Top 10 Things To Do on the Gili Islands

The stunning Gili Islands are a group of islands that are located off the coast of Lombok. They are perfect for anyone looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of Bali. The Gili Islands consist of three main islands, Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. Each of them has a different atmosphere and range of activities depending on your preferences.

You need to keep in mind that whichever island you choose, you will not find a lot of ‘tourist attractions’ like temples, museums, or monuments to visit. The whole point of coming to the Gili Islands is to enjoy a slice of island living. While you may still find some interesting activities here, you should also be aware that this is one of the most laid back holiday destinations in Indonesia.

Gili Islands, Indonesia

Birdeye’s view of the islands. Photo by yeowatzup

Here are our recommendations of top 10 things to do on the Gili Islands.

Go diving

The Gili Islands have some of the best dive spots in the country as the conditions here are clear and calm. Most people choose to dive off the coast from Gili Trawangan as this island has the best variety of dive shops and diving packages. Although not one of the top sites to dive in Indonesia, Gili Islands still offer quite a diving experience with some (harmless) sharks, rays, turtles and more.

Visit a turtle hatchery

Talking of turtles, Gili Trawangan and Gili Meno both serves as a turtle hatchery, where you can get up close with some of these cute creatures. The hatchery serves to protect the baby turtles and take care of them till they are old enough to be released again into the wild. You can visit here safely knowing that you are supporting a good cause. You may also give some donations at Gili Meno, to have a hands on experience releasing the turtes back into the sea.

Gili Islands, Indonesia

Releasing the turtles from the hatchery at Gili Meno. Photo by Charlie Sedanayasa

Cycle around the islands

One of the best activities around here are cycling, as there are no cars on any of the islands. Cycling is also one of the most enjoyable ways to explore the land. You can easily rent a bicycle here in any of the three islands and you can circumvent them in just a few hours.

Boats at Gili Trawangan beach, Lombok, Indonesia

Rental bicycle at a bungalow on Gili Air. Photo by Tanel Teemusk

Enjoy the viewpoint from Gili Trawangan

Gili Trawangan is known for its highest point which is aptly named ‘The Viewpoint’. It takes around half an hour to walk there from the central hub of the island but it is well worth it for the views over the sea and towards the other islands in this part of Indonesia like Lombok and Bali.

Sunrise at Gili Air, Lombok

Sunrise at Gili Air, Lombok. Photo by brian

Go snorkelling

Gili Trawangan has the monopoly on dive centres but if you are staying on Gili Air or Gili Meno, you can still enjoy the gorgeous azure seas. The best way to do this is to go snorkelling, which will allow you to spot turtles, colourful fish, and maybe even a baby shark for far less than the price of a diving excursion from Gili Trawangan.

Boats at Gili Trawangan beach, Lombok, Indonesia

Boats at Gili Trawangan beach, Lombok. Photo by yeowatzup

Take a boat tour

A boat tour can be arranged no matter which island you are on and it can be a great way to check out the other Gili Islands without actually staying overnight. Many operators on the islands offer boat trips and they range from a simple trip between the islands to a luxurious glass bottom boat tour of the surrounding seas. If you charter a boat to island hop, it can coast around IDR 300,000 depending on your haggling skills. But if you want to check out the other islands more cheaply, you can also get the local ferry for IDR 30,000.

-> Find places to stay on Gili Islands at Booking.com. Free cancellation. *

Eat some seafood

As the Gili Islands are surrounded by sea you can probably guess that the staple food here is seafood and fish. Every night the local restaurants here will display the day’s catch on the pavement. There are no better ways to enjoy the fresh seafood than having them simply grilled over coconut husks and served with steamed rice.

Grill seafood at Gili Trawangan Gili Islands, Indonesia

Grill seafood at Gili Trawangan. Photo by Marie

Visit the local night market

The local night market is located at Gili Trawangan and it is something not to be missed if you choose to stay on this island. Every evening a night market will be set up in the main square at around dusk. This is also one of the best places to grab some dinner on the island. Local stalls sell traditional bites like grilled satay and spicy corn on the cob. You can also go for simple fried noodle or rice dishes. The food here is typically less expensive than the restaurants or cafes on the island but it is equally if not more delicious.

