The Gili Islands are a group of three tiny islands clustered close to one another. The islands are Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air are situated near the coast of northwest Lombok. The islands are a popular spot for tourists for their white sandy beaches fringed with palm trees and coral reefs just offshore.
Each island although similar in appearance all have quite a different vibe from one another. All of the Gilis do not have roads and do not permit any motorised vehicles on them, so the main way to get around each island is by foot, bicycle or by cidomo (horsedrawn carts). Just be careful with hiring a horse and cart as I have heard many stories of the horses not being cared for properly.
Gili Trawangan (Gili T) is the largest of the islands and attracts the majority of visitors, it takes approximately 30 minutes by boat from the northwest of Lombok and regular daily fast boats depart Bali directly to Gili T. Gili T is popular with tourists as it has the most going on in comparison to the other Gili Islands – restaurants, bars, cafes and shops. Gili T was once known as a hippie party island, but today is popular with both backpackers and families.
Gili Meno is the smallest Gili Island and by far the most peaceful and underdeveloped, and is popular with honeymooners and the more mature traveller. The island is ringed by pristine beaches and coral reefs. Most accommodation is on the east side of the island with the most beautiful beach on offer, although there is some development going on in the west of the island. Inland on Gili Meno are homesteads, coconut plantations and there is a salty lake.
Gili Air is the island closest to Lombok and is a good island to visit if you want the best of both worlds – less busy than Gili T, but with still a little bit of nightlife, and chilled out enough so you can do plenty of relaxing. The snorkelling is really good right off from the main beach too. The beaches on Gili Air are said to be the best out of the three islands.
We visited the Gilis on a day trip from Lombok and booked a boat trip through Perama Tours which picked us up from the hotel in the morning and took us to the harbour where we then had a private boat that took us snorkelling around all three of the islands, and we stopped at Gili T where we had a wander around and had lunch and got to spend some time on the beach.
After lunch, we got back on the boat for some more snorkelling around the islands. The Gili islands also have lots of scuba diving trips and courses available too, and the scuba diving is meant to be amazing! Snorkelling is really great around all of the islands and we were lucky enough to swim alongside a beautiful turtle.
The Gili Islands are an absolute must when planning a trip to Indonesia, and you could easily spend your whole holiday there or add it on to a Bali or Lombok itinerary.￼￼ Personally, I would love to go back and revisit the Gilis and next time I would like to spend a few nights there. I would recommend that if you have time to spend a couple of nights on the islands. However if you are limited on time like we were, a day trip is a good idea so that you can get a taste of the islands.
Transport & Getting Around
The quickest and easiest way to get to the Gili Islands is from Lombok, as they are much closer in proximity than Bali. From Lombok, there are several transfers that can be booked as well as cheap public boats. Each of the Gilis has public boats in their harbour areas that leave when at full capacity.
Depending on which Gili Island you are visiting there are several departures from Lombok to the Gilis throughout the day, there is Teluk Nare Harbour which is where the ferries and speedboats come in, and Bangsal Harbour which offers public boats across to the Gilis. From both these ports, Gili Air is only a 10 minute boat ride, to Gili Meno it is 15 minutes and to Gili Trawangan its around 20 – 30 minutes.
Once on the Gilis you can easily get between each island by hopping on one of the boats which runs between them all regularly, and they are all between 5 – 10 minute boat ride apart from one another.
There are also plenty of options to reach the Gilis from Bali, which are longer boat journeys but easily doable and can take anything between 1 to 5 hours depending on which option you choose and where you depart from. There are fast boats and also ferries which run between Bali, the Gili Islands and Lombok. The ferry option is a cheap option, but I would only recommend to people on a tight budget and travelling for an extended amount of time. I would suggest anyone who is on holiday for a few weeks to go with the quicker options. You can also charter private boats to take you across from both Bali and Lombok.
We booked through Perama Tours to go from Lombok to the Gili Islands as they have daily tours but you can also book boat transfers through them as well.
The Gili Islands although set up for tourists, they are a little more behind with facilities to that of its popular island neighbour Bali. Make sure to carry cash as well as cards as ATMs are only in a few hotels in Gili T, and cards are accepted but monly in modern establishments.
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