The Gili Islands off Lombok
The Gili Islands off Lombok
Accessible by boat from Lombok – the fast boat from Senggigi (maybe an hour, possibly up to $25 each) or just across the strait to the small north western port town, ($3 each way), or from around $30 each way, and depending on the seas, between one and two hours, via fast boat from Padang Bai in Bali.
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The Gili Islands off Lombok, are reminiscent of Goa (India) in the 80s where things were simple and people just did what they liked without too much interference from authority. That said, it is still Indonesia which has very stringent drug laws.
I heard of some Aussie guys who were smoking some dope on one of the Gilis, went back to Bali and were then busted for possession when some undercover cops raided their villa. It appears they were observed smoking on Gili, followed back to Bali and then raided.
The thing is, drugs in Indonesia are bad news, so if that is your interest, consider being more interested in your freedom than getting high. Getting caught with drugs in Indonesia is very, very expensive and somewhat time consuming!
And as we saw from the Bali Nine executions, a deadly game that one cannot get out of.
The Gili Islands off Lombok are very popular with divers and snorkellers as the marine life is abundant, including lots of turtles. They are also popular with those who just like to lie around reading a book as well as those who like to party.
Being islands, where everything, including fresh water, comes in by boat, means that some things are more expensive than elsewhere.
From 2015 water pipelines from Lombok bring fresh water across, so the water issue has been resolved so visitors can have fresh water showers instead of the salty ones previously on offer.
There are no cars or vehicles on these islands, with the main transport being by foot, bicycle or horse and donkey cart. The three islands, Trawangan, Meno and Air are all roughly the same size and take around an hour to ride around on a bicycle.
As of 2015 electric motorbikes are appearing on the Gilis. While silent and not disturbing, personally I find them disturbing of the pace of life here, especially when I see young kids of wealthy parents riding them around instead of getting much needed exercise on a bush bike.
People usually stay for three or four nights though often people come over from Bali for the 2-3 party days every week.
Full of restaurants and bars, Gili Trawangan is known as the party island, where there is something for everyone if you are inclined to be social, with bars and restaurants on the beach that open all day.
Accommodation ranges from 100,000 a day to many millions, depending upon what you like and can afford. There is a vast array of bars and restaurants to cater for every taste and many stay open until 2-3am every day.
Gili Air, with its preponderance of long established families who run the island, has the most solid community and attracts the more leisurely tourist. Good snorkelling and there are, like on Trawangan, there are many dive schools.
Lots of nice restaurants and places to stay, though much less developed than Trawangan which is how the locals like it.
Accommodation can be a little tighter than Trawangan and a bit more expensive for what you get, though that varies with the season, with Gili Trawangan popular all year round. That said Gili Air is a lovely island to have a quick honeymoon or to go to write that book. Much more family friendly too.
Gili Meno is the quietest of the three, and a great place if you like it quiet. Like super quiet. Lovely walks, more laid back than both Gili Air and Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno seems to be the place for European professionals to come to unwind.
There is an island hopping ‘shuttle’ that travels between the islands that runs twice a day, or you can simply charter a boat at around 250,000. There are lots of dive/snorkel boat tours as well as glass bottom boats for those who don’t like getting wet.
It is worth remembering that as part of Lombok, the Gilis are Muslim, with calls to prayer often in the air. In an age of demonisation of the Muslim world in the Western media it is refreshing to come across such a peaceful people going about their lives.
By Mark O’Brien, June 2013, updated September 2015
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