For those looking to escape the tourist driven streets of Bali, or wanting to embark on a quick trip to break up their holiday in Indonesia, might we just tempt you with a trip to the Gili Islands. Located just a short 90-minute fast boat ride from Benoa (Sanur) Harbour, are three islands are similar in their barefoot luxury lifestyle appeal and yet each unique in their own right. Their ‘no news no shoes’ approach draws you in when you simply are looking to switch off and escape to a dreamy island paradise.
Image above: Gili Air (left), Gili Meno (centre), and Gili Trawangan (right)
Barefoot Island Hopping
Although this is not our first time to the Gili Islands, every time we visit; just like parents not wanting to admit who is their favourite child; we constantly jump from island to island when deciding which we like best. To make it easier, we visited all three in the one day, to ensure we didn’t play favourites, however, we would recommend staying a few days to really immerse yourself in the no frills lifestyle.
For me, Gili Air was my ideal island paradise filled with relaxed island vibe style beach clubs (when we say beach clubs, think Sunday’s Beach Club, with a more relaxed approach), a slower-paced lifestyle and a vast array of restaurants, bars and local friendly warungs to explore. Oozing a boho-chic style, we weren’t the only ones drooling over the select accommodation options found on the island.
**Keep a lookout for our new found favourite villas we will be adding in the coming months.
The quiet and demure island of the three is Gili Meno. Known as a favourite destination for honeymooners and nomads wanting to leave the stresses and devices of day to day life to experience a desert island feel. This island definitely oozes a low key appeal with a particularly laid-back approach to most facets of life except for its one fabulous hangout – Karma Beach; a relaxed island-style beach club. Gili Meno’s main drawcards are the white sandy beaches, turtle point (where the turtles are known to reach 1m wide and come in bales), colourful snorkelling reefs and the salt lake where fragrant flora and fauna can be found. Though accommodation options are limited, you’ll find we might be adding some chic villas soon.
Gili Trawangan (A.k.a. Gili T)
The most boisterous child of the three, this island is the most frequented by nomads and those that want to be close to the action. Although this is the most inhabited of the three islands, you will find it is still quiet and laid-back in comparison to the shores of Bali. On the harbour side of the island is where all the action happens – this is where cute boutiques, delicious gelato and an endless array of diving crews are stationed.
Bob up and down in the turquoise water on the shoreline and you will soon find yourself meeting friendly faces wanting to share with you their underwater adventures of the day. If you are looking for the vibes, yet wanting to stay away from the party, we suggest hopping on a bike or horse and cart and adventuring a little bit away from the harbour. This is where you will find more deserted beaches, quieter restaurants and cute warungs to dine after a day spent exploring.
Just as the tide rises and falls, so does the frequency of divers visiting the Gili Islands to explore the beauty of under the sea. Divers frequently know about the popular dive sites in Amed, Nusa Penida and West Bali, however, are introduced to the abundance of sea life sanctuaries booming in the Gili Islands. With a conservation approach to diving, the community on the islands encourage a look but don’t touch rule which encourages the curiosity of the sealife whilst reminding divers to exist as a visitor in their space. Some of the most well known dive sites are:
- Turtle Heaven – Gili Meno
- Bounty Wreck – Gill Meno
- Frogfish Point – Gili Air
- Air Wall – Gili Air
- Shark Point – Gili Trawangan
Whilst there is an abundance of dive sites around the islands that are mostly only a short 10-minute boat ride away, there is also a few underwater statues that have been discovered. Gaining social media attention is the Bask Nest Underwater Statues found just off the coast between Gili Trawagan and Gili Meno.
White Sandy Beaches
It doesn’t get much more relaxing than soaking in the sun rays of the tropics with a fresh coconut in hand. Add to that pristine alluring turquoise waters, an abundance of white sandy beaches dotted with colourful beach loungers and we would call that paradise – otherwise known as the Gili’s. As all the best things come in threes, each of the well-known Gili Islands more than deliver with pristine beaches that make you want to plant your toes-in-the-sand and settle into relaxed island vibes. Whilst all of the islands are home to their own stretches of paradise, we would have to rate the shores as Gili Meno the clearest purely for its desert island feel.
Each of the Gili Islands offer the same modes of transport to get from one end to the other. Due to their size you are able to navigate your way by foot, cimodo (horse and cart), bicycle or electric scooter (**these are mostly just used by the locals) from tip to tip in less than one hour. You will not that we did not mention cars or motorbikes; this is because they are not allowed on the island. Whether you are wanting to cycle your way around the island or travel by cimodo – both are readily available for you to hire for a small fee. Some of our villas offer complimentary bicycles, whilst if you are booking with Vilondo, our concierge team can arrange these to be ready for you upon arrival.
You will also notice a huge decrease in single use plastic. This is because of a wide spread push in Indonesia to ban single use plastic. Bali was the first to adopt and implement this as a law, and we are feeling rumblings that Lombok and surrounding islands will be next.
Hanging Ten – Surfing the Gili’s
Most often grouped together as surfing “The Gili’s”, each of the islands surf breaks are unique in their quality, speed, direction and popularity. Whilst one of their main appeals is the advantage of not battling the large crowds so often found in Bali, they also offer crystal clear waters, desert island vibes and varying levels of experience required.
As with most surfing cultures you will find the best breaks when going with the ‘locals’. The rumours are true, on good days when the swells are up, those looking for ‘secrets’ or ‘hidden’ spots will be rewarded with fast, deep barrels and long rides on the reefs. The most consistent time of year being in wet season from January to May where the swells can reach from 3 to 6 ft.
Where to next? I think we may have answered that question above – one of the Gili Islands of course. Fill in the form below to find out more information on our villas available in Lombok.