Information before you go
Gili Trawangan is the biggest island of the Gilis, a small island group just of the coast of Lombok Indonesia. The other Gili islands are Gili Air and Gili Meno.
These island are easy accessible from Bali and therefore a popular tropical destination for those who want to take in the easy going life style of lazing away along the bright white beaches with crystal clear water while going snorkeling or diving.
The atmosphere seems pretty surreal here especially since cars or motorbikes are prohibited on these little islands. Everything is pretty much walking distance and if it happens to be a bit too far then there is the horse cart to take you.
Laid Back Air
Gili Trawangan is the most popular of the three and offers a large number of accommodation, restaurants and dive operators. Gili Air is far more quiet while Gili Meno is for those who want to be all by themselves on a pretty much deserted beach.
So the Gili islands will suit any mood or wishes...
There are many options for getting to the Gilis. You can choose one of the dozen fast boat companies from Sanur (3,5 hours), Sarangan (2,5 hours), Padangbai (1,5 hour) and even Amed (1 hour) to the Gilis. You can get there pretty quick depending on the boat company and how many stops it will make along the way.
Me and my girlfriends mom waiting for the boat to leave in Sanur
However don't take the time table all that seriously, especially during the low season when less boats leave for the Gilis. We booked tickets by phone and were supposed to leave on a direct boat from Sarangan. But at pick up the driver informed us that the boat was not leaving so they got us seats on another boat departing from Sanur.
Unfortunately the boat left almost an hour late, stopped in Nusa Lembongan for a while before continuing.
It felt like the whole trip took the entire day but the sight of dolphins did make the trip bearable.
If you are in Lombok then you can take a fast boat that leaves from Teluk Nare or Teluk Kodek. It will only take you 10 minutes to reach Trawangan, however it is quite expensive. If you are not in a rush and on a budget then go for the public boats that leave early in the morning from Bangsal around 9.30 and 10.30 am.
Don't take a flight from Bali to Lombok to get to the Gilis. It's a very long drive from the new Lombok airport to the harbour where the boat leaves. It is quicker to take a fast boat from Bali to the islands.
Like any other tropical island there isn't much to do on the Gilis and that is exactly what most people do there. During the day it can also get very hot here, even the sea water doesn't feel refreshing anymore.
If you are not into diving, the islands are however accessible are year round. Rainy season is theoretically from November to April, however it doesn't tend to rain as heavily around the Gilis as it does in Bali.
Generally at Trawangan the majority of the travelers just relax at one of the many restaurants and bars right at the beach while others wake up in the late afternoon after partying all night. At Gili Air and Gili Meno everything is pretty quiet so you are more likely to be relaxing at the beach your entire stay.
But besides doing basically nothing (as a holiday should be sometimes) there are a couple of things you can do:
Scuba diving or snorkeling
The waters of the Gilis are crystal clear and the coral is beautiful. But we have to admit it wasn't the best ever place where we snorkeled. We did see turtles and some great coral gardens though. Nevertheless it is definitely worth it to join one of the many tours leaving every day as the coral is beautiful here. You can of course go snorkeling off the beach of the islands. We did just that too and were surprised to see sea turtles swimming around. You can rent masks and fins at the beach.
If you go diving you will definitely see much more amazing things. Great dive spots are scattered around the islands where turtles are abundant. There are many Padi courses offered on the Gili islands as well. It is possible to go diving all year round, but if possible avoid December and January when rain can affect visibility.
Check out the islands' conservation efforts
The Gilis used to be surrounded by healthy coral reefs. Unfortunately due to tourism development and climate change the quality has decreased. Efforts, such as that from Eco Trust to prevent further destruction are taking place. Information on these programs are found all over the islands. Biorock is one of them. Biorock is an artificial reef which is created through a process in which low voltage electrical currenst are used to dissolve minerals in seawater to stimulate a structure similar to concrete. However its composition is similar to natural coral reefs and tropical sand beaches. So far it has been a success here.
An other active program is the turtle conservation program. Eggs are rescued from the trade and placed on the beaches of Gili Trawangan where they are hatched as normal. Once the hatchlings are strong, they are released. Locals and tourists are welcome to assist. If you want to learn more about the program you can find information and little baby turtles north of the jetty.
Biking around the island
There is a path on Trawangan that will take you around the entire island. You can either rent a bike and go on a 2 to 3 hour bike trip. It's a fun way to see more of the island and discover many other stunning beaches which are much quieter then the ones near the jetty.
The path is not always paved so be aware that you need to be a bit fit and that you might have to get off your bike and walk every now and then. Bring a big bottle of water.
Go on a horse cart ride
If you prefer to continue the easy going life style yet want to see more of the island you can leave the bike as it is and hop on one of the many horse cart rides.
They will whisk you away and trot you around the whole island within an hour. Kids will have great fun too.
