When in Indonesia, the Gili Islands is one of the main attractions, and there are plenty of reasons why.
Location and transport
The three Gili Islands, Gili Trawangan, Gili Air, and Gili Meno are located in the neighborhood of Lombok, and are accesssible by fastboat from there, or from Bali, too. Make sure that you book your ticket in advance, and keep monitoring the schedule – the boats get cancelled, if there are not enough reservations, and this way the remaining ones are usually fully booked. There are usually two shuttle boats per day. I would not take for granted that they depart in time (or, worst case scenario, depart at all), so do not plan to catch your flight or make important appointments the same day.
The biggest of the Gilis is Gili Trawangan, and we can simply call it a party island. Gili Meno is very close to being a deserted island, only with a bunch of bungalows on it , and Gili Air has a spectacular view to the mountains of Lombok.
As you are approaching the shore of Gili T, the white sandy beaches and the christal clear, light blue water appears – the view, that we usually get to see on postcards only, is now real. The fastboat gently arrives to the sandy coast, and you jump in the knee-high water and walk to the shore – as simple as that. If your luggage is bigger than a backpack (than you are carrying more things that you actually need 😉 ), the crew will help you by throwing it from the boat to a collegue standing on dry land.
The harbour is lively, we can call it the center of the island. As you walk by the coast, this area is full of restaurants, bars and clubs. The main means of transport is not the scooter, like in Bali or Lombok, but the bicycle, and, to my surprise, horse-drawn carriages. Scooters are no use here – Gili T is so small, that you can cycle around its shore in one hour.
Accomodation on Gili T
If you decide to do online booking, try booking your accomodation directly via the website of the hotel, or try to call your host before you arrive, to make sure your booking has been accepted. In low season though, I simply recommend not to book anything in advance. There are plenty of homestays, and you can make a more flexible choice on the spot. In homestays, the price is also negotiable – you should not pay more than 250k IDR (approximately 18 USD) for a simple room with AC for two. If you have not booked your accomodation in advance, it is worth exploring the neighborhood (recommended to do it by bike) and make your choice after you have seen the whole picture.
There are no distances on this island whatsoever – but depending on your plans, the most suitable area can vary a bit. If you are with friends and you came to party, I recommend looking for a homestay not too far from the shore, just a few minutes walk from the harbour, where you can find very nice homestays. If you go further towards the middle of the island, you will find yourself walking home after the party on the muddy, probably flooded street without any lightning. If you would like to have a glimpse of the locals’ life, it is worths taking a walk in that area during the day though.
For couples and families i recommend to choose their accomodation a bit further from the harbour, as it is calmer, more untouched, hence has a very special charm. That area is full of bars with beanbags and reagge music, where you can enjoy the beach while drinking a pineapple smoothie or the local beer, Bintang. 🙂
Things to do on Gili Trawangan
• Cycle around the island!
Jump on a bike, they can be rented at every corner. If you think the harbour area is nice, you will be astonished by the rest of Gili T! Stop by at one of the bars, jump in a beanbag and have a cocktail, go snorkeling, or have a meal in one of the bungalows just above the water!
• One – day snorkel trip
Snorkel trips can be booked in most of the homestays, or in the harbour where they start from. The trip is about 5-6 hours long, and they usually take you to 3 spots around the Gili Islands. It is around 80k IDR per person (about 6 USD!), snorkeling equipment and mineral water is included. It might happen that you get unlucky with the weather, and it starts raining – don’t worry, the tour will be completed anyways! It is quite a strange feeling to merge in the warm ocean, while the cold rain is pouring down on your shoulder as you float on the surface. 🙂
+1 tip: if you are with a group of 20 people or more, it is worth hiring a private boat together – it should not cost more than 120-140k IDR (10 – 12 USD), depending on the number of people who chip in. This way you can ask to be taken on a bit different route than all the other snorkeling boats. In our case, there were usually 3-5 boats lingering at the same spot at the same time, which makes the whole experience rather touristy, and you keep floating into someone’s GoPro video. 🙂 The popularity of these trips is totally understandable though, you should not miss it!
• Scuba diving!
The Gilis are full of diving schools that offer various packages for complete beginners as well as for experienced divers. You can enroll to a 3-day course and get certified, as well as going for a one-day discovery dive, where you can do a shallow dive after a short introductory pool session.
You might prefer eating a lobster or king prawns in one of the fancy restaurants by the coast – it will not be the cheapest, but it is still a very nice price-quality ratio, so i highly recommend to try fine dining at least once. It is also worths checking the food market at the harbour, where they grill you whatever you choose right on the spot.
What to bring
• your snorkeling googles – so you can snorkel on your own everywhere! don’t worry if you don’t have them with you, you can also rent them in most of the beachbars (approximately 50k IDR / day).
• water shoes – the Gilis are mainly surrounded by coral reefs, which makes it quite painful to walk in the shallow water bare-footed.
• flip-flops – you are required to take off your muddy shoes before you enter a shop, so the most practical footwear is definitely flip-flops
+1 tip: if your fastboat has an open-air area on top, it is worth climbing up there and enjoy the view of the pacific islands rushing by.