Since we were on Bali, we of course couldn’t miss the Gili islands. They are situated northwest of Lombok, a short ride with boat from Bangsal harbor. In our boat trip through Komodo National Park, we had free transport to one of the islands included.
We weren’t really sure, which Gili to choose. All Gilis are very small; Gili Trawangan (or Gili T, as locals simplify the name) is the biggest and it is 3km long and 2 km wide. We heard that it is a “party” island. Gili Meno is very relaxed and Gili Air is somewhere in between. Since it was offseason, we decided to stay for three days on Gili T so we wouldn’t be all alone, since we’ve already been alone on the boat trip from Flores to Lombok. 🙂
All kinds of motorized transport are forbidden on all three islands. There are only two ways of transportation: horse carriage or bicycle. We despise using animals as mean of transportation, so we didn’t use carriages. We could hire a bicycle (at some accommodations you get it for free), but we decided to walk around the island (ok, actually this is the third mean of transportation).
If you’ll walk around the islands, maybe you’ll wounder, what’s with all the cats. Since the dogs are forbidden from all three islands, the answer is obvious. Cats are literally everywhere, so hope, you like them.
So what can you do on Gili T?
What can’t you do, is a better question. If you get “stuck” on Gili T and don’t know, if you’ll get bored, no worries.
Take a dip in turquoise waters
All three Gilis are known for their white sand beaches and crystal clear turquoise waters, that are so warm, you could stay in the ocean for days. East side of the island has the best beaches. In the afternoon comes the low tide and you can’t really swim on the western side.
Walk or cycle around the island
Gili T main activities are on east side. There is a long beachfront street with majority of accommodations, bars, cafes, restaurants and shops. There are also a lot of accommodations (cheap and expensive), tourist agencies, exchange offices and ATM machines. So you can get almost everything. Many people don’t even go further than from their accommodation to the beach and vice versa. But the island doesn’t end on the east side 🙂 In three days on the island, we circled the island throughout. It was worth it.
Don’t forget to take a look away from the beaches
If you wonder away from the beaches and walk towards the heart of the island, you will quickly see the real beauty of the Gili T. There you can find coconut palm plantations, local villages and you easily forget you’re on an island full of tourists.
Visit turtle sanctuary
Right on the main strip on the east side of the island, there is a turtle sanctuary. Because the numbers of turtles drastically fell, they started to preserve natural turtle habitat. Locals collect turtle eggs and supervise the hatching. They put hatchlings in the pools, feed them, until they’re grown enough to reestablish them in the sea. You can read more about the conservation on http://gilimenoturtles.com/, the organization that helps preserve turtles on Gili Meno.
If you visit the sanctuary (on Gili T or on Gili Meno), you can see turtles stages of growing. We visited the one on Gili T. They have three pools with turtles of different ages. In the sand, they also have turtle eggs, but we didn’t see any.
Snorkel with sea turtles
Since the reestablishing of the turtles already paid up, you can go check out their progress on the north side of the island. If you’re patient, sooner or later one will swim by.
Enjoy the sunset
Although on the west side of the island, there is not much going on (just a few resorts), there is a direct view of sunset. We didn’t have the best weather, but it was still spectacular. You can enjoy a cocktail as well, since in most bars they have a happy hour right at that time.
Take a snorkeling trip around all three islands
This way you can see the best spots of all the islands. You can choose between many different tour operators. We didn’t take this trip, because we just wanted to relax and cruise the island and we did a lot of snorkeling in Komodo National park.
Love to shop? No problem.
There are lots of shops on the main strip. They sell everything from clothing and jewelry to souvenirs.
On the south east of the island there is a surf brake. You can rent boards and hop in.
Try all different kinds of fresh juices
There are many stalls, from which you can choose the fruit, you like the most, and they’ll make you fresh juice out of it. Your choices are not limited. Mango, papaya, coconut, strawberry, orange, watermelon, banana…. Oh, did I mention, you can try avocado juice with chocolate? Mmmmm, delicious!
If you are visiting Gili T, you have a good variety of different restaurants. You can find different local restaurants; there is also Indian, Chinese, Italian restaurant, Irish bar with food and probably many others. A lot of them offer a selection of fish. You can choose your fish and they grill it for you on spot.
Specialty of the island is a night food market. It opens sometime after sunset and it offers different sorts of food: fish, vegetable food and a lot of fish.
About the quality of the fish: we have quite a lot of experience with fish. We also make and eat them at home at least every two weeks. Selection of fish on Gili T was bad, somewhere even scary. It was hard to find fresh fish (even on the night market); some of them should end in trash at least a week before. We ordered it just once and we got it spicy and too well done. It didn’t smell very nice. So be very careful at ordering fish, if you don’t want to get poisoned.
Wake up call
If you are coming from Catholic world this may come as a surprise for you: wakeup call at 4.30AM.
They have two mosques on the island. They are very consistent each morning. Each of them calls people to prayer a few times a day. When we heard such a call at early hour the first morning, it was a bit shocking, because we didn’t know what this is. During the day it was interesting listening prayer calls. We didn’t understand anything, we were just listening the intonation. After three days we got used to it. I was sleeping without a problem, but Maruša was using ear plugs.
We came to Gili T in the morning, without any accommodation booked. We soon discover that although it was offseason, this wasn’t such a good idea. Our wish was to get a beachfront accommodation and we had to put some effort into it. It would be probably easier to find something suitable in the village, but good location was important for us at that time. We were walking around with full backpacks in the hot sun, which wasn’t easy, but at last we managed to find an accommodation at diving & yoga center.
Freedive Gili and Gili Yoga
Center is run by foreigners (we would say Aussies and Americans) and it offers bungalows, yoga and free diving. Bungalows were nice, stylishly equipped and clean, consequently, not cheap. We paid 65 $ per night (breakfast included), which is a lot for Indonesian standards. Breakfast was nothing special and if you ordered juice, you couldn’t order coffee as well (or you had to pay extra for it). Customer service was really bad. First they told us, that we will have to move to another bungalow the third night (because of the previously made reservations by other couple) and then, when we already pack everything to move and asked to which bungalow we should go, they told us that after all we don’t have to move. They could mention to us earlier. Before we packed, at least. one evening when Maruša came alone to bungalow, the stuff was shouting inappropriate comments (like “hottie” and something similar).
We listened to yoga 2 times a day, so we almost know their choreography, without even joining. They also have swimming pool, but we couldn’t use it, because they had free dive courses going on every day and were occupying the pool.
Even though the bungalows were nice, we wouldn’t recommend this accommodation and it’s not good value for money.
– Public boat from Bangsal harbor, Lombok (main getaway to Gilis) to the islands cost from 10.000 IDR to 12.000 IDR, depending on which of the three islands you go. It takes around 15 minutes.
– From Bali (Padangbai and some other places) you can reach the islands by a speed boat (cost somewhere between 250.000 – 600.000 IDR one way, depending on your bargaining abilities). It’s supposed to take an hour and a half, but it took us more than 2 hours to reach Bali.
– You can also try using the public boat, which goes from Bali to Lombok, then travel to Bangsal harbor with a vehicle and than by public boat to Gilis, but the whole trip takes nearly a day.
– The island hopping boat, which operates between the islands, costs 25.000 IDR one way. Islands are really close to one another. From each island boat leaves twice a day.