Attraction Gili Trawangan, Gili Air, Gili Meno Lombok, Nusa Tenggara Barat, Indonesia Published on: 13-11-2015
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Why Gili Islands is special ?
Only a few kilometres off the northwest coast of Lombok lay the idyllic Gili islands – Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. This archipelago of three small coral isles are rapidly becoming one of the most popular destinations for visitors to Bali and Lombok.
Although each island has its own particular charm they all boast powdery white sand beaches, crystal clear waters and some of the best diving and snorkelling opportunities in the region; so no matter which island you choose, whether it be to party or just to relax (or a bit of both!), you’ll always be rewarded with the key elements that make the Gili Islands an unforgettable tropical paradise. And with no cars, or any form of motorised vehicles to disturb the peace – getting around is either by ‘cidomo’ (horse cart), bicycle, or on foot – the laid-back rustic appeal of the Gilis has people coming for a days and staying for weeks!
There’s also a strong environmental outlook on the Gili Islands, with efforts focused on reef protection and regeneration. The Gili Eco Trust was set-up to protect and monitor the environment, both under the water and on land. Through visitor donations they have managed to erect over a dozen artificial Bio-Rock reefs and ensured that local fisherman now use more sustainable fishing practices.
There’s a range of Gili Islands accommodation options to suit all budgets, with a steady number of new Gili Islands hotel and more luxurious villas being slowly added to the list. Over the years, the quality and choice of dining on the Gili Islands has come a long way, with restaurants serving everything from authentic Indonesian food to Sushi, Pizza and a good variety of western cuisine, accompanied by imported wines.
Not only known to backpackers as a party destination, the Gilis are steadily becoming a great holiday choice for families too – a number of Gili Islands hotel and villas now cater for children, offering good value and additional services such as baby sitting.
What to explore at Gili Islands?
12 things to do on the Gili Islands
The Gili Islands are perfect for doing nothing but relaxing on the white beaches and splashing in the blue water, but should the urge to do something more active come over you, here is our 12 suggestions. From volcano climbing for the ones who wants to go to extremes to a quite massage for the less ambitious.
1. Snorkel with sea turtles
The Gili islands do a great job in preserving sea turtles – if you visit Gili Trawangan you can’t miss the hatchery right on the main beach. If you are in one of the right spots - ask someone local where that is – you can spot sea turtles when snorkeling right of the beach. Swimming in crystal clear water with a sea turtle is the perfect way to spend an afternoon. Remember to respect the turtles and don’t touch them.
2. Go sea kayaking
Explore the Gili islands from a sea kayak. If you are lucky you might end up paddling with manta rays or sea turtles next to you. Karma Kayak, located on the north beach of Gili Trawangan arranges daytrips including a lunch break on the beach.
3. Bike around the island
You can bike around any of the three Gili islands in less than an hour, but if you bring swimwear and snorkeling equipment and take time splash in the water a tour along the coast road can turn into a day trip. Remember to bring water.
4. Climb Lomboks Mount Rinjani
The view from the rim into the crater of Mount Rinjani is as spectacular as it gets and is more than worth the uphill trek to reach it. Rinjani is located on Lombok, so you have to cross the water and drive for about an hour to reach the foot of the volcano.
Several operators on the Gilis arrange tours to Rinjani and can also help you with equipment. Prices and trip lengths vary from 1 day/1 night to week long trekking trips. You generally get what you pay for, so it might be worth paying a little extra to get a decent guide and an upgrade on the food.
5. Treat yourself with a massage or spa treatment
If you have been climbing Mount Rinjani your body definitely deserves a massage, but it might feel just as well after a day on the beach.
Several resort and villas offer massages on the grounds, but you can also find salons dedicated to all kind of traditional massages, pedicures, and treatments.