Visit the other Gili islands
The three Gili islands are very close from each other, some just a couple of minutes away. If you feel like the island is becoming too small, you can always go and visit the other islands nearby.
Fast boats leave on a certain schedule but if you ask around you can easily find a boat to take you island hopping.
A large group of people come to Trawangan to party. There are even party boats where wild dance parties are organized. On the island itself bars and restaurants are located right at the beach and are open till 6.30 am. But unlike Kuta Bali, Legian or Seminyak everything is more relaxed here. People walk from one place to another enjoying themselves.
The nice thing about the nightlife here is that if you don't want anything to do with it, it's not that hard to avoid it. Just make sure you stay a bit away from the main street as the music might be loud.
As mentioned there is much more choice in restaurants on Trawangan then at Air and Meno. At the two smaller islands you can eat at the resorts and a couple of restaurants while at Trawangan you can have everything you want. Food is really good here, especially the fresh fish.
Good food and great laughs at Scallys Restaurant
Food and drinks are pretty expensive though as everything is brought in by boat from Lombok. But if you want to save some then head to the Trawangan jetty in the evening. This is probably the most busiest place to eat on the entire island.
Local delights at the many warungs near the Jetty
Here you can find local warungs serving delicious Indonesian food. From satay, grilled fish, gado gado, nasi campur to local treats and sweets. You name it. The best place to discover the tasty Indonesian cuisine.
Just like Bali, the great thing about the Gilis is that there is an accommodation for everybody. Whether you want to stay low key in a bamboo shack, be comfortable in a nice bungalow or prefer luxury in a villa or resort with a stunning pool. It is all possible on the three islands.
At Gili Meno you have budget accommodation such as Melias Child Bungalow, Sunset Gecko starting of from US$30, mid range accommodation such as the Shack 58&59 but you can find affordable luxury for US$150 and more at Tropical Hideaway and Melati House.
The choice at Gili Air and Trawangan are even more larger and diverse. The further you stay from the main jetty the more quiet it will be. Especially for Trawangan where you feel almost the only one if you are staying on the other side of the island.
On both islands you can go for luxury resorts on Gili Trawangan such as KoKoMo resort, the beautiful Gili Eco Villas and Pondok Santi Estate where rooms are above US$150 or you can head to the mid range Martas Hotel, Scallywags Resort, Karma Kayak and the Manta Dive and Bungalows.
Gili Eco Villas
Popular accommodation on Gili Air are Segar Villages, Gasa Mio Villas, Chill out Bungalow and Manta Dive Gili Air Resort. Of which the latter is a good mid range accommodation.
If you want to spend your money on something else other then accommodation then you can find many small home stays near the Trawangan jetty.
Credit cards are accepted at most big resorts. If you head to Air or Meno bring enough cash as there are no ATMs there, unlike Trawangan where you can find several along the 'main road' near the Jetty and Villa Ombak resort.
Wifi is available as well at most accommodations and restaurants.
There are a few clinics on Trawangan. One belongs to the Villa Ombak resort but you also have the Trawangan Clinic Center located north of the jetty.
The Gilis are small islands where there is hardly any rain. So as you can imagine the islands are suffering from the large number of accommodations and visitors. There is even boats coming from Lombok transporting freshwater daily. islands’ conservation efforts
Therefore the water at the Gilis can be somewhat salty when taking a shower and most swimming pools have salt water too. Don't complain, enjoy it! Life should be different when on a holiday.
Last but not least the Gilis are becoming known for their great nightlife. Soft drugs and alcohol are largely available. Please take lots of care when consuming them.
Magic Mushrooms sold at a local warung on the Gilis
Recently there has been many cases of methanol poisoning on the Gili islands. Methanol is added to locally produced liquor. It can severely harm you and even kill you. Many foreign travelers have died after consuming liquor that had been contaminated. So be careful!
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Now and then people send us inspiring emails and this generates even more enthusiasm to share all of the things we know about this lovely island in the hope that you can plan your tropical holiday properly and have as such a great time as we always have. Hope to see you there!
When I wrote the mail I never really expected a reply. I might have expected a computer generated but never a personally written one. The information you provided is invaluable, thank you so very much. I have been using your website as a bible through Bali. Through your recommendation, I will be heading to Ubud then follow the sightseeing route to the coast of Candidasa.
WOW...what an awesome website. I could only dream that there would be a website like this for all our travel destinations! You guys have done an fabulous job and now, I am sooo excited about our upcoming trip to Bali. To be honest, I wasn't quite sure Bali was the place for us considering some of the travel warnings (we are Americans). But I can tell from your experiences that the Bali people are so very kind and peaceful.
hi and congratulations on the blog it s brilliant and helpful....we are going to Bali in September with my family (including 2 little girls) so we need to have nice spaceous rooms garden and pool access rooms preferably in Semikyak but not too far from it all...I hope you can recommend a great place thats not full of Australian crowds as we like meeting people from other countries.
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