The Gili Islands located just off the coast of Lombok is an easily accessible paradise yet equally remote in its personality and way of life. Whilst recent development due to increased tourism has brought a more refined feel to the three islands, relative to the expansion in Lombok and Bali the Gilis is still every bit the simple and slow utopia it was when backpackers first arrived in the 1980’s.
The boat ride we took from Padangbai, which need not cost you more than 250,000Rp was idyllic. Dolphins floated by the portside as the fast cat cut through the calm seas with barely a ripple in sight. To our left Gunung Agung stood as imposing as ever as the greens mixed with the barren browns of the Amed Coast. Ahead of us we could see fishing boats making their way across the ocean and the island of Gili Trawangan came into view, it even smaller than we had imagined.
As we got off the boat, all the passengers bags huddled in a pile on the white sand we jumped and landed with the clear water lapping at our toes. Ahead of us were Cidomos, the local horse and carts used predominantly to ferry the island’s inhabitants around. The clatter of the horse shoes against the firm dirt road was every bit as ancient and awesome as you could imagine.
With no noise of cars and trains just the horse and carts tumbling by and the water tapping against the side of the island we walked to our accommodation soaking in the atmosphere that was loud with the sounds of peace, of people relaxing without a care in the world.
Gili Trawangan can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be with accommodation spanning from $10US for a bed and a bathroom to around $200US a night for much more. We simply rocked up and found ourselves a room just 20 metres from the water paying next to nothing a night.
There are many things to do on Gili Trawangan and after settling in a lazy on the beach taking in the views of Gili Meno just across the water it was time to explore the Gilis on a glass bottom boat and snorkel with the turtles.
Prices for these trips are pretty cheap and you won’t have to pay more than 150,000Rp for a decent day trip. Like always, check in with the place you are staying at and see if they can give you an even better price, this will usually be the case. Our day trip lasted from the late morning and well into the afternoon leaving us bot exhausted but very satisfied.
The boat took us around to five spots between all three islands giving us ample time to explore the array of coral, the diverse animal life and the chance to swim alongside some turtles. This was the first time I had been able to do so and it was an amazing experience. Most day trips will have a stopover on Gili Air for lunch but remember the cost of food will most likely not be included as was the case with our trip…so no lunch for us. But this gives you a great chance to meet the people on your boat, both the locals and the travellers.
As you spend time on Gili T you will begin to see many travellers hiring bikes and riding around the island. This takes around an hour, although the bike path isn’t always a path rather just sandy banks. The best time to do this ride which will take you to the quieter northern half of the island is at sunset. We hired our bikes and by the time the sun was falling we lying down on the untouched sands in perfect quiet. Nothing was around us but the empty paddocks behind and the mix of gold and purples on the horizon.
Eating on the island is usually not a problem though prices can be inflated due to everything having to be imported from Lombok. One night this put me in a pickle as the first three things I asked for were not available on the particular day. Maybe that’s just bad luck but it can happen. Same goes for electricity which in the high season can be put under a lot of stress. So whilst the Gilis have developed they have only come so far…we sure do hope it stays that way though.
Gili T is known for its backpacker vibe and hence offers a lot after dark for those keen for a party. DJs camp out on the beach and the beer flows, whilst it is quite tamer than Phi Phi or Koh Phangan it is better for it. Whilst bars like Rudys and Tir Na Nog, an Irish bar are the places to go to sit back and enjoy some drinks before the party heats up.
In the morning the island wakes with a peaceful hangover, there’s no messy beach or passed out revellers jut harmony and beauty in abundance. Fast cats take home travellers and drop off new ones, whilst glass bottom boats take the early birds for a dive. Whilst there is much to do in the Gilis, less is always more so enjoy the sun baked sands and the peaceful existence so far from the commercialised Kuta and the engines of Denpasar.