Honeymoon? Party animal? Scuba Diver? Relaxing family holiday? Couples getaway? Welcome to the Gili Islands!
If any of these suit what your looking for, then whist in Indonesia you absolutely must get yourself over to the Gili Islands! They are a little slice of paradise. No cars, stunning beaches, turquoise sea, amazing marine life, romantic sunsets – The Gili islands offer everything one could possibly ask for.
The Gili Islands are a few kilometers off the North Western coast of Lombok, a neighbour of the common holiday destination, Bali.
There are three islands, each a similar size (approximately 2.5 km long x 1.5 km wide) that sit 1 kilometer from each other. Although they are geographically close, they couldn’t be more different in terms of their atmosphere.
If you’ve heard of the Gili Islands, it’s more than likely that you’d have heard of Gili T. It’s the largest of the three islands and boasts a wide range of activities and attractions. Firstly, Partying. The main street is lined with bars and restaurants, upon walking along them for 5 minutes it became clear that a lot of people come here for just that. With great live music, a dedicated beer pong bar and offerings of magic mushrooms and other drugs alike we understand why people choose to party here. Us, we preferred the sunset, the snorkelling, the bike rides and the tasty evening food market.
Simply bliss. Clear skies, empty beaches, white sand and turquoise water. If you plan on visiting Gili Meno, plan for a relaxing time. There are very few shops or restaurants on the island, however, you can still go on snorkelling and diving tours. This is often referred to as the honeymoon island – Romantic couples, go forth and enjoy!
The mixture of Gili T and M results in Gili Air – And what a fantastic result it is! This was by far our favourite of the three islands. It has ample beach front bars, restaurants, all of the tourist tours you could wish for and even the occasional party. Unlike Gili Meno you can walk down a populated street and unlike Gili T magic mushrooms aren’t being offered everywhere. It feels friendly, not too busy, but not too empty. Gili Air (we believe) is the perfect paradise island to visit in Indonesia!
Across the three islands you’ll find a lot to keep you busy. Here’s a list of what we found:
- Snorkeling tour, 10 am to 3 pm daily (100,000 IRD per person)
- A dive for fun (500,000 IRD per person)
- PADI open water diver cert (4 day, 4 dives accommodation included, 5,500,000 per person)
- Surfboard/SUP hire (100,000 per hour)
- Open air beach cinema, 7pm, (Free with food/drink)
- Sunset watching
- Yoga class (100,000 IRD per class/500,000 IRD unlimited weekly)
- Horse-drawn carriages (150,000 per cart)
- Bike around the island (bike hire 50,000 per day)
- Turtle sanctuary (Free)
- Spear fishing (course or hire cost unknown)
- Night food market, 6 pm start (20,000 IRD per standard dish)*
- Stick fight tournament, Sundays at the marketplace (Free)*
- Beach horse riding (700,00 per person)*
Note: * Indicates the activity is only available on Gili T.
Getting There From Bali
Getting to the Gili islands is easy and simple because so many people do it! The quickest way, get the fast boat (250,000/500,000 one way/return). You’ll be collected from wherever you are staying in Bali by a shuttle bus which will transport you to the harbour in Padang Bai. From there you’ll board the big fast boat and it’ll take you between 1 hour 30 and 2 hours 30 to get to your Gili destination.
The second cheaper option is the public ferry (100,000 IRD one way). Again the shuttle bus will collect you, however you will board a massive ferry and the ride will take you 5 hours to Lombok. Here you will catch another slow boat (30 minutes) which will transport you to your chosen Gili island. Our suggestion? If you have the extra 100,000 IRD, take the fast boat!
Getting There From Lombok
Head to Bangsel harbour. Avoid all the touts and ignore there fake directions. Go to the public ferry ticket office and buy a ticket for 15,000 IRD rather than the 200,000 IRD that they’ll try to charge you. From there enjoy a slow 30 minute boat ride to your choose destination. Easy!
Accommodation on the Gili islands is no more expensive than anywhere else on Bali and cheaper (yes, cheaper!) than mainland Lombok! Basic private rooms start from 150,000 IRD or an air conditioned double room from 300,000 IRD.
Cost of Living
The cost of living is a little more expensive in comparison to the mainlands. Luckily we found cheap mini marts on the islands where the prices where the same as the mainland. Ask the staff wherever your staying where they buy their water from and you’ll be directed to the best places. Food ranges from 20,000 IRD for local food right up to 200,000 for fresh seafood.