Before leaving for our Indonesian adventure we had planned for the Gili islands to be a hop over from Bali to Lombok. Stepping off the boat and onto the white sands of Gili T it was clear our plans would change.
The largest of the three islands, Gili Trawangan has a long strip of bars and restaurants along its shoreline with a few shops dotted in between. On our first night we walked around the island along the beach path, it took 2 hours at a leisurely pace which gives you an idea of how small it is. Away from the busy main stripe there are relaxed bars with hammocks, raised decks and tree houses. We found ourselves sitting for hours in a few of these, cooled by the sea breeze with our minds occupied by the crashing waves and views across to the mountains of Lombok.
There are no motorised vehicles on Gili T and most people get around on bicycles. When walking any where you will hear the jingle of bells and a toot of a horn as small ponies pull carts ferrying people around. We didn’t use these, one because it’s easy enough to walk but also because the ponies look too small to be pulling the weight of four people around, especially in the heat.
Snorkeling and diving are main attractions on the Gili Islands and on our first trip swimming out to the Trawangan Wall, a 15m drop from the shallows, we spotted a hawksbill turtle gracefully gliding along the sea bed. We followed from the surface looking down as he nibbled on seaweed and continued to glide along. We tried to swim down to him but my lungs soon gave in as did Laurie’s ears, the clear water was deceivingly deep.
In the evenings you won’t be short of a place to eat and whilst walking along the main stripe, restaurant staff will do their best to entice you in. There is a market on the beach front which barbecues fresh fish and seafood as you wait and serves with noodles and a selection of veg. The snapper fish was delicious and as we sat on the benches tucking in we were joined by small cats all hoping for some scraps.
Gili Meno is pure relaxation. Maybe even too quiet for some. This little island nestled between Trawangan and Air gives you empty beaches, deserted sandy tracks and a good chance of spotting turtles. We stayed here for one night and followed the island’s charm by doing pretty much nothing. Sunbathing, snorkeling and drinking cold beers was our time spent here before moving on to Air…
The perfect mix of the previous two islands, Gili Air gives you buzzing bars and coffee huts, a dozen diving centres and beautiful sunsets evenings. We spent our time in the ocean in search of more turtles, drinking from coconuts in the sea breeze and trying to cycle around the island on sand that was too deep for the bike wheels. After meeting with some friends, Air seemed like a good place to stay a bit longer than we expected to. The relaxed island pace and friendly people made it feel welcoming and hard to leave. The only thing that did make me want to get off the island was a chest infection that provoked my asthma leaving me quite breathless in the hot nights so going to the main land in search of a doctor was needed.
All in all the Gilis are paradise. They are overrun with tourists wanting their taste of island life (said the tourist wanting her taste of island life) but you can see why they are so popular. Conservation is something they are working on to preserve these beautiful sandy islands and the surrounding waters and it’s worth a read up on before you visit to try and keep your impact down.