Located just off the northwest coast of Lombok, the Gili Islands; Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan are rapidly becoming one of the most popular destinations for travelers of all ages. They are now easily accessible direct from Bali with Fast Boat, like Golden Queen.
All three islands feature; superb, white sandy beaches, crystal clear water, spectacular coral reefs, and the best snorkeling and diving. Visitors from all over the world are attracted to the simple pleasures of sun, snorkeling, diving, beautiful beaches, and socializing.
The absence of cars, motorcycles, and hawkers adds greatly to the leisure of staying on the Gilis – although there is now a wide range of accommodation available, the islands have maintained the lazy rustic charms of a tropical paradise.
Getting There & Away
We highly recommend visitors to use a Private Transfer Service to avoid hussle and bustle at Bangsal (public harbour to gili islands). Local street vendors who try to sells things with pushing and pressure, or those who grab your luggage and ask too much for a porter service could be annoying. Paying a little extra for a comfort and easy settlement for a wonderful holiday break is worth it, especially those who travel with kids.
Private Transfer Service includes pick up, meeting and greeting service at the airport/seaport/hotel, land transportation with fully air-con deluxe coaches, private boat charter, and check in assistances at the hotel. To get around the isle, the only means of transport are Cidomos, horse drawn carriages. Bicycle rentals are available too. Expect higher prices for most things there since all food and goods must be brought over from the mainland.
Traveling between the islands requires either catching the infrequent shuttle boats or chartering one to take you across. The distances between the islands may seem swimmable, but do not attempt it — the currents can be fierce and several backpackers have died trying.
The Natives & History
A few years ago, sailors from Bugis, Mandar and Makassar (Sulawesi) occupied Gili Air and establish coconuts plantation and expand the fishing activities.
As visitors started to visit Lombok and some came to the Gilis on day trips and then began to stay for longer periods in local homes. The islands have become enormously popular. Their popularity may be a problem, as numbers sometime exceed the available rooms and put pressure on the island environment, especially the supply of fresh water and the capacity of septic system to cope with waste and there is always pressure to build more and better facilities.
Big business interests are trying to cash in on the popularity of the Gilis and the local government is keen to promote upmarket tourist development.
Gili Air and Gili Meno retained much of their unspoilt quality, but Gili Trawangan has become more touristy and pricy. The islanders are majority Muslims and visitors should respect their sensibilities. In particular, topless or nude sunbathing is offensive to them, even though they won’t say so directly. Away from Beach, it is polite for women to cover their shoulders and thighs. Many visitors are appallingly insensitive to local standards and so many of them walk around in skimpy clothing that it’s easy to get impression that the local people don’t mind anymore. In fact, they do.
The development for the last five years has change the island’s look, especially Gili Trawangan. Accommodation tariffs on today’s range for a simple room with fan are from between IDR 150,000.00 (equivalent to USD $12.00) to IDR 250,000.00 (USD $22.00) per night , to an air-con bungalows style with hot water, in comfortable resort-style settings at up to USD $350.00 per night and everything in between, depending on the seasonal price fluctuations. Demand often outstrips supply, so prices tend to be noticeably higher than on Bali or Lombok. Accommodation On Gili Islands, Private Villas, Boutique Resort, Budget Hotels
While the island is busiest from May through August, the quieter off-season from January to April provides a better opportunity to enjoy all the islet has to offer.
Electricity and Communication
Electricity supply are now available on all the three Gilis. The electrical voltage in Indonesia is 220 Volt, if you bring any devices which require recharged at lower voltage (110 Volt) bring an electrical voltage converter or ask the hotel where you stay for STAVOLT.
The islands have no supplies of fresh water and very spotty electricity supply; it’s not uncommon for power to be off for hours at a time. Most upmarket hotels, restaurants and dive shops have generators for the back up.
Mobile phone towers ensure you’re never out of touch, and there are several Internet cafes on Trawangan for feeding your Internet addiction, although connection speeds tend to be painfully slow. Printing is possible in a few Internet cafés and you can even hook up your laptop in some.
There is now a Bank Mandiri ATM on Gili Trawangan, in front of the Vila Ombak Hotel, but it’s not always working so it’s better to bring along enough rupiah to tide you over. The rates offered by moneychangers are noticeably poorer than on the mainland. Credit cards are accepted by some of the more upmarket places and all dive shops; some will also arrange credit card advances, but with hefty fees on the order of 7-10%. For your own safety, deposit valuable items at the reception where you’re staying at. Carry only small cash and necessary items.
Health and Medical
Sanitation has improved on the islands. There are two health centers on Gili Trawangan; 1) located near the soccer fields for locals and 2) located in Villa Ombak with better facilities for Tourist.
Gili Meno also now have a health centre which funded by local’s businesses. Gili Air also have a health centre located near the main village. The health centre is known locally as “Puskesmas”. To stay fit and healthy, always drink from bottled water or boiled water and avoid eating raw foods or salads from small non-reputable restaurants, because the water might not be sterilized.
True to the hippie vibe, magic mushrooms are widely available and openly advertised. Their legality is questionable, as are any physical and psychological effects.
Small but annoying jellyfish are common in the waters around the Gilis during August only, so wearing a full-length wetsuit or surf skin in the water is advisable.
There are no Police Station or Military Post on the islands, but there is a small police station in Bangsal harbor. The Islands funded non-uniformed community policing group, SATGAS, ensures visitor’s security and safety. In the rare event of someone breaking the law or disturbing tourists, perpetrators are handed over to Police on Lombok and face banishment from the island for up to five years.
There are many options for an enjoyable holiday on the islands. You can rent snorkeling equipment, join a diving course, rent a kayak, go fishing, or take a glass bottom boat to see the magnificent coral reefs and fishes. There are no sights as such on the islands themselves, but the snorkeling and diving all around is a major draw.
The locals living on the island are pretty interesting. If you walk behind the main road you will see how the locals live which is much different then the beautiful bungalows the tourists stay in.
There are lots of quality scuba diving operations on all the islands. The coral around the islands is good for snorkeling, which can be reach from the shore. See rays and giant clams. A must see: Turtles Point, Meno Wall, Shark (harmless) Point. Dive Schools available on all the islands with many dive programs to choose, from beginners to advanced technical dives.
While divers are able to regularly swim with black tip, those who prefer to just drifts in the currents with a snorkel, fins and mask are never left disappointed by the more than 6,000 species of marine life living just off-shore.
Fishing is one of the highlight activities on the islands. Deep/bottom fishing remain the best on north west of Gili Trawangan. Carry your own equipment if you’re not familiar with the traditional-style of fishing.