 Night Food market at  Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

Night Food market at Gili Trawangan. Photo by Henrik Palm

Dance parties or live bands on Gili Trawangan

Gili Trawangan is known for being the ‘party island’ but don’t expect this to be anything like the nightlife scene in Kuta in Bali. Still, you will find a range of beach bars here that play music well into the night. Some venues even have special themed nights and dance parties. If you prefer a more relaxing evening, then head to Evolution Bar for live bands music.

 Live Band at Evolution Bar, Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

Live Band at Evolution Bar, Gili Trawangan. Photo by Reinardt Gilfillan

Go to an open air cinema

Across the different islands, there are a few places that offer open air movie nights, where you can sit on bean bags and enjoy a movie on a big screen under the stars. The most famous open air cinema takes place on the main beach on Gili Trawangan. But many other guesthouses and hotels on Gili T and the other islands have noted how popular this is and have set up their own open air cinemas too.

Bonus – Gili’s famous swing on the sea

Find the famous swing on the sea and get a beautiful picture with the romantic sunset as backdrop. This swing can be found on the west of Gili Trawangan at Ombak Sunset resort hotel *.

The swing at Gili Islands at Ombak Sunset, Indonesia

The swing at Gili Islands at Ombak Sunset resort hotel *. Photo by Dennis Keller

A trip to the Gili Islands can be a highlight of a visit to Indonesia for many travellers as it is covered with beautiful sights. They are also a nature lover’s dream thanks to its turquoise waters and white sands. Part of the charm of the islands is that they still retain a relaxed feel and a slower pace of life, therefore one of the best things to do here when you visit is to slow down and appreciate the chance to relax and unwind in one of the most beautiful spots in Southeast Asia.

Related articles:
Gili Islands
Lombok and Gili Islands Travel Guide
Top 10 Things to Do in Lombok
Top 10 Things to Do in Bali

Komodo Boat Trip from Lombok to Flores

As a thrifty backpacker, the adage, “You get what you pay for,” often does not apply; only suckers pay the full asking price. I always make sure to shop around and try to find a place that’ll provide me deliver the best service for the most affordable price. This was the goal I had in mind when I decided I wanted to visit Komodo Island; home to superb beaches, amazing underwater life, and of course, the elusive, Komodo Dragon.

When looking for a boat trip that would take me from Bangsar in Lombok to Labuan Bajo in Flores, with stops at Komodo, Rinca, Moyo and Laba islands, I managed to find a trip vis-a-vis Komodo Adventures and Beyond for 1,750,000 RPH (around $150USD). The price included breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day, free coffee and tea, six 1.5L bottles of water, plus all of the Komodo Island fees and transport from my hotel in Senggigi.

Scary Komodo Dragons at Flores

Komodo Dragons – the least scary thing I encountered on my trip at Flores.

After asking to see photos of the boat, which looked simple yet sturdy (this was no cruise trip I know) AND which also included a Western style toilet (a luxury on this side of the world) I agreed to join the tour and handed over the money. The next morning, a van came and picked me up and brought me to the port, we waited a few hours at Lombok Café for a briefing. Everyone at the restaurant was super nice; it seemed almost too good to be true.

Captain boat Lombok Flores

Komodo adventures and beyond with only one captain!

As soon as the brief started, something felt wrong. Since it was the day after Ramadan, the man giving the briefing told us that despite there being two ships, there would only be one captain because no one else wanted to work that day. We all nervously laughed, thinking it was a joke, but nope, he was serious. After his speech, we made our way to the harbour where we were greeted by an unfamiliar looking boat.

Komodo Boat from Lombok to Flores

Our “cruise” boat from Lombok to Flores

Unlike the images I saw the day before, the boat was essentially two stories of poorly constructed wood tethering on the edge of collapse. The first floor included a small front area, a covered space in the middle with two benches, the captain’s room, plus one cabin and a squatty potty at the back. Upstairs was a covered platform about four feet tall with 20+ mats strewn across the floor; this was apparently our sleeping space. Never one to be deterred, I decided to grin and bear it and enter the boat—after all, it’s about the journey and not the vessel, right?

Komodo Boat from Lombok to Flores

Sleeping condition on the boat trip to Komodo

After 4 very long days living in close quarters on the open water, I’m happy to say I survived. The conditions on the boat did not get any better. The engine broke down on our first night, plenty of people got seasick due to the choppy waters, the food was ALWAYS a variation of mie goreng or nasi goreng, and we never did end up getting a captain which meant we had no idea what was going on most days.

