The Gili's are 3 small islands northwest of Lombok with white sandy beaches and turquoise water, ideal for relaxing for a few days and snorkelling with turtles; plus you can't miss the underwater museum!
Which Gili to choose?
Gili Trawangan: It is the largest of the 3. The busiest island, with plenty of hotels, bars and restaurants. It is also the party island.
Gili Meno: It is the quietest, with the least entertainment. Ideal to disconnect from everything.
Gili Air: It is a mix between the previous ones. It is quiet and has a wide range of hotels and restaurants.
How to get to the Gili Islands?
Fastboats usually depart from Sanur and Padang Bai harbours. The journey takes approximately 2 hours, depending on weather conditions.
The price is $250,000 rupees ($USD 18) and includes the transfer from the hotel to the port. There are many companies that make the journey and they all charge the same price.
From the Nusas
It is possible to buy the fastaboat from any of the Nusa islands to Gili. The journey will be Nusa - Padang Bai - Gili, and takes 3.5 hours as it picks up passengers at Padang Bai harbour.
The price is also $250,000 rupees ($US 18).
When we were in Bali we were asking about the price of going from Nusa to Gili and many people told us that it was much more expensive ($USD 60), that it was advisable to take a fastboat to Bali and then buy another ticket to Gili. Well, it is not necessary, you will find that in Nusa they sell you the ticket for $USD 18 including all the transfer to Gili.
From the port of Bangasal you can take a public ferry which takes about 30 minutes and costs $22,500 rupiah ($USD 1.5).
What to do on Gili T?
One of the best things to do on Gili is to go snorkelling and enjoy the marine life! You're sure to see more than one turtle.
You can also go on a snorkelling tour. It lasts about 5 hours and takes you to see the statues underwater, different spots to see turtles and fish, and to have lunch at Gili Air.
The price is $100,000 rupees per person ($USD 7). The bad thing is that the boats go with 30 people and they ALL leave at the same times so the spots are crowded.
They offer private tours for $700,000 rupees ($USD 50), which we found very expensive and felt it was not worth it.
We later discovered that from Gili Meno you can swim to the sculptures and find turtles and fish along the way.
If there are only a few people travelling, we definitely don't think it is worth spending so much money on a private tour, but if there are a lot of people travelling, this option is probably the most convenient.
2. Swimming among sculptures underwater
If you are in Gili you must visit the underwater sculptures of the artist Jason Decaires Taylor which are located a few metres off the coast of Gili Meno.
El Nido, the name given to the project, was designed to become a coral reef, which serves as a home and refuge for marine species. Another of its main objectives is to raise awareness about the care of the ocean and the environment.
All the snorkelling tours that put them on the tour run at the same time, so you will always see them full of people.
Our recommendation to really appreciate them is to go on your own. To do so, take an early morning boat to the island of Gili Meno. Once there, walk along the beach to the left until you reach a sign that says BASK. The sculptures are about a 5-10 minute swim from the sign. There are always boats around to help you find them. Remember to bring snorkelling equipment (you can rent it everywhere).
We went with the crowded tour and alone from the island and we noticed that the difference was incredible. When we went alone we could really appreciate the site and saw it full of fish and life.
3. Cycle around the island
They are available for hire everywhere and are ideal for getting around the island as it is quite large and there are no motor vehicles.
Dare to lose yourself in every corner of the island, look at the dream street that we found.
4. Don't miss a sunset
The west side of the island is full of cool bars where you can have a drink while enjoying a spectacular sunset.
The famous hammocks on the water are located in a bar called THE EXILE, ideal for watching the sunset!
5. Eating at the night market
Every night on Gili T there is a night market on the main street, ideal for eating delicious and super cheap local food. We went to try it the first night and liked it so much that we ended up eating there almost every night we were on the island.
6. Go to Gili Meno for the day
As we were already on the island we decided to make the most of the beaches of this less crowded place. If you want to relax for a while and enjoy the paradise we recommend 100% that you spend the day on Gili Meno.
So after snorkelling in El Nido we went to a little beachfront place for lunch and spent the rest of the day enjoying the sun and the sea.
Where to stay?
The island is small so any spot is an ideal place to stay.
We chose a Homestay near the harbour where the fastboats arrive and where most of the restaurants and bars are concentrated.
Gili Life HomestayGili Life Homestay: It was our accommodation while we were on the island. It is located a few blocks from the centre and the service is super good. The room is quite big but it doesn't have hot water (like most hotels on Gili), it's very hot so it's not necessary. The price for a double room including breakfast was $USD 13 per night.