The Gili Islands are the archipelago of three islands which is Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. Locally it is known Tiga Gili (means three Gilis) or Kepulauan Gili (Gili Islands).
Though it is popular for Bali tourists to hop over to Gili Islands as it is nearby, they are actually worth a trip there itself. The islands are famous for the ultimate remote island experience that is so rare nowadays in the world.
Here you will find small huts as resorts for tourist and the locals themselves stay in the township of Trawangan at the east side inland. No motorized vehicle is allowed in the islands therefore keeping the experience of remoteness wholesome, where people would either use bicycle or more romantically horse-drawn carriage called cidomo.
Diving is also really popular here for the untouched corals and abundant sea life.
Gili Air is the closes to the mainland and it has plenty of palm trees shading stylish bungalows. It is also the place to catch the most beautiful sunset and sunrise.
Gili Meno is the middle island that makes a good middle-path zen like retreat. The sea here is an amazing blue with horizon stretches to infinity.
Last but not the least is Gili Trawangan, furthest from mainland but most popular of the lot. It is also well-known for its party scene.
Go for the last chance to bask in real island life that is both serene and still rich with flora and fauna the way it has been for years and years. Think of a mix of reggae beats while you sip your drink staring out horizon accompanied by gentle lapping waves. To top it off there is no hustle and bustle of motorized vehicles leaving the place serene and air clean.
If you must have more spirit to your retreat among serenity, then head to Gili Trawangan for a dose of its thrice weekly parties.
When is the best time to go
Most of the time in the year, Gili Islands have a good weather with a mix of dry and hot in the day and slightly cool in the night. Go during the dry season so that you can have your tropical islands experience. The best time to go Gili Islands would be September to November, for the best weather yet not too packed with tourists.
You may want to avoid the rainy season from November to April, but it does not really rain that much and the peak tourist seasons are July-August and December-January.
Gili Islands is very popular with scuba diving, having almost 20 dive sites, that is rich in corals and sea wildlife. When you dive you can catch glimpses of, to name a few, green and hawks-bill turtles, white-tip reef sharks, manta rays and parrot fish. Visibility is around 15-30m range and some parts the currents are strong enough for drift diving. Dive courses are also available and are priced similarly to other places in Asia like Malaysia and Philippines.
Read more about Diving in Gili Islands
If diving may not be your thing but you still want to enjoy the coral and marine life, then snorkeling is the next best thing. With the clear waters and rich coal life, you may well have an enjoyable snorkeling experience here. Check with you guesthouses or nearby for those snorkeling program that would stop at like three or four spots around the three islands
This may not be the most popular thing to do as there are only occasional waves at the south of Gili Trawangan that can accommodate light surfing.
Just walk around the coastlines of the islands as leisure stroll for there are no hills but can be from a short 90 minutes walk to extensive 3 hours, and soak in the island breeze and sun.
Else one of the best thing to do here in Gili Islands is basically to do nothing. With no motor vehicles around to disturb your peace or atmosphere, you can idle away the time by chilling at your own private verandah or at various restaurants and cafes by the beach. Occasional dip in the sea would be a good break in between.
Where to stay
As the demand is higher than the supply here, the prices tend to be higher than its counterparts of Bali and Lombok. The choices are you usual backpackers inns and guesthouses
Also do pre-book during peak season too which are July-August and December-January. Most of the good places to stay are on Gili Trawangan, such as the Pearl of Trawangan * and Desa Dunia Beda Hotel *. But if you are looking to go somewhere quieter, then Seri Resort * at Gili Meno would be a good choice. Or if you are looking more of a local bungalow style, then go for Manusia Dunia Green Lodge * at Gili Air.
What and where to eat
As quite popular beach getaways for tourists, you will find the usual beach food fare at small cafes in form of a hut, such as barbecued fish and seafood, pizzas, sandwiches, smoothies and so on, I think you get the drill if you haunt beaches enough. In some of the bigger establishments, there can be surcharge of taxes so take note. If you want to have drinks, then Gili Trawangan, the party island, would be your best bet.
How to get there
Fly from Jakarta to Gili Islands directly is the quickest way to get here. Else you may do a stopover flight at Surabaya. Flights to Gili will land you at Mataram or Senggigi where then you may do a crossing to the Gili Islands via ferry.
If from Bali to Gili Islands, you may take a fast boat such as Gili Car or Blue water Safari from Padang Bai to Gili Islands. Or you can also fly from Bali to Gili Islands which many travelers say it is worth it to save time and sometimes it can be cheaper than the boat. Airlines that fly this route is Merpati, Indonesia Air Transport and Trigana.
Where to go nearby
Trekking at Mount Rinjani in Lombok, where a relatively tough climb will get you to the summit with a view of breahtaking volcanic caldera and crater lake. There are numerous beautiful hikes around here too.
Bali – this famous next door island has actually many to offer. Check out our Top 10 Must Visit Places in Bali.
There are some other islands in Indonesia that have the name Gili as well for in local dialect it actually means small islands, so don’t be mix up and make sure you are coming to these three Gili Islands.
Many travelers gave advice to be especially careful of thefts in Lombok. Keep your things well attended and lock your luggage, there are even thefts at the beaches. Also bring repellant as there are cases of dengue.
Lombok : Beaches, Surf and Diving that Rival Bali’s