Located just off the coast of Lombok in Indonesia, the stunning Gili Islands are fast becoming a haven for burnt-out backpackers who have been partying a little too hard in nearby Bali. Whenever you hear people talk about “The Gilis” they are referring to the three main islands – Gili Air, Gili Trawangan (or Gili T) and Gili Meno. With incredible white sandy beaches, clear blue-green waters, great diving and snorkeling and a laid back vibe, each of the three islands offers a little bit of paradise lost for travellers in need of a little RnR.
All of the three islands are laid-back and relaxed, with tons of little beach-side cafes serving up good food and good music, but they definitely have their own individual vibe, so it’s wise to plan accordingly! Of the three, it is the middle island Gili Trawangan that is the party hot spot. With three big parties a week, a great selection of bars and the swankiest accommodation of the lot, Gili T is the place to go if you want to let your hair down. Gili Meno meanwhile, couldn’t be more different. The smallest of the three, there is very little to do here other than laze around in your beach hut, eat good food and snorkel in the reef. Absolute perfection! Gili Air is somewhere between the two, with a well-developed local community, a few good bars and restaurants, but less of a party scene than Gili T. The one thing that the three islands have in common is their beautiful tropical beaches.
What to Do/See
Scuba Diving and Snorkelling: All three of the islands have dive centres, and organise dive trips around the islands. If you don’t have your PADI, no matter as the snorkelling here is excellent, especially in the waters around Gili Meno. Sea turtles, lionfish and even a shipwreck can all be seen just from snorkelling.
Chill Out: The beaches are the Gilis biggest draws, and there is no better way of spending your day than soaking up the rays on any of the islands fantastic beaches.
Water sports: Companies on Gili Trawangan offer kayaking, fishing trips, wake-boarding, water-skiing and para-sailing for those who are feeling adventurous.
Nightlife: Of the three, it is Gili Trawangan that has the best nightlife, with Meno being the quietest (and trust me, it is very quiet). In high season Trawangan holds full moon parties on the southern part of the island that don’t finish until the sun comes up.
Walk and Bike: It’s easy and enjoyable to walk the circumference of all the islands, and if you’re not one for walking, you can just hire a bike.
Accommodation: Simple guesthouses and beach huts start at around 120,000 rupiah a night, and although basic, are usually clean and well located. More upmarket hotels are available on Gili T and could set you back up to $400.
Food: Lunch and light dinners cost about 20,000 rp, but you can expect to pay upwards of 70,000 rp for a fancy seafood dinner.
Transport: One of the nicest things about the Gilis is the lack of motorized vehicles, meaning no noise and no pollution. The islands do offer horse and cart if you have a lot of luggage, which will cost you about 30,000 rs. The boats that run between the three islands costs 20,000 rs per ticket. You can hire a bicycle from 10,000 rs an hour and are the ideal way to see the islands.
Best Time to Visit
As a rough guide, the rainy season is from November to April. The best time to visit the Gilis is January, February, October and November – good weather and beating the crowds.