All about the Gili Islands
Travelling to/from Gili’s
Please read my comprehensive guide HERE.
I recommend showing up and accepting a room from someone walking around offering rooms. This means you can negotiate the price and can see the room before you commit to it. It will most likely be a nice private double room with an en suite for 200,000 IDR (wifi and a/c inc). If you feel more comfortable organising a place in advance, [booking.com] is my favourite website and it ranges from cheap, basic hostels or guesthouses to upmarket hotels and villas. From my own experience and hearing from others, the accommodation booked prior to arrival often was not as description/photos and pricey compared to the places you rock up to.
Bicycles or the pony drawn carts (although, I would personally be wary to support this).
Gili Trawangan (T)
The first Gili Island I visited was Gili T. This is supposedly the party island and that is certainly accurate. I stayed for about 4 days which was more than enough since it only takes about 1 hour to cycle around the whole island. It is the biggest of the three famous Gili’s. There are many bars, restaurants and shops along the bustling main strip to the East side. The rest of the Island has a fabulous beach running the whole way round it with slightly quieter bars, restaurants and hotels. Here, on the West side, is where you will find the famous swings in the water and can take your beautiful sunset shot. Head North East and you will reach Turtle Point, where hiring snorkel and flippers allows you to swim with the turtles. This was quite busy when we were there and again, for animal cruelty reasons, I am not entirely sure how ethical it is. If you are looking for a big party, make sure you do not go to Gili T during Ramadan, as the bars close at 12am. Usually the party scene is wild and everything goes on until 3 or 4am.
Gili Air (A)
For some people, Gili A provides a much better balance for a stay. This is because it is slightly quieter and smaller than Gili T but has slightly more of a scene than Gili M. I walked around it in an hour so it is very small but all the way round it has cute little rustic bars and hotels. The beaches are beautiful and the view of the adjacent Gili Islands and Bali, on one side, and Lombok on the other is phenomenal.
There is no better place to go for food than the Night Markets. I am not sure if they have a night market on Gili A or M, however, Gili T definitely has one. Here they serve Nasi Campur, a traditional Indonesian dish, which translates to mixed rice. There are many different plates of food with meat (chicken, beef, fish etc), tempe (soy bean yummy crunchy stuff), curry, eggs, rendang, vegetables and so much more. You point to everything you would like and they generously pile it up on your plate (25,000-50,000 IDR depending on what/how much you have). The other place on Gili T which is great, is The Banyon Tree. This is a lovely little café located along the main strip and they serve only vegetarian food which is delicious. They do a vegetarian Nasi campur, during the day, which is cheap (25,000 IDR), healthy and filling. Their coffee is probably the best on Gili T also. The place I ate at in Gili Air was Coffee and Thyme and the food here was yummy and the coffee was great.
Diving: Diversia Dive Centre, Gili T
I would highly recommend trying out the diving around the Gili’s. It does not matter which Gili you dive from as they are so close together and the dive companies go to the best sites, for that day, regardless of which Island you are on. There is a standard price for dive sessions and so cost wise, it does not matter who you book with. The company I went with was Diversia and I couldn’t recommend them more. All instructors were friendly, helpful and worked really hard for us. It was located along the main strip near all the other Dive Centres. I am PADI advanced certified and my friend had no qualifications – after he had a practice pool session, Diversia were happy to let us go on a dive together to 12m, which was great. On the way home we could sit out on the sundeck roof which was fun and when we got back the instructors/guides helped us fill out our log books. All in all, we had a fantastic experience with this company. As for the diving itself, it was spectacular. The biodiversity was unbelievable - we saw a baby shark, lots of turtles, a huge array of fish species (inc. the fabulous trigger fish) and beautiful coral. I did a couple of advanced dives to 30m which I always love doing as it is so exciting being so deep.