Food onboard Komodo boat trip

Food onboard Komodo boat trip

Despite all of this, seeing the komodo dragons up close, snorkeling with huge manta rays, seeing dolphins, laying out on a pink sand beach, and sleeping under the stars with good people made it all worth it—plus I picked up a few new Indonesian words after becoming friendly with the crew, who while spoke no English, always had big smiles on their faces.

boat crew sailed from Lombok to Komodo Island

Happy boat crew that sailed from Lombok to Komodo island

Here are some helpful tips on how to decide what company to use and what to pack when you brave this adventure:

  • Ask friends for a tour recommendation While I cannot recommend my tour company, komodo dragon, Wanua Adventure seems to be a safe bet. Since our captain never showed up due to an engine problem on the other boat, the captain of the Wanua boat came over and decided to explain the agenda for each day since all the boats more or less have the same schedule.. very nice guy!
  • Ask about how many people will be aboard the ship. We only had 13 people on our boat, which is far less than some other boats that try and squeeze 30 people aboard. Not only is this completely unsafe, but it also means a lot of people are not fed and that there’s not a lot of room to relax.
  • Make sure the komodo park entrance fee is also included in the cost of the cruise. I’ve heard about people having to pay an additional $25 because the fee was not included in their deal.
  • Pack a separate bag filled with your essentials to bring to the sleeping deck. Luggage is stored under the boat and a pain to get to. In addition to sleeping clothes, a bathing suit, a towel and your toiletries, I suggest packing a sarong to use as a cover while you sleep, ear plugs or music to help drown out the noise of the loud engine, baby wipes since there are no showers, and a portable charger due to the high probability the electrical outlets on the boats will either be taken or not working. And if you want, take cards, a wireless speaker, a guitar if you can play, etc. for entertainment on the boat.
  • Bring motion sickness tablets. Even if you don’t end up using it, someone aboard will most likely need them and you’ll have a friend for life.

Our own private beach during Komodo boat trip

Our own private beach during Komodo boat trip

The safety of a boat trip/tour to Komodo has been criticised numerously, there are reports of accidents, so proceed with caution. Decide if this is the adventure for you and use our tips above to make an informed decision. Happy and safe travels!

Related articles:
Komodo National Park, Flores
Flores Travel Guide

Kuta, Lombok Travel Guide

Long overshadowed by Bali, its popular neighbor to the west, Lombok is quickly becoming the next hot spot for travelers visiting Indonesia. With its pristine beaches, amazing waves, friendly locals, and dramatic landscapes, Kuta, Lombok is the perfect base to explore the southern part of this exquisite island.

Unlike the city in Bali, which shares the same name, Kuta in Lombok is far from overdeveloped and overrun by tourists. It maintains it’s natural beauty with cliffs and mountains reaching the coasts to create inspiring views. Kuta is more than just beautiful though; it boasts some of the best surfing in the world and has a rich, vibrant culture thanks to very friendly locals, the Sasaks.

Selong Belanak, Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia

Soaking up the sun at Selong Belanak, Kuta, Lombok

Whether you’re looking to kick back and relax or be more active and adventurous, here are some of my suggestions when you are in Kuta/ Lombok:

What to Do in Kuta, Lombok

Surf – Kuta is a surfer’s paradise. There are over 17 different surf breaks that can be accessed from Kuta including baby waves for beginners to epic barrels for pros.

Mawun Beach, Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia

All alone! Mawun Beach, Kuta, Lombok

The best beginner beaches are Selong Belanak (40km away), Tanjung Aan (5km to the east of Kuta), and Mawun Beach (12km away). Gerupuk (10km away) is good for both beginners and intermediate surfers, though you’ll need to take a boat to reach the spot. Pros flock to Desert Point, a legendary left-hand wave, though it only appears a few times a year.

Tanjung Ann, Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia

Tanjung Ann.. only a short ride away from Kuta, Lombok!

Wander and explore Kuta and the rest of Lombok
 – If surfing is not your thing, the beaches listed above are all lovely to spend a day soaking in the rays. You can also spend some time snorkeling in Gili Naggu or Seger Beach or zip to the famous Pink Beach, which gets its color from the pink coral.

Pink Beach, Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia

Pink sand! Pink Beach, Kuta, Lombok

Hopping on a scooter is always my favorite way to explore any place I visit. You can stop by local Sasak villages including the pottery village of Penujak and the weaving village of Sukarare. Keep an eye out for the bulls that will wander slowly across the road in front of you! You can also easily book a trip to climb Mt. Rinjani or to Flores via Komodo… if you dare!

