You might already know that Bali is the most popular and visited island in the Indonesian archipelago as it is a combination of sandy beaches with water sports all around its islands.
And one of Bali’s true pearls are The Gili Islands. They are 3 islands northwest of Lombok Island which are known for their amazing sand beaches and the marvelous coral reefs. On one of the islands (Gili Meno) sea turtles swim up to meet at the Turtle Point, another island (Gili Trawangan) in Mentigi Beach to be exact, there is a sunken ship that sits at Wreck Point.
These islands are floating in a beautiful sea lined with many palms and coconut trees on white sand, the Gilis are famous as they are paradises and are booming in Indonesia. The tourism industry is growing with its hip hotels, speedboats that zip tourist direct to the islands and demanding services from hotels.
The big tourism industry and the lure of big dollars tug against the culture and traditions of Bali’s laid-back spirit introducing or importing new western influences. Now authorities are doing efforts on keeping the islands free of motorbikes and dogs to help the islands keep its languorous charm. The Gili’s islands have their own authentic character. Gili Trawangan looks like the big cities with its accommodation and dining as well as lively nightlife scene, on the other hand, Gili Air still has that strong Thai character and attractive buzz with some bliss and finally Gili Meno still keeps its virgin natural environment but waking rapidly. Let’s have a brief look at each one.
Gili Trawangan Island is the largest one and is attracting many tourists and is just a thirty-minute boat ride from the land of Lombok and we can take daily fast boat from Bali to Trawangan. The Gilis islands were uninhabited thirty years ago and since then it has been growing with its white sand beaches and blue clear waters as well as its beautiful sunset over Lombok’s Mt Rinjani and Bali’s Mt Agung. After being discovered by Burgis citizens from Sulawesi the island was visited by adventurous backpackers becoming it into a paradise destination with a hippy party scene.
Gili Trawangan has become a really great destination holiday for all families with new hotels resorts, luxurious villas to satisfy visitors providing services such as babysitting and amenities and attraction for all the family to enjoy the island paradise to the full. On the Gilis are still prohibited motorized transport and the ways to get around the islands is in pony carts or Cidomos, by bicycle or on foot but the new technology has been introduced with the ATM machines that we can find in hotels like Villa Ombak or Coral Beach.
Gili Trawangan is a small island that we can walk all around its beaches in two hours. Here there are the best stretches of beaches where we can find snorkeling spots like North Beach and the main stretch is Good Heart. We can find snorkeling shops and dive centers near the beaches to rent equipment for a day or half a day. On Gili Trawangan does not provide hawkers on the beaches, so we have to start a friendly conversation with some locals.
Here we have to be careful of strong currents and not try to cross or swim to the next island. There are plenty of opportunities to dive on these three islands as they have about twenty-six sites to dive regardless of where we establish our stay. Many visitors prefer to stay in Gili Trawangan as it offers facilities and then head to their dive sites on the school fleet boats to the walls and stunning reefs.
Gili Trawangan provides many entertaining activities to keep all its visitors amused all the time, besides bar-hopping, sunbathing, diving and snorkeling. Gili Trawangan has many other amenities and activities to do on the island as well as fishing trips with boats every day.
There are many initiatives to help the environment like the Bio Rock by the Gio Eco Trust which is hosting workshops to educate and encourage coral regeneration with more than thirty-four individual projects in the islands Gilis.
Things to do in Trawangan
We can take a golf trip to Lombok mainland specifically to Country Club and Kosaido Golf, this trip is really recommended for golfers to learn abilities. You can reach Lombok by boat then go by a buggy to the clubhouse to have a relaxed golfing experience with the landscaping that course structure offers.
So close to the golf course, we have the Hotel Tugu Lombok, where we can rest after a golf round and another place is Stud Tables for horse riding excellent to have a great time and to get to know the island.
Gili Tranwang is not big enough and we can walk through beaches for about two hours and enjoy the soft white sand and the routes are not challenging at all for everyone but if you want more action, you can try Karma Kayak a good way to combine nature with sports. Get full training before embarking on the channel to Gili Meno Island and then enjoy a sunset at North Beach.
