Everyone I spoke to when planning my trip to Bali recommended that I spend less time in Bali and more time in the Gili islands. Even though it was a mission and a half to reach the set of 3 islands, situated next to Lombok, I sure am glad I took their advice.
The Gilis are what Bali was in the pre-tourist boom era. The 3 islands are Gili Tarwangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. Gili T is the biggest of the 3 and the one located the furthest away from the mainland. It’s a 3 hour speedboat journey from Bali and quite expensive at $150 for each way. But these islands are paradise!
Being the biggest of the three, Gili T is the most populated with beachside shops, homestays and bungalows. But being the biggest just means it takes about an hour or two to ride around the island in a bicycle, rathar than get lost in the uncharted paths of Gili Meno (the least populated and also known as honeymoon island). You can see the islands from one another because that is how closely they are located, but don’t try to swim across. That’s just stupid.
secluded beaches all around
We arrived knowing that these islands had no motored transportation. Bicycles and horse (pony) buggies are the only way to get around. I was intrigued by the thought, and add to that the Gili’s fame of mushroom shakes! This was what my dreams are made of!
Life was definitely slow paced for the next 3 days.
Days consisted of laying on of the many secluded beaches where we would be the only ones there, with a hut selling food and cool Bintang beers. Snorkel gear is available for rental at the many roadside stands for $3 a day. After soaking up the immensely hot sun, the only other option is to jump into the waves and explore the amazing sea life. The visibility is better than I have ever come across scuba diving. I was impressed!
By night the party nights on the island are Mondays and Wednesdays. There are only a few bars on Gili T with one featuring a live reggae band. The better option for my friends and I were to just chill out by the beach at night, staring at the star filled sky and just soaking this paradise all in. It was extremely refreshing and surreal.
When you get bored of snorkelling offshore of the island, you can take a boat to nearby spots to snorkel as well. We spent half a day on a glass bottom boat and on this day of snorkelling I saw two sea turtles! We also had a stop off on Gili Air, the smallest of the 3 islands and definitely more secluded than Gili T. It’s even further rugged and raw, the beauty of the landscape and its people is overwhelming to say the least. The community is so far removed from everything that I know, yet they are so content.
On the beach by night we hung out with some locals who mainly come to these islands from work, and they originate from Lombok. Indonesians are extremely kind, welcoming and friendly. And of course, laid back. We were often greeted with ‘Welcome home!‘.. what a wonderful attitude!
Although pretty secluded Gili T isn’t very expensive for the average backpacker due to very basic accommodations. An open air bungalow is $30 a night (and can be easily shared by 2-3 people). Other than basic bungalows, the island is filled with 5 star hotel resorts that are starting to pop up quickly. One end remains budget with the other end catering to European families. It’s sad that everything beautiful in the world is being ruined by money.
One thing I know for sure – the Gilis are changing and you gotta hit this place up sooner than later!