The Gili Islands are a little archipelago of three tiny islands (Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno) near the coast of Lombok. They are a lovely and easy getaway from Bali if you want to experience island life: white sand, coral reef, awesome ocean fauna, palm trees, no cars or motorbikes at all… I had decided that after my first days in Kuta and Seminyak and after exploring nature in Ubud I wanted to have a few relaxing days on Gili Trawangan, slowing down the pace and enjoying the little things, before returning to my hustle and bustle London life!
How to get to Gili Trawangan
From Bali there’s a fastboat or a slowboat service operated by various companies departing from the pier of Padang Bay. Fastboat is what I recommend, it takes far less time, but be sure that you pack some seasickness pills if you suffer motion sickness because the sea can be a bit choppy. I’ve booked a return ticket with the company Eka Jaya, which is one of the most famous and reliable ones: the price is reasonable and they have a pick-up and drop-off service from most of the main areas of Bali (Kuta, Seminyak, Ubud, Uluwatu…) for no additional cost, which is great because you don’t have to go all the way to Padang Bay on your own! The pick-up/drop-off locations can even be different, you can arrange it with the company (there’s a live chat option on their website to discuss all your needs). It takes roughly one hour and a half to reach Gili Trawangan from Padang Bay. One important tip I want to give you: keep a rain poncho or a big umbrella handy! This is because the pier in Padang Bay has a long piece platform that is not covered and during the operations of unloading of luggage you will have to wait a few minutes before getting your suitcase… and if it rains (which often happens in Bali, sometimes without any notice!) you will get wet. Or completely drenched, like it happened to me. So yes, rain poncho is your best friend.
Gili Trawangan is the biggest and most developed of the Gili Islands, but still so small that you will be able to do one lap of the whole island by bike in less than an hour! Bikes are the most used vehicle on Gili T (I will call it Gili T from now on, it sounds so cool), you will not find cars, taxis or motorbikes… this means that on your arrival you will have to carry your luggage to your hotel, so make sure the wheels are in good conditions! Alternatively you can use the horse-drawn carriages you find along the pier area, but I usually discourage the use of these kind of transportation, because those animals are surely not living their best life.
Gili T can be divided in two halves: the “sunset half” with chillout bars, peaceful beach spots, goats roaming free (!), and the “busy half” with a more buzzing nightlife, street food and cheap drinks. If you look at the map of Gili T you will see that towards the top there’s one main street that cuts the island horizontally, allowing you to go from one half to the other, and more or less in the middle of that road was the fabulous place I stayed at!
Gili Khayangan Villas
Gili Khayangan Villas was another wonderful find of this whole holiday! A hotel with 8 rooms and private villas, immersed in nature but with a modern, slick and clean decor, operated by a super smiley and efficient staff. The rooms are spacious, bright and decorated with pop culture elements (I had Jimi Hendrix playing guitar on my wall!), with swimming pool and sunbeds facilities and a jolly good breakfast you can order and change every morning (Indonesian, continental, American…). Try the banana pancakes! At the hotel you can rent a bike for the whole day for 25000 rupees (1,30 £!) and start exploring the island on your own, embracing its slow and chilled vibe!
What to do on Gili Trawangan
Have you ever swum with sea turtles? Here you can! The most important thing you have to pack for this island is a mask with a snorkel, it’s an essential, like packing your shampoo or your toothbrush. You can always hire a snorkel set in various points along the beach, but you don’t really know whose mouth have used it before, do you? So yes, grab your snorkel set and head to the beach on the East side of the island (further up from the pier area): you will find many kiosks of beverages playing music, look for the signs reading “Turtle Point” and choose where to put your beach towel down and take a dive. I personally liked to stay at a place with blue and pink bean bags and a swing on the beach (look out for them and you will find it), where I managed to see turtles every day along with beautiful colourful fish. I even took a little video, you find it below! Another important advice! The beach on Gili T has white sand but it’s almost entirely covered by corals, therefore another essential to put in your suitcase is a pair of rubber swim shoes (you can find them for cheap at Decathlon, Sports Direct or on Amazon).
Chilling on the beach is definitely one of the best activities here on Gili T: plenty of spots with colourful bean bags, swings, sunbeds and beach bars where you can literally spend the whole day. You have to try a Lemon Bintang! It’s a lemon flavoured version of the Bintang beer and it’s so refreshing and addictive! Speaking of addictions, you will find that on Gili T you are offered magic mushrooms and sweet grass, in various forms (even blended into shakes and cocktails) nearly everywhere you go. I don’t personally get high, but I understand it can be a hilarious and fun thing for many… I know I’m going to sound like an old papa but if you decide to give it a try just be responsible and don’t exceed (I care about you Wanderers! 😀 ).
Gili T has a few simple but efficient spas where to have a nice full body Balinese massage, and when you are on holiday you definitely have to treat yourself and relax! On Jl. Kelapa street (the one that I told you before, cutting the island horizontally) you can find a little spa (it’s called Desha Spa if I remember well) that offers couple massages, as well as a special happy hour discount if you go in the morning! Massages cost less that 10£, so you can potentially have one every day. Not bad, hey?
A day trip to the other Gili Islands is another great thing to do! Take one day to explore Gili Air and Gili Meno, they are so close and boat trips for island hopping are so cheap that it would be a crime not to try. Gili Meno is the most romantic, with a desert island feel in some spots, whereas Gili Air is another stunning place for snorkeling and diving.
The sunset is the real star of Gili T. If the sky is clear of clouds, head to the West side of the island to have a drink and enjoy the end of the day taking your best photos for your Instagram! The water swings and hammocks on the beach front of Hotel Ombak and Exile Restaurant are the most popular ones, but more and more bars have been setting up their own photo spots lately, to the point that you are spoilt for choice.
After your sunset drinks you can ride or walk back to the buzzier side of the island and have a nice meal: many waroengs and barbecue restaurants to choose from, serving Indonesian cuisine and seafood feasts, and if you walk towards the pier area you will find a street food night market too! Be adventurous and try the delicious satays and seafood. Always make sure that your food is piping hot in order to avoid what is called the “Bali belly” (as a general rule when you travel, especially if you love street food, always pack a box of antiacid tablets to settle your stomach in case something doesn’t agree with you). Once you had your dinner you can dive into the night life… or simply lay on the beach and watch the stars! Stargazing is a marvellous experience on the Gili Islands because of the many spots with very little artificial light. And I’m a romantic soul, so yes, I recommend it.
I hope this post made you curious to experience this lovely getaway from Bali or from Lombok, and if you read about my whole Bali experience and you want to share your experience and/or add more tips and suggestions please use the comment box below, I’m always happy to exchange stories and ideas!
See you all again soon!