The first time we visited Indonesia we decided to focus on getting to know Bali and Java well. The reason? Indonesia is a huge country with thousands and thousands of islands and unique places that make you want to explore … but the weather was what it was. Of course, we left with a certainty: we would return to meet one of those Asian paradises that all travelers talk about … the Gili Islands .
And here we are, with a promise fulfilled, a few magical sunsets in my pocket and the desire to return again to this small Indonesian wonder.
If you are going to travel to the Gili Islands, take note of what we are going to tell you next…
What to do in Gili Islands – Keep on your bucket list
To be in paradise without exploring what it hides under its waters? Nah, it’s not a good idea! So put on your glasses, grab a snorkel tube and dive into the crystal clear waters of Gili. Now we must be honest: we were not very lucky and we did not find what we were looking for: they say that in the waters of Gili you can see turtles with relative ease, we did not see one :-p (we must be the only gili who have not seen Gili turtles).
You can snorkel for free directly from the beach or by hiring an excursion that takes you to visit the three islands for about € 15 (offers are not lacking). The best areas for snorkeling for free in Gili Trawangan are :
- In the northeast part . Although it is full of boats, it is the easiest area for snorkeling, the water covers quickly (not like in the west zone) and, although in the area closest to the beach there are only dead corals and little life, if you move away little more towards the deepest area you will find more diversity. It is also the area where it is apparently easier to see turtles … luck!
- In the northwestern part . There is a coral reef in this part, although to get there you have to go through a very shallow area full of dead corals. It is not as accessible as the previous one but the effort will have been worth it if the seabed is cool.
It is not necessary that you bring your snorkeling equipment, on the island you can easily find it for rent or even in the accommodation you can have it for free. We at the Marta´s Hotel had several masks and tubes (although they were not of great quality) for free.
Three islands excursion
Although if you really want to make the most of your stay in the Gili, it is best to join one of these tours that take you to explore different snorkeling areas across the three islands. They usually make these stops:
- The first stop is usually off the west coast of Gili Meno , with corals and goldfish.
- The second stop is along the east coast of Gili Meno , where with luck you can see some turtle.
- The last stop is the southern part of Gili Air , perhaps where you will find the most underwater life. In Gili Air is also where you take advantage to eat.
Tours can be hired at a lot of agencies from about IDR 150-200,000 (about € 10-15) and include food and mask and tube. In principle, the most expensive are those that carry fewer people and can be something more “exclusive”.
Visit the three islands for free
But you can also do it for free! Why stay on an island when the other two are a short ferry ride away? Perhaps due to lack of time (as in our case) … Perhaps … but listen to our advice: don’t go to Gili in a hurry! If you can dedicate them (at least) one week.
Local ferries to go from one island to another usually cost about 45,000 IDR and take no more than 20-30 minutes. Find out about the schedules at the port!
Then don’t miss how to get to Gili islands from Bali
Is one of the list WHAT TO DO IN GILI ISLANDS. Although the problem with coral death in Indonesia is extreme, the marine life of the Gili Islands is still very interesting. If you like diving this may be your little paradise: a few surprises, turtles, thousands of colored fish, blankets and even sharks are waiting for you!
If you want to book your diving in advance, you should not have problems reserving it directly on the islands and it will surely come out somewhat cheaper.
Rent a bike and surround the island
It is the best way to move! Go to the island that you go, you will not have problems in renting a bike for an entire ride … you can even do it on foot (although with the calorazo that it does we do not recommend it). This way you will be able to know each and every corner of the place. If you decide to go to Trawangan, the island we visit, check out the end of the article where you have a map with the most interesting areas. The entire turn can be done in a couple of hours with stops and almost entirely done by dirt roads (although on some occasion you have to disassemble and continue on foot, but nothing complicated).
There are many shops where you can rent a bike for 50-60,000 IDR per day (about € 3-4).
And go through it too!
In the interior of the island some interesting trails open to move from one side to another. We made two, the first of them leaves from the town in the southeast area and reaches the southeast beach, right next to the circle in the sea formed by a lava eruption. It is a pleasant road that mostly in the shade of trees. It can be done walking in about 25 minutes and, among other things, you can find horses, both in the stables and walking and if you are lucky until some wild deer (the scare that we stick!).
The second passes through the other side of the hill, and is longer. This is advisable to do it by bicycle and passes through the less explored area of the island by tourists. There are some small groups of houses, animals grazing, people working in the fields and building new buildings …
Although you can also choose to reach the top of the hill , from where there are beautiful views, in addition to the remains of a Japanese bunker from World War II. Do not forget to do it at sunset or better at dawn, to watch the sun rise behind Mount Rinjani in Lombok.
Don’t miss a sunset – another What to do in Gili Islands
Many say that in the Gili you can enjoy one of the best sunsets in the world . And wow, it’s true! Watch the sun go down behind the volcanoes of Bali on the other side of the Java Sea… buah, just spectacular! Not counting the hundreds of dyes of red, orange, purple and blue that stain the sky. Yes, they are undoubtedly one of the best sunsets in the world, and with a cooler Bintang in the hands even more.
If you want to party… Trawangan!
Just don’t expect a crazy island with a party 24 hours a day. Not at all. The party follows the leisurely rhythms of island life … so if that roll doesn’t go, don’t be afraid to approach the Gili with more progress: the party is for those who are looking for it, but there are also quiet and relaxed places.
The best beach bars where you can spend the night are the Sama Sama, in which every night there are bands that play reggae music, the Rudys with a super disco … and chill out bars plus tranquis in the sunset area.
Try the local cuisine
Either in the night market of Trawangan (where you can get crammed with sate, nasi campur or grilled fish) or in the occasional restaurant overlooking the sea (there are from posh and expensive to low cost more snacks… but with a lot of atmosphere ). Dare with Indonesian cuisine, we find it delicious.
In the market area during the day there are also very cheap restaurants with excellent food , a smart option for low-cost travelers!
If you are doing a quieter plan, you can enjoy an outdoor movie. They are improvised cinemas in the sand of the beach, with their poufs and their giant screen, where not even popcorn is missing! The Pearl Beach Lounge puts movies every night for IDR 50,000 (drinks and popcorn included).
Kick the beaches
It would be more! If you have come here it is to verify that, indeed, Gili beaches are crazy turquoise … do beach-hopping, explore them all and discover which are the most beautiful. We already have a favorite, which is located in the southern part of Trawangan Island, in the morning you will be almost alone, in the shade of some trees and with a sea of transparent waters in front of you!
Take a picture of the sea swings
It will not be difficult since there are several scattered throughout the islands. One of the most famous is The Exile , where near the swing (an Instagram star) there is also a hammock.
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