The Gili Islands are a collection of three tiny islands located in Indonesia, near to Lombok and not too far from Bali. Gili Air and Gili Meno are the two smaller islands and although we considered visiting them on day trips, the boat from Bali put us off that idea pretty swiftly. Gili Trawangan, where we spent 6 nights, is the most cosmopolitan and vibrant with plenty of lovely hotels, beachside restaurants and plenty of bars.
The Gili Islands are undoubtedly a vision of paradise with the most stunning white sand beaches and unspoilt coastline that I have ever seen. However, if you want to reach them from Bali you will have to board a two hour fast boat… and the boats in Indonesia and the Indonesian waters are not for the faint-hearted.
I have always been terrified of boats (the same as every other mode of transport really) but after conquering the huge plane journey, the two hour boat seemed like a walk in the parkand I was too excited to even feel nervous before boarding. Once we got on the boat however, I was in for a huge shock! I had heard that the waters in the area are always choppy and unsteady but this boat journey felt like the longest rollercoaster ever. At two points we genuinely nearly capsized and everyone on the boat screamed in terror. I managed to stay relatively calm but there wasn’t a single person on that boat who wasn’t scared. We travelled with a company called Wahana and although the boat was terrifying on the way there, it was relatively calm and relaxed on the way back and they got us there safely and in one piece so I would recommend using this company.
If I haven’t traumatised you with that little bit of information, then you should definitely take the small risk and travel across the unpredictable waters to the Gili Islands- as it is such an incredible place with bucket loads of natural beauty.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Gili T is that there are no motorised vehicles on the island- a refreshing change coming from the intense roads of Bali! The only methods of transport are on foot, by bicycle (of which there are tonnes of cheap rental places) or by pony and carts called Cidomos. We rented bicycles every single day and found them to be a great way to get around and see the whole island. On the first day we rode around the whole perimeter of the island- which only took around 1 hour! It was lovely to be able to ride a bike freely down the roads with no fear of cars or motorbikes and it shows how true and unspoilt these little islands still are.
By day, Gili T is perfect for soaking up the intense Indonesian sunshine on the most beautiful white sand beaches. It’s also the perfect place for snorkelling- something which we really enjoyed, Nathan even spotted a Turtle! It’s also brilliant for scuba diving if that’s more your scene and there are a fair few diving schools on the island.
By night, Gili T is known for it’s beautiful sunsets and the beach is lined with little bars which are dotted with big comfy beanbags that are perfect to enjoy the view from. After the sun has gone behind the distant mountains of Bali and Lombok, Gili T comes alive. The Island is known as a relatively new hotspot for backpackers looking to party and there are plenty of beachside bars, and it seems that the bars take turns having a weekly ‘big night’ each. We particularly enjoyed Tir Na Nog on the central strip which had great music and hilarious staff who are just as much up for partying as the tourists are!
Besides the boat journey, the only downside of Gili T is that the food wasn’t so great compared to Bali. Although it wasn’t bad at all, the food on Bali was of such an incredible quality that we were slightly disappointed that the standards just weren’t the same (which is understandable on a tiny island, but worth noting). We did manage to find some better food in the last few days- Kayu Cafe on the main strip was a particular favourite of mine for lunches and sweet treats and Casa Vintage on the beach was a really cool Jamaican themed restaurant where we had a lovely dinner. The nightly food markets are also hugely popular on Gili T. These happen on the main strip every night and you essentially have to just point at random food which has no labels and hope for the best. It’s like a blind lucky dip for food- which is pretty scary but also very exciting and relatively cheap, even by Indonesian standards.
Highlights of our personal trip were snorkelling properly for the first time (I literally felt like we were Dory and Nemo playing amongst all the little, and big, fish), meeting four of the most beautiful fluffy tiny kittens, the immaculate white beaches, and being able to ride our bikes everywhere (although I did nearly run over many other tourists).
Overall, our experience of Gili Trawangan was an incredible and unique opportunity to experience an entirely different way of life. What struck me the most about the island is how unspoilt it is, it is truly beautiful in every way. The beaches, the laid-back atmosphere and the beautiful sea which has the most stunning and vibrant marine life makes it a must visit in my opinion- however terrifying the boat may be!