The Gili Islands are a group of 3 tiny islands just off the coast of Lombok and a couple hours boat ride from Bali. Each of the islands are small enough to walk around within a couple of hours (depending on how many stops you make along the way). We based ourselves on Gili Trawangan, which is the largest, busiest and most developed of the 3 islands. It’s also the most popular for backpackers and those looking for nightlife. The other 2 islands are known for being the ‘honeymoon island’ – Gili Meno, and the ‘local island’ – Gili Air. The islands also have no automobiles so the only mode of transport you’ll be taking will be on foot, bicycle or horse and cart.
Things to Do:
1. Explore the Island on Bikes
A lot of hotels will offer complimentary bicycle rentals, so make the most of this and use them to explore the island. While it would probably take you less than an hour to cycle the circumference of the island, we spent the better half of a morning stopping at each of the beaches before most of the island had even woken up. If you don’t like bike riding you can of course walk or take one of the horse and carts. One photo you can’t leave the island without is of the famous swings Gili Trawangan has become synonymous with. When I visited a couple of years ago there were only a few of them, now it seems every beachfront hotel and restaurant have built their own swing or hammock in the water.
2. Hire a Boat to Explore the Other Gili Islands
This was definitely the highlight of my time on the Gili Islands. Having been to Gili Trawangan a few years prior and not having had the chance to explore the other islands, I wanted to make sure I visited Gili Air and Gili Meno on this trip. In fact I wish I had of had more time to actually stay on the other islands to really explore them, but for this visit a day trip was going to have to suffice.
We hired a private boat for 4 hours with a local man who brought along his adorable 6 year old and 10 year old sons, both who looked to be in training to take over the family business. We took the boat around both Gili Air and Gili Meno, stopping at a few of the beaches and along the coast at some of the popular snorkel spots. The coral reef wasn’t all that impressive when compared to places like the Great Barrier Reef, but I did love the turtle spotting. Luckily the 10-year boy came snorkelling with me, as I don’t think I would have spotted any turtles otherwise (they’re very good at camouflaging against the coral). I also would never have been able to work out which boat was mine with how far I’d drifted with the current.
Where to Stay: Les Villas Ottalia
We spent 2 nights at Les Villas Ottalia enjoying a 2-bedroom pool villa in the center of the island. It’s located in a rather rural area where the locals will go out of their way to stop and say hello to you, while also asking where you’re going and offering any assistance or directions. It took us about 20 minutes to walk to the main part of town on the island, which is where the pier is and the majority of restaurants, shops and accommodation. You can also rent bicycles from the hotel or take a horse and cart for 100,000 IDR. It’s important to be aware that the Gili islands are not part of Bali so the majority of the population (like most of Indonesia) is Muslim. This means you will inevitably be woken up each morning during their 5am call to prayer, which goes on for about 15 minutes. You’ll also hear the call to prayer multiple times throughout the day, and with a mosque located right next door to the villas it’s very hard to escape the noise. Truth be told, with so many mosques throughout the island it can be difficult to find accommodation where you won’t hear the daily calls to prayer. Other than the 5am wake up call, the resort has a very tropical island vibe with lush gardens and palm trees surrounding each villa and the entire property. While this isn’t necessarily a luxury villa resort, it does offer pool villas at much more affordable prices than what you might find in Bali. So it’s a great place to experience villa life without breaking your budget. If you spend most of your day lounging on the day bed or on the floating beanbags in your own private swimming pool, then you will definitely get your money’s worth.
With thanks to Les Villas Ottalia for welcoming me to their hotel. As always, all opinions expressed remain my own.