Visitors to the Gili Islands get to experience a tropical paradise where they can snorkel with turtles, live like Robinson Crusoe, or travel around in horse drawn carriages. This island chain is right beside Lombok Island, and it is made up of Gili Trawangan, Gili Air, and Gili Memo. The main tourist activity is on Trawangan, but if people want to experience a more peaceful existence, they can stay on Gili Air.
Transportation to the Gili Islands
The Gili Islands are located to the northwest of Lombok. The options for traveling to this area would include:
- There are no airports on any of the Gili Islands, but it is possible to fly to Lombok International Airport (BIL), and then take a boat the rest of the way.
- People who are staying on Bali have a number of options for traveling to the islands by boat – tourists who are staying in Kuta can sail from Serangan or Benoa. The shortest crossing is from Pedangbai, and there is also a slow ferry that leaves from here that is the cheapest way to travel to the islands.
- There are a number of boat services that go from Lombok to the Gili Islands, and these can be booked through any of the local travel agents. Most of these tours will leave from the harbor in Bangsal.
Getting Around the Gili Islands
One of the things that make the Gili Islands special is that there is no motorized transport on any of the islands. The options for getting around include:
- The Cidomo is a type of horse-drawn carriage, and this is the nicest way to get around. It is possible to hire a Cidomo for single trips or for a tour.
- It is easy to rent a bicycle on the island, and this is the cheapest way to get around.
- The islands are fairly close together, so it is easy to hop in a boat and cross from one to another. There is an irregular boat service available, but it can be easier to just charter a boat – it is not that expensive.
Gili Islands Attractions
The main attractions on the Gili Islands would include:
- If people want to get their bearings, they can climb the hill on the southern end of Gili Trawangan. From on top of here, visitors can enjoy a spectacular view of the Gili Islands, Lombok, and even Bali – the best time to come here is at sunset.
- The turtle sanctuary on Gili Memo has been created to protect the local population of green turtles and loggerhead turtles. Tourists can get to see these beautiful creatures up close by visiting the sanctuary.
- The Gili Memo Bird Park has over 300 different species of bird for visitors to see in a natural environment. There is an impressive selection of parrots as well as Macaws, pelicans, and eagles.
- The beaches on the east coast of Gili Trawangan are the most beautiful on the islands, but there are also some nice beaches on southern part of Gili Memo.
- The most secluded of all the islands is Gili Air, and this is a good option for people who want to live like Robinson Crusoe. There is some tourist infrastructure here, including restaurants and resorts, but this island still retains the feeling of being off the beaten track.
Gili Islands Activities
- A nice thing to do in the mornings and evenings is to go walking. It is possible to walk around the coast of Gili Air in just over an hour.
- Stay in a floating hotel. The Mentigi Bay Hotel can usually be found in the harbor at Gili Trawangan, but it also sometimes also travels over to Lombok.
- Visit the Pasar Malam night market which is located near the pier on Trawangan. There are usually about 50 stalls here, and there is a good selection of Indonesian food on sale as well as other items.
- Many people travel to the Gili Islands to go scuba diving, and there is abundant marine life and interesting dives in the local area. This is a good place to do the PADI Open Water Course, and those who have never tried scuba diving before can go on a fun dive for about 370,000 IDR (as of early 2013).
- There are also plenty of good snorkeling spots around the islands. If visitors are feeling particularly adventurous, they can also try some free diving
- It can be nice to take a day trip to the nearby island of Lombok – a visit to the active volcano Mount Rinjani is highly recommended.
- There are a number of yoga schools on the islands. The teachers here are quite good, so this can be a nice place to pick up the basics of this relaxation and health promoting activity.
- Gili Cooking School opened in early 2013, and the course offered here provides the opportunity to pick up some Indonesian cooking skills while learning about the local culture and socializing.
- There are a number of operators offering sea kayaking. Most of the hotels and resorts will be able to arrange a tour.
- Bicycling is a popular pastime on the island, and this is about the best way to go exploring.
- There are some modest reef breaks on Gili Air and Gili Trawangan so surfing is a possibility. Surf Camp Lombok offers surfing courses for beginners and more experienced surfers.
Gili Islands Restaurants and Bars
There are plenty of small restaurants spread around the islands and some of the most popular venues would include:
- Black Penny Restaurant on Gili Trawangan is a good option for people who are looking for something a bit fancy. The kitchen is managed by qualified chefs, and there is a nice selection of international as well as local seafood.
- The restaurant at the Beach House Resort offers a nice BBQ menu with an excellent selection of fresh seafood dishes. This is also a good option for breakfast.
- Tir na Nog is an Irish bar and restaurant on Gili Trawangan. Wednesday night is party night here, and there will usually be some nice promotions on food and drink.
- The Waterfront Restaurant on Gili Air offers Indonesian dishes along with western options such as pizza and pasta. Diners get to enjoy their meals right beside the sea, and the service here is top class.
- Scallwags Beach Club is another option on Gili Trawangan, and they offer a good selection of food and drink. This is currently (early 2013) the only place on the islands where customers can buy cider – this might be a nice change for those who are bored with drinking beer. Scallywags also have a branch on Gili Air.
- Mirage Bar and Grill is a nice laid back place on the beach in Gili Air. This venue usually gets busy around sunset when customers get to enjoy a spectacular view along with their refreshments.