My quick guide to the Gili islands from the few days that I spent there.
The Gili islands consist of three small islands. Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan. These islands are just off the North Western side of Lombok and are a popular tourist destination.
How to get there: There are a couple of boat options on how to get to the Gilli islands. I used a company called Easy Gili, you can find them online. They are by far the cheapest priced company and offer a pick up service from Canggu via shuttle bus for an extra 50K IDR. I was collected from Canggu at 6am to make the journey to Padangbai harbour where I was to catch a 9am fast boat. The boat cost 300k and took 1 hour 45min to arrive to Gili Air as it stops at other Gili islands on the way. There are many different fast boat companies just ask your accommodation or any tourist office in Bali and people will be able to help you.
Arriving at Gili Air feels like we have been taken back in time, the island has minimal transport options and there are small paved or dirt paths rather than roads. Transport mainly consists of push bikes and horse and carriage. Personally I opt not to go with the horses as they are very small, do not look healthy and are they are left standing in the sun harnessed to their carriages.
Gili Air is a very small island, it takes abut 15 minutes to walk from one side to the other. I would recommend renting a push bike to get places faster and to explore, you can get these for around 40k a day.
Gilli has a great selection of beach bars and restaurants dotted around the island. There is no shortage of places to eat and drink (See my list below of a couple of the places that we tried or were recommend to us).
Accommodation on the island is plentiful with many home stays, hostels or small villas. Air Bnb is a great way to find a bed on this island. In general the places are very basic and wifi is not very strong, but you didn’t come to the islands to sit on your phone all day right?
Things to do On Gili Air:
Snorkelling in the crystal clear waters were amazing. The eastern coast of the island is the prime place to see ocean life. See the below map about the three places we tried snorkelling as these were the best places we were recommended to go. Snorkelling gear is available at every second shop on the eastern side of the island you should be able to rent gear for around 40k a day.
Nemo City: this area is at the southern point of the eastern side of the island. You can jump in around the middle of the island and swim down with the current. Here you will find many fish and there is a drop off that looks like a scene off finding Nemo. There are many snorkelling tour boats in this area so you know it is bound to be a great place to visit. We personally did snorkelling ourselves instead of paying for a tour where they drive you 100m off shore for you to then jump in. It was easy enough for us to figure out the good spots to go and just swim out.
Hans Reef: Half way up the coast line you will find large beds of seagrass this is an active place to find turtles grazing. The best time to see the turtles is in the morning. Apart from the turtles there is not a lot of marine life in this area.
Frog Fish Point: At the North eastern tip you will find a wave break, swim around 100m out and over this break and you will be amazed at the amount of action going on. This is not as popular with the snorkelling boat tours but you will find a lot of scuba dive boats as the water is a lot deeper. Personally this was my favourite place to snorkel. We found a couple of turtles and endless amounts of coral and colourful fish. The wave break can be a little tricky to get over so make sure you are a confident swimmer.
Watch the sunset: The best place to catch the sunset is on the North and Western sides of the island. Grab a bean bag and a happy hour cocktail and enjoy the sunset. You may come across some fire dancers too. Happy hour cocktails are around 50k a drink.
Where to eat:
We only visited Gili air for 2 days so did not have a chance to try all the recommendations but my suggestions below will guarantee you have a great meal.
Mexican cafe: This is a super popular restaurant. Their food is well priced and very tasty it is located on the northern end of the island. (Beware that google maps may take you to the old location that is beach front so make sure you find the new location more inland)
ZZZ Warung: The food here was amazing. It is an authentic warung serving the best Indonesian food at a super affordable price. We love the homely atmosphere of this warung. Everything is cooked in their home kitchen by the family. The mother is cooking the meals with a baby tied around her waist while dad is on serving. All food here is delicious so you can’t go wrong when looking for a cheap Indonesian meal.
Ada Warung: This warung is located right next door to ZZZ, it is authentic home cooked Indonesian food at a reasonable price. This is popular among the backpackers as it is located next door to popular backpacking hostel Begadang.
Crepes: There is a cafe selling crepes at almost every corner on the island this is our go to for breakfast. Nutella and banana being our favourite flavour.
Overall I loved Gili Air I would recommend only a couple of nights as it is quite a small island so not a lot to do but the perfect place to relax, swim, snorkel and dive.
From Gili air you can jump on a fast boat for 100k this price is not easy to haggle down but if you can get better prices you’re doing well. The fast boat is a 15 min ride stopping at Gili meno along the way.
Gili T is well known as the party island you will soon figure this out when arriving via boat and the crowds near the dock. We wanted to experience this island for ourselves so opted to cut our Gili air trip short and spend one night on Gili T.
We stayed at the beach bum hostel which is located on the main strip and a popular bar at night time. The island has two sides, the side you get off the boat is the party side full of young back packers and party goers. The opposite side has many resorts and is a lot more quiet while you can still enjoy the beautiful beaches of the island.
As we were there for less than 24 hours we wanted to experience the party scene that everyone talks about.
Jiggy boat party is a favourite on the island. Departing 3 times a week, paying a fee of 250k you are sure to have an amazing party boat experience. This comes highly recommended if that is your scene.
After the boat party is over they drop you off to their bar on the main strip called Jiggy’s here you will find you can pay 150k for unlimited drinks until 11pm otherwise their drinks are the cheapest by far on the island and there is always crowds of people at this bar.
There is a different bar where people tend to congregate each night of the week, so make sure to check out what bar that is for when you plan to be there.
You will come across many people and cafes advertising fresh mushrooms (magic) these are very popular over Gili air and Gili T as there is no police presence on the islands. You will often find these mushrooms being served in the form of a mushroom shake. The Gili’s are your place to find them if that is what you are after.
There are night markets on the main strip every night that are really great to try some street food, don’t be scared about getting sick everything was quite clean and the turn over of food was very high. You can find quite a few nice organic cafes in the main strip so there is something for everyone.
I would recommend this island for the young party people rather than a relaxing vacation destination as it can be very hectic, a beautiful island that may require longer than 24 hours to truly experience it.
If you plan to go back to mainland Bali from the Gili’s it is advised to buy a return ticket when you are first purchasing your fast boat, as it is a lot cheaper than organising one way then the other way once on the Gili islands. We personally only purchased one way as we were traveling to the Nusa islands after.
Gili Meno is the island in the centre, this is referred to as the honeymoon island as it is very quiet and has some beautiful resorts. Personally I did not stay on this island so can not speak from experience but my friend spent a month there on a yoga teacher training and it was the perfect place to have a quiet holiday with beautiful white sand beaches.