Gili Islands, Indonesia

Welcome to Gili Trawangan (or Gili T) one of my favourite little islands in the world!  Gili T is one of three islands known as the Gili’s.  Gili T is the largest and most happening island; followed by Gili Meno (the second island) and finally Gili Air (the third island).   The Gili Islands are sandwiched between Bali and Lombok in the Indonesian archipelago.

Gili Trawangan Beach

There are so many incredible things to do on Gili Trawangan and the island is unbelievably beautiful!  From snorkelling with fish and turtles every day, eating delicious food, and stunning sunsets you will honestly never want to leave Gili T.

My trip to Gili T was courtesy of an almost two hour bus ride from Kuta to the harbour town of Pantai Lebih on the East Coast.  From here I took a high speed ferry crossing to Gili T.  The ferry takes around an hour and a half on Putri island Fast Boat The fast boat costs around 350,000IDR (GB£18/US$25).   

 Putri Island Fast Boat  by My Passport to Shangrila

The boat will dock on the beaches at Gili Trawangan then sail’s to Gili Air (the third of the three islands), before heading back to Bali island.

One thing you will notice on the Gili Islands there are no motor vehicles allowed.  To get about you either have to catch a lift on the numerous horse and carts or rent a bicycle – which is alot of fun!!

There are plenty of bike hire places along the main strip near the docks, however, I discovered most hotels offer bikes for use by residents.  Be warned – Gili T at peak times when the fast boats dock can be quite congested….for an island more bigger than 2 miles in circumference!

Gili T Main Street   by My Passport to Shangrila

There is plenty of accommodation to find on Gili T depending on your budget.  The best place to stay for snorkelling and sunsets are to the north of the island.  I stayed at the 3* BELUKAR RESORT.  Accommodation are beautifully decorated bungalows all facing a swimming pool.  Prices are roughly £60 p/n, including breakfast.  From the harbour I hired a bicycle for 2 days and rode to the hotel that took around 15 minutes.

Entrance to the Belukar Resort

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Poolside Bungalows at Belukar Resort

The Gili Islands are known for amazing scuba diving, snorkelling, and beautiful underwater life.  This should be number one on your list of things to do.  Head to the North of the island where the waters are calmer and crystal clear.  Top tip:  Keep a look out for the anchored diving boats.  They will give a great indication to the best dive sites.  For diving with the turtles make sure you spend some time on Gili Meno.

Of all my travels in South East Asia, I strongly believe that the sunsets in the Gili Islands are by far the most beautiful.

Sunset on Gili T  by My Passport to Shangrila

All along the West side of Gili T you will find swings in the Ocean.  Make sure you allow time for one of these shots!

Ocean Swings on Gili T

You have to eat at the Gili Trawangan night market at least once during your time on the island.  The food is fresh, cheap, and incredible.

Gili T Night Market

The night market is not terribly big and really is more of a food market as to the literal sense of a market selling trinkets and souvenirs.  Near to the market is a lovely restaurant located more or less on the beach named Natys.  Here you can choose fresh seafood, chicken or beef dishes, or mixed meat kebabs all served by a buffet style island of salad, pasta, potatoes and vegetables.

Gili T is not a huge island and can be walked in 2.5 hours.  There are no cars or motorbikes on the island, so you will see everyone riding around on bicycle.  This island is a great place to take a leisurely ride and see the entire place.  The island is flat so is easily ridden, however, the roads are full of pot-holes and can often change from tarmac to cobbles to sand.

If you use your bike of an night time just be mindful there is little way of street lighting.  I had to use the torch app on my mobile phone as the only means of lighting the road in front of me.  

Once the sun sets at various points along the beach you will find open air cinemas.  Films are projected onto a screen with bean bags to sit on.  Most of the places are free, but the movie on the beach at Pearl Beach Lounge costs 50,000IDR.

Most of the movies are played at 7:00 P.M and 9:00 P.M.  It is a great way to spend a night for those who do not feel like partying.

There is little in the way of street lighting on Gili Trawangan it offers an incredible glimpse of the night sky.   Living in the Northern hemisphere I am not subject to seeing the stars of the Southern hemisphere and star gazing is a great way to pass the time.  I was rather excited to see the Southern Cross (depicted on the Australian flag) and for those a little more photography savvy can set their camera lens to slow shutter speed to capture a glimpse of the centre of our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

Whatever your reasons for visiting these islands you will not leave disappointed.   The islands offer a great escape form the hustle of Bali and Lombok.  If you have time ensure you spend a few days exploring all three islands.  That was my only regret.