In terms of development, the Gili Air is the one that is ignored of the 3 Gilis when we talk about development. Even though, Market is giving the guidelines aims at the tropical explorer and traveler’s budget and step by step the Gili Air is changing somehow, however many visitors prefer the grassroots setting of Gili Air and feel that the local community is part of Bali’s culture.
A good activity that many people do is walk around all the beaches in about 2 and a 1/2 hour with some supplies to keep the pace. If you are looking to relax out of the noise of the metropolitan cities, Gili Air is the place to feel the breeze and the natural surroundings.
Some technology has been introduced in Gili Air to provide the tourists with a new ATM machine located on the main strip of the island, accepting the most important cars from Master Card, Visa to Maestro.
It is a part of the service to make the tourists stay longer on the Island and do not carry lots of cash.
How we can reach Gili Air
Most visitors prefer to travel right from the land of Gili Trawangan to Gili Air by hopper boats and it just takes thirty minutes by boat leaving at 9:30 and 4:00 pm and stop in Gili Meno and then continue to Gili Air.
From Lombok mainland, the boats leave from Bangasal when they have a maximum of passengers of 20 people, but if we want to leave faster, we should purchase the left-over tickets.
It is preferable to buy the tickets from the building of Koperasi Karya Bahari on the beach as prices are fixed and clearly showed on signs.
Staying at night on Gili Air
Right on the main beach line, there are some new cafés and bars as well as accommodation to accompany the dive centers and be part of Gili’s growing.
There is already internet connection and some phone booths and many accommodation options to suit everyone from the villas to rustic and natural bungalows to rooms and huts near the beach or under the warming groves. We can stay in:
Villa Karang is a kind of restaurant with a pool and mix of ocean and inland bungalows with many rooms to attract a middle-class market.
Coconut Cottages are a kind of bungalows located right outside the beach, which provides huge gardens, a friendly staff and hot water as well as air-conditioned and fan.
Sejuk Cottages are really recommended for families with huts that have an upstairs lounge that is very accessible decorated with hammocks and a unique design.
Hotel Gili Air is an accommodation very popular with the Italian people in August with a chalet style and provides air-conditioned, pool, and restaurant on the beach.
What to do in Gili Air
Swimming and Snorkelling
Swimming is perfect and safe as it is not deep at all along the beaches with a good reef coral table.
Snorkeling There are dive centers and local operator where we can get the gear for some water adventure.
The dive center provides boats to transport divers to Gili Air Wall and Haan’s Reef the most important diving places where we can find photographers looking for those stranger creatures like pipefish to get the perfect photos.
What about food restaurants in Gili Air?
Here in Gili Air Island, we can find a variety of restaurants where we can find the international cuisine combined with Indonesian, Western, and European food. Most of these places; restaurants and cafés share the amazing views of Mount Rinjani.
Gili Air Santay is perfect for those who want to taste the Thai dishes as they are renowned for local and international food.
Frangiani Garden Restaurant provides Western dishes and appetizing local set back in the coconuts plantations at Coconut Cottages. It needs to be ordered one day beforehand and is suitable for couple and small groups to have the perfect feast.
Mirage Coffee Bar and Bakery is perfect to have the typical English breakfast and a sunset drink as it is on the quieter side of the Gili Air and offers delicious homemade sandwiches. It is little far northern side, but it worth the effort.
The Gili Air has a good quality surf scene and is less known for its changeableness but is growing every day as its sister islands.
What about nightlife in Gili Air?
Gili Air is not as lively at night as its big sister Gili Trawangan, and that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a good entertainment that keeps us satisfied and amused. In the touristy season Gili Air provides beach parties with techno beats which sometimes lasts two whole days!
The old Bali expats events and more. Most beach bars close around 11 pm like corner bars which are very close to the harbor with some chairs and tables at the beach. Some places to visit:
Zipp’s is next to Manta Dive and provides food for Manta Dive operation and is a place for late afternoon beer.
