hundred metres away. It boasts the best beaches and breathtaking scuba diving down the renowned Gili Meno Wall – turtles galore! If you enjoy the quiet life or want to spend some days winding down with your better half then look no further than Gili Meno. Circumnavigating the island takes between 1-2 hours, that’s if you’re idly ambling along, soaking in the castaway vistas. After a day of snorkeling off the shore, sunbathing on the beach and cooling in the shade of the coconut trees find one of the many great places to eat. Gili Meno is the sort of place you think about for years to come, a smile on your face, wishing you could be back on the island. The Honeymoon Island.
Gili Air is the closest island to the mainland. An oasis in the ocean. The Island of Chill has an established local population and is more geared towards the traveler or holiday maker that enjoys being part of a community, for however short a time. The friendly vibe on the island is tangible. You’ll pick up on it quickly and find yourself passing it on to new arrivals. There is a noticeable amount of vegetation and agriculture on the island. Unlike Meno and Trawangan, the locals aren’t solely reliant on tourism, though it is the drive behind the economy. Snorkeling off the beaches is phenomenal and the water sports available on the other two islands are also on offer here. Have fun getting wet learning to kitesurf or if you feel like a break from the ocean take a cooking class or head to the spa. There is a great bar and restaurant scene that has a quiet air of “cool” that you will enjoy. The second home you never knew you had. Gili Air – the island of chill!
Top picks for the Gili Islands
- Gili Trawangan turtle hatchery – half way down the main strip. Great conservation centre.
- Free Dive Gili + Gili Yoga – Make the ocean your playground with free diving. Connect with yourself and the world through yoga.
- Take the easy walk up Gili T hill. Enjoy the peace and quiet with a fantastic view.
- Eat at Coba Coba. Great Mexican food in the heart of Gili Trawangan.
- Enjoy some drinks and the atmosphere of Tir Na Nog Irish Bar
- Gili Meno Bird Park is a very enjoyable afternoon activity that adheres to conservation guidelines.
- The Gili Meno Salt Lake is a nice stop on your circumnavigation of the island – photos!
- Sasak Café – watch the sun go down and indulge in the delicious food.
- The Blue Ocean Boat trip is a great day our snorkeling and soaking up the sun.
- Go deep with Gili Meno Divers!
- Enjoy amazing and well-priced local food at the Gili Air Night Market. Just a little inland.
- Get some adrenaline with the the Gili Kitesurf Kite Camp.
- Devour a burger at Shark Bites!
- H20 Yoga and Meditation will help you find your inner peace.
- 3W Dive will open your eyes to a whole other world under the sea.
How do I get to paradise?!
The Gili Islands are simply too small to be accessible by aircraft. The only way to get to the islands is by sea and the answer here is Fast Boats! While in the past getting to the Gilis was a tedious and tricky task, now it’s easy. Numerous (upwards of twelve) fairly priced fast boats can speed you to and from the islands in about an hour. Many of the companies also offer shuttle services to/from your area or hotel in Bali or to/from the airport in Lombok. Ask the managers of your accommodation for a fast boat ticket. They’re usually very helpful and know where to find fair prices.
The culture and the close
The Gili Islands have evolved over the last 35+ years to become like nowhere else in Indonesia. Like nowhere else in the world. Although part of Lombok, they are dance to their own rhythm. With the majority of locals practicing Islam, the spirituality of the islands creates a unique atmosphere. Different to that of the majority Hindu Bali. In place of the constant hum of motors common in Bali, you instead here the gentle ring of a bicycle’s bell or the jingling of an impending cimodo (horse drawn cart). The remarkable rise of eco-tourism and conservation suggests that the development will continue in the right direction. The islands are blessed with beautiful sunsets, sunrises and have an incredible connection to the ocean. To close, are the Gili Islands worth a visit? All the fun, love and relaxation you could want. I think you know the answer.