Indonesia’s three famous Gili islands

September 12, 2018

A trip to the Gili Islands has become almost mandatory when on vacation in Indonesia but not everyone can visit all three at once. Below is a description of all three islands to help you choose the best one for your next trip.

GILI TRAWANGAN

You can get return tickets from the south of Bali to Gili Trawangan for 400 000 to 700 000 IDR per person in low season and 1 200 000 IDR in high season. These tickets usually include both the boat transfer to Gili Trawangan or Gili Air and a van transfer to/from the bigger towns in Bali such as Kuta and Ubud.

Once you’ve made it to Gili Trawangan, you are dropped on the east coast where you’ll immediately be surrounded by chaos. Large groups of tourists are waiting to jump onto the next boat while others who have just arrived are dragging their wheelie luggage bags across the sand. Beyond the beach is the main strip where pedestrians, cyclists and horse carts are all vying for a piece of the small road. If you aren’t here for the bars or shops, this bustling part of the island is best avoided.

The northeast of the island gets noticeably quieter and is where I suggest you find your accommodation. It is also where you can find a snorkelling spot which has turtles. If you don’t have any snorkelling gear, there are plenty of locals hiring gear out for the day.  Bicycles can also be hired from most guesthouses and are suggested for getting around the island; just expect to climb off of your bike every now and again where the sand is too thick.

The best part of the island is its beautiful blue water and the sunsets in the north with a view of Bali in the distance. However, the beaches aren’t too spacious and unfortunately as pretty as the turquoise water looks; it’s not great for swimming as there are too many pieces of coral bashing around in the water.

On the plus side, the island has plenty of restaurants with most tables set up on the beach as well as convenience stores, clothing shops and ATM’s.  Travellers who are on a tight budget have plenty of food carts to choose from with local food such as vegetable fritters, grilled corn on the cob and delicious, spicy noodles.

Those who would like to hop on a boat to the next island, Gili Meno, have the choice of a public slow boat which leaves twice a day and costs 35 000 IDR per person but only leaves when full, the public fast boat for 85 000 IDR per person which is suggested or a private boat for approximately 100 000 IDR.

Travellers who are looking for evenings at bars and plenty of people should definitely choose this island but for any other reason, I think it’s totally fine to skip Gili T and head to Gili Meno or Gili Air instead.

GILI MENO

From the moment you approach the island, you’ll notice how much fewer people are on Gili Meno and are appreciative of the peace and quiet that surrounds you. There aren’t as many boats surrounding the island, much fewer horse carts and a lot more space to enjoy.

There are plenty of accommodation options to choose from, from guest houses in the centre of the island to bungalows in the sand with easy access to the turquoise water. The island also has convenience stores, restaurants and ATM’s.

There are large stretches of white sand to enjoy and it’s much better to snorkel here than on Gili T. Snorkel rental could cost approximately 40 000 to 50 000 IDR per set but keep in mind; is not always the best quality. For plenty of colourful coral, large fish and turtles, you can head to the south-east of the island but if you aren’t a water baby, simply bask in the sunshine with a view over the incredible Lombok.

Travellers who would like to visit Gili Air have the choice of the public slow boat which leaves twice a day and costs 35 000 IDR per person, the public fast boat for 85 000 IDR per person or a private boat for 150 000 IDR per person.

The sand is soft, the water is warm, the views are great and Gili Meno is simply perfect for those seeking some tranquillity away from the crowds.

GILI AIR

Gili Air has more visitors than Gili Meno, simply because the large boat companies stop here to transfer travellers to/from Bali and Lombok. However, there are still much fewer people here than on Gili T which means you can still have a relaxing vacation.

Visitors should stay in the north of the island where it is quiet and evenings can be spent watching the beautiful sunset with your feet in the sand. In the day, explore the island by bicycle and head to the east side for some snorkelling or good food from one of the many restaurants.

The island also has a few shops for cute pieces of clothing, jewellery, groceries as well as ATM’s and a pharmacy.

Unfortunately, the restaurants take up most of the space on the beaches but you can still find some spaces to enjoy the sunshine.

As Lombok is so close to Gili Air, Travellers who would like to visit this large island can simply hop on one of the local’s boats for a short trip across the water.

All three islands have great views of Lombok, turquoise water and delicious local food. There are even famous underwater sights not to be missed but all in all, if I really had to pick one to visit, it would be Gili Meno, as it was much more quiet, spacious and pristine than the other two islands.

For your boat transfer to/from Bali, do your research and ensure you have purchased tickets from a company who doesn’t overload their boats. Even though we used a great, safe boat company, the water can get rough on this stretch of ocean and it could be one of those trips you wish you never did, so checking the weather and waves on the day of departure isn’t a bad idea either.