Star Bar is a populated dive spot to drink an imported spirit special for the diving community next to Blue Martin Dive.
Legend Bars are for those who love Reggae and house music during the high season and on weekends and it is the place to celebrate the Black moon parties.
Most people are fan of this ultimate destination as it is a beautiful hidden gem in the Indonesia archipelago. It is the middle child of the three Gilis.
Observe the beautiful sunset that this little gem offers, transport on horse-carts and see the simple living, escape from the Lombok on a boat, disconnect and enjoy a precious time in a paradise.
Let’s see this child island inside.
How to get to the Gilis
There is a simple and direct way to reach Gili Islands from Bali is via helicopter chapter, it just takes forty-five minutes offered by Air Bali. This helicopter charter leaves from Benoa named Bell 306 Long Ranger passing over the Lombok Strait and arrives in Gili Trawangan Paradise Sunset Beach. Be delighted by flying over Lombok’s mountain peaks, Bali and the Gili islands. We can take this helicopter charter on Fridays and Sundays at special price or charter the helicopter on any other day at a full charter rate.
Another style way to reach the Gili islands is on the luxury catamaran recently lunched which carries more than 600 passengers leaving at 9 am to Gili Trawangan from the harbor of Benoa in Bali.
If you are staying in Bali, you can take the fast boat’s tickets to Gili Meno in Kuta or some other big places across the island.
Gili Meno Accommodation and Resorts
Mahamaya Gili Meno
If you adore the sunset vistas and the best romantic dinner tables, you should stay at this resort. Just near the water a great dining experience you deserve. It is good to book your accommodation in advance in Gili Meno due to in high season everything is booked and it will be hard to find a room to sleep there, so we recommend Mao Meno Resort, Meno Dream resort, and Ana Warung.
Karma Beach Gili Meno
If you want to be far from the crowd, stay at this boutique resort. This IS for the ones who want to have a relax day doing little like spending the time on a daybed or visiting the divine Karma Spa on the beach.
Bask Gili Meno
It is a new luxury beachfront villa where you can have your own paradise.
Finding a place to eat or drink in Gili Meno
Gili Meno is a small island but it has many restaurants than you expect and you always going to find everything from Indonesia fare to Sasak cuisine such as pasta, pizzas, salads and organic juices. If really love seafood, there is a spot named Adeng-Adeng beach bar with a variety of sea fish.
Some things to do in Gili Meno
Gili Meno’s Salt Lake
A visit to Gili Meno’s Salt Lake is a must when we are here in this enchanting island. Here we can find a beautiful flora and fauna that is impressing for a small island as well as the rare blue kingfisher that can be spotted swooping into the water and this is the home for the enormous monitor lizard.
Let’s dive in Gili Meno
If you didn’t know, Gili Meno has the best sites to dive and snorkeling reefs among the three Gilis. If you are really looking for turtles, you can see them in the Gili Meno Wall and if you are interested in ocean critter, scorpion fish, crabs, lobsters, crustaceans and more, look around Gili Meno Wall.
More Things that we can do in Gili Meno
Many people consider that Gili Meno is a place for relaxing and not for a lively nightlife, but we can find many activities inside the island to keep us entertained.
Gili Meno Bird Park
If you are the one that love seeing birds, this is the special place as there are an impressive collection of birds. If you are traveling with kids, they will be able to see more than 300 birds including parrots, eagles, hornbills and many others to entertain your kid for hours.
There is a turtle sanctuary where your kid can learn about conservation and witness all kind of turtle species. There are many other things that we can do on this enchanting island that are perfect for everyone including the family.
Lambok is so close where there are many things to do. In Lombok Strait we can find small spots for snorkeling and discover about 23 unmapped small islands. Gili Meno is another paradise on Indonesia.
Dive into the charm of these beautiful gems, and book your ferry to/from the Gilis now!