The Gilis are a group of three islands just off the coast of Lombok and to the east of Bali. For want of a less typical description they basically translate to tropical paradise. If you want crystal clear blue waters with some of the best diving in the world or you just want to sit on a white sandy beach armed with a fresh coconut then these will check all of those boxes.
Each of the islands are pretty gorgeous in themselves, so whichever you decide on won’t disappoint in offering plenty of photos to send to friends and make them jealous.
The best way to get there is to get yourself to Bali or Lombok and jump on a boat. From Bali it’s about two hours on a fastboat and from Lombok maybe 40 minutes or less. A good company is BlueWater Express, but it’s not the cheapest. I personally arrived on the island by haggling with a local man on a beach in Lombok.
Top tip: Since living in Asia, I’ve definitely realised that the best way to haggle is to just tell them that someone else has offered it you for the price you actually want to pay, and they’ll pretty much immediately drop to it. Especially if you start to walk off.
None of the islands have any motorised transport on so if you want to get around at a quicker pace than walking you can rent a bike or you can jump on one of the many horse and carts running around the islands. How very old school.
Each of the islands has a different pace and attracts slightly different groups of people, but all have postcard worthy pictures so it doesn’t matter too much which one you end up instagramming.
Gili Meno is the quietest of the three and the only one that I didn’t spend any time on. If you’re not on your honeymoon most people tend to not bother with this one although it did look to have some pretty incredible surf. What you can do is hire a paddle board for the day, from Gili Air or Gili Trawangan and then jump off for quiet beaches and a beer and then paddle back to return to some civilisation.
Gili Air is the closest to the coast of Lombok and is the happy medium within these three islands. It’s got plenty of diving and surfing, lots of cool cafes and bars and still has some stuff resemblance of nightlife.
Trawangan is the largest of the three and has more of a reputation for being a bit of a party island. Whilst this is definitely the case and you can drink and do mushrooms until the sun comes up, that’s not to say that this island doesn’t have things to suit absolutely everybody. There are more diving centres than you could really get to the end of counting before you get bored, plenty of bars with plenty of happy hours, beachside cinemas, spas, gorgeous shops and plenty of cool cafes and health joints. So it ticks all the boxes for all the people. Gili T also accommodates everyone, whether you want to spend your time in a private luxury villa or you want to slum it in a hostel or a homestay.
Gili T is the only one I stayed on for a length of time when I was chilling in this part of the world so it’s really the only one on which I can impart some in depth wisdom to you all.
If you’re not up for swimming with tropical fish and huge sea turtles through gorgeous reefs then you can just skip this bit and consider yourself crazy. All three of the Gilis offer some of the best diving in the world. We are talking everything from sea turtles and sharks to six foot wide mantas.
Throughout Gili T there are an overwhelming number of diving centres. I used Gili divers which I’d really recommend if you’re looking for someone trustworthy to take you to the bottom of the sea. Everyone is really friendly, it’s very well organised and they’ll take you to some of the most incredible diving locations for a very reasonable price. You can also do everything from introductory first time courses, to advanced and instructor courses.
Get your yoga on.
Come on, you’re in tropical paradise chilling so why not add yoga to the mix. There are lots of yoga places on the island but The Yoga Place is the best one. I started every day on Gili T with an hour and a half of yoga. This place is off the main road through but is well worth searching for. They have loads of different yoga sessions every day, including stand up paddle yoga(queue me spending an hour and a half climbing out of the water because I’m hideously unbalanced) sunset yoga and even meditation classes. The cosy little joint also does the most amazing breakfasts and healthy juices ever so if you want to keep your health kick going then it’s definitely a good one to stop at.
Hire a bike.
None of the Gilis are very big but Gili T is the biggest and it’d take you quite a while and a lot of sweating to stroll around it. Instead, just grab a bike. From the moment you step off your boat someone will offer one of three things: mushrooms, homestay or bike. (Opt for all-not necessarily together) The island takes about an hour to cycle around and you can haggle a good price to keep it for 24 hours. It’s well worth doing so you can explore some of the quieter beaches away from the main area as well as it makes bar hopping a much quicker process.
Do some other water based activities.
So, I personally find snorkelling hideously boring compared to diving but admittedly you can see some pretty good sealife just off the beach so it’s worth the try. Besides that you can go paddleboarding, wake boarding, surfing, jump on a glass bottomed boat, go kayaking and I’m sure many others. Anywhere along the main strip has it all available and don’t be afraid to haggle with them.
Get a massage of some sorts.
When you’re in a part of the world that is all about the chill, it seems pretty fitting that you hop over to some kind of massage joint. There isn’t a shortage on Gili T and they’re all super cheap – as are most things in Indonesia.
Watch the sunset.
If you’re looking for a breathtaking sunset to gaze at after your full days of getting tanned and basking in island life then head over to see the sunset. Paradiso Bar is a great one and after the sun goes down there is a fire dance every evening. Otherwise head to Sunset Point.
Make sure you munch on:
Steamed veggies with coconut
Fried rice Indo style – pretty much a staple
Barbecued corn on the cob with a spicy butter
I don’t know what the name of this is but you’ll find carts all over the island selling it. Every single one of them will tell you that theirs is the best so the only way to really know is to try every single one.
Veggies with a peanut sauce – pretty damn good.
One of my favourite places to eat was at Kayu Cafe – there are lots of healthy choices for you to munch on and whilst not traditionally Indonesian, they’re very very yummy.