6. Have a plate of fresh caught seafood
Lobster, shrimp, tuna, mahi mahi, snapper or squid, pick your favorite among the many seafood’s available on the Gili islands. For traditional dinning, walk by the many restaurant with fish on display and pick the one where the fish look the freshest. For a more local experience, visit the square on Gili Trawangan where local fishermen barbecue the catch of the day and serve them up.
7. Walk to the view point on Gili Trawangan
Get a good look of the Gili islands, Bali and Lombok from the highest point on Gili Trawangan. The hill is located on the southern end of the island and can be reached within half an hour from most places on the southern half of Gili Trawangan. The view point used to be great for watching sunsets, but as the trees have grown it is better to watch the sunset from the beach.
8. Scuba dive the Gili Islands many dive sites.
One of the major attractions on the Gili islands is Scuba diving and with more than 20 different dive sites around the islands there is something for everyone. Swim with sharks and turtles, go for a drift dive or explore the Gilis macro life – it is up to you. Just talk to one of the operators on the islands and they’ll find a dive site that will suite your mood.
9. Take a day trip to Lombok
Take a daytrip to Lombok where you can trek to waterfalls or explore the local villages. Lombok is much less touristy than Bali and has it very own culture worth experiencing. No matter where you are staying the staff should be able to help you organize a tour.
10. Watch the sun set
Head to the west side of the island you are staying on, find a spot in the sand or a chair in a beach bar and watch the sun paint the sky orange as the sun sets behinds Bali’s Mount Agung. On Gili Trawangan there are two popular sunset bars about half and hours walk or 10 minutes in bike from the pier (head south along the coast road), where people gather for a drink before the sunsets.
11. Party under the stars
Nightlife on the Gili Islands used to be restricted to Gili Trawangan only Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but these days the island seems to come alive every night. Thursday is usually quite due to Muslim customs. Head to the liveliest stretch on the coast road and let the music guide you to the party.
If you head to the Gilis for partying, make sure that you don’t arrive at a Muslim holiday like the Ramadan, as thing tends to be quite on these dates.
12. Learn to freedive
Explore the waters around the Gili islands without an oxygen tank on your back. Gili Trawangan has its own freediving school, where you learn breathing techniques and how to be efficient with oxygen, so you can explore the depths with just a single breath.
How to get to Gili Islands?
Getting to the Gili Islands is easy, with a range of Fast Boat services direct from Bali. If you’re already in Lombok, private transfers from Senggigi can be arranged locally (mini-bus/speedboat) otherwise you can opt for the slower (cheaper) and less reliable public boats that leave from Bangsal harbour. To book a transfer to the Gilis by car and speed boat contact Zulva by email [email protected] or mobile: +62 (0)81936715991. You can get a quote for car and /or speed boat to and from all destinations in Lombok and the Gili Islands.
- Blue seas and beautiful corals
- 3 interesting small islands
- A gem island away from busy Bali
- Stunning tropical fish, turtles, and corals
- Getaway to paradise
Gili Trawangan, Gili Air, Gili Meno Lombok, Nusa Tenggara Barat, Indonesia
Tips for you
Three islands that provides different experiences: Trawangan (Gile T), the largest, most busy and commercialised, Meno, the most underdeveloped, also called honeymoon island and Air, the smallest and somewhere in between the 2 for development and crowds. All 3 have good restaurants but like many other visitors, I prefer Air. There are no big resorts on Air and accom is about 2 stars at best but Air has the best beaches and reefs that are just 50 m from your deck chairs. One can choose to stay on either Gile T or Meno and take the sea taxis to Air or even stay at Senggigi and take fast or slow boats from the 3 jettys along the Lombok coast. Yes, the islands are getting more polluted by the droves of inconsiderate visitors but it's still a good place to dive/ snorkel with hornbill turtles, feed reef fishes or just sun tanning. I would rate the Giles beach experience better than Bali, and even Phuket due to the cooler summer temperatures here. Other than waterfalls, surf beaches and good restaurants, the Giles should be a key attraction to visit when in Lombok.