South of Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia

Exploring south of Kuta, Lombok on a scooter


Check out our Top 10 Things to Do in Lombok for more ideas.

Eat and Drink in Kuta, Lombok

Gado-gado at Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia

Local specialty, gado-gado (mixed veggies with peanut sauce!) at Kuta, Lombok

Still, in its tourism infancy (which is a plus in our opinion!) the center of town is mostly made up of locally owned warungs, homestays *, and surf shops mixed in with a few restaurants serving Western cuisine.

To stock up on food after a long day of surfing, sitting in the sun, or scootering around the island, all which can be equally exhausting, I love grabbing some local food at Warung Flora, Nana’s Restaurant and Nugget’s Corner. If you’re looking for something more Western, but just as tasty, El Bazar Cafe & Restaurant is our top choice, though Riviera Bar & Restaurant and Warung Drifters are up there too.

Nothing beats the view from Ashtari. The cafe is located up on the hill above Kuta with panoramic views over the bay. They host a morning yoga class held on the patio and in the evening, it’s magical to sip on a drink while enjoying the sunset.

Views from Ashtari, Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia

Views from Ashtari, Kuta, Lombok

After dark, I love going to Sunset Café, Reggae Bar, Gecko Lounge and Bar, and Surfers Bar for drinks and live music. Ask a local/fellow traveler where the hot spot is that night since there tends to be trade-offs depending on the night.

Beers at Sunset Bar, Lombok, Indonesia

Beers at Sunset Bar, Kuta, Lombok on a scooter

Safety and Travel Tips for Kuta, Lombok

While Kuta, Lombok may be a slice of paradise, one should be aware of the perils coming through some of the port entries. There are rumors of Lombok being an unfriendly, dangerous island, which is in large part due to the terrible experiences people have had with the Bangsal Harbor Mob, a very unfriendly welcoming party waiting to prey on tourists arriving from the Gilis at Bangsal Harbour.

NEVER let anyone carry your bag, even if they claim to be a taxi driver or a restaurant worker. I’ve witnessed people being driven about 100 meters and asked for $20USD for the “trip” and traveled with a girl whose bag was driven around the island and held at ransom.

Some guys will also be walking around with receipt books identical to the tickets you may have purchased on Gili. Our suggestion is to either enter through a different port or have your hotel arrange everything beforehand in order to avoid stress and confusion.

Silly times at Reggae Bar, Lombok, Indonesia

Silly times at Reggae Bar, Kuta, Lombok on a scooter

I promise, though, once you make it past the harbor, you’ll enter paradise and you won’t regret your decision! If you have been to Kuta or anywhere else in Lombok, share with us your favourite things to do, food to eat, hang out places or general advices to travelers looking to spend some fun times in Lombok.

-> Find the best hotel deals in Kuta, Lombok *

Related articles:
Top 10 Things to Do in Lombok
Lombok: Beaches, Surf and Diving that Rival Bali’s
Trekking Mount Rinjani, Lombok

3 weeks itinerary for Islands of Indonesia

Q: I’m writing you since I’m planning to go on a trip to Indonesia in July/ August.

I might have about 3 weeks to travel. Since I want to make most of my trip, I would love to visit a couple of islands of Indonesia.

Your homepage is already very helpful! But I just wanted to ask whether you could recommend e specific route in Indonesia which involves a couple of destinations and islands (e.g. Sumatra, Bali, Lombok,…)? Can you recommend any route for three weeks?

Thank you so much for your help!

– Simone

Answer:
For 3 weeks you may well cover a good number of islands in Indonesia, but do bear in mind quite a number of flying is needed as Indonesia is spread out far and wide. Try this recommendation of ours for the highlights of islands of Indonesia from Bali, Lombok and Gili Islands to Flores and Nusa Tenggara:

For first 10 days –
Fly into Bali and spend a week exploring Bali and Lombok – combining our 4 days itinerary in Bali with 3 days of Lombok and then another 3 days for Gili Islands.

Next 10 days –
Make way to Flores via boat from either Lombok or one of the Gili Islands or fly from Bali to Maumere and explore Flores, making way towards Labuhanbajo through Kelimutu and Komodo Island.

After that you may find flights out of Flores to either Bali again or Jakarta and then leave Indonesia from there.

If you want to explore Sumatra or Sulawesi I would suggest them as another separate trip as it is on other parts of Indonesia and would definitely require more time to explore. Have a great trip!