The Gili Islands are three small islands off the north west coast of Lombok, a large island and region in Indonesia. These islands are pure tourist destination, and each one has its own vibe. They are all really small – the largest one, Gili Trawangan, takes about 2 hours to walk around. What makes all of them special is that there are no motor vehicles. Thus, the islands have a laid-back cadence that lives up to the reputation of island life. Instead of taxis, there are donkeys, clad in silly and colorful headpieces, that pull around carts. Drivers squeak horns that sounds like clown horns, or, sometimes they make beeping noises from their mouth, both of which can be annoying.
The best part of all these islands is the beaches. The views are beautiful - sitting on the beach you can see the other islands in the distance, and the water is bright blue. The temperature of the water is warm, and the water is so clear that you can see the seafloor at depths of 20+ feet.
What I Did -
I spent three days on Gili Trawangan, or as most travelers refer to it, "Gili T". To get to the island, I took a boat from Bali. When the boat arrives to the island, there is no dock or harbor. The boat simply pulls up onto the beach, and you must jump out into the shallow water with all your stuff.
Gili T is known as the party island, and rightly so. The main road runs along the periphery of the island, and on the east side, there are several bars and clubs. There’s the rasta bar that has a live band playing Bob Marley all night, complete with an Indonesian who has grown out long dreadlocks. There’s the club with a house DJ that opens onto the beach, so you can dance in the sand. There’s the hip hop club, the beer pong bar, the dive bar, etc.
My favorite part of the island, however, was not the partying but the night market. Every night, a large square turns into a grilled food market. There are stacks of shish kebobs, and rows of large fresh fish, lobster, crab, and squid. If you like seafood, this is the place to go. Each night, I got a different massive fish, at least a foot in length and 3/4ths foot in height, for about $100K IDR, or about $7.69 USD (which included vegetables and rice). The fish would be cut in half long ways between the eyes, and grilled. This was some of the best grilled fish I’ve ever had! (click on the image below).
Following Gili T, I went to Gili Air (pronounced Gili Ay, although travelers pronounce it as the English word “air”) and stayed there for two nights. To get to Gili Air, (and all the islands), there is a small slim boat that makes a circuit around the islands. It cost me $40 IDR, or $3.07. Gili Air is the opposite of Gili T – it is the laid-back island. There is less infrastructure, and no clubs or loud bars. The hostel I stayed at, humorously called Gili Air Fantastic Hostel, was made up of cabins with tall round grass tops.
One of the best activities you an do in the Gilis is snorkel and scuba dive. I did a snorkel trip around all three islands, which only cost $100k IDR! The snorkeling was fun – not as much marine life as the Whitsundays in Australia, but the water was so warm and pleasant, that it made up for it. The one unique animal I saw here was giant sea turtles! You can get pretty close and even touch the turtle’s shell if you want. This was a very cool experience. (click the image below).
And of course, an island experience wouldn't be complete without a spectacular sunset.