What’s the difference between Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air? Which Gili island is right for you? And how long should I spend in the islands as a whole? I know… It’s tricky right? Those were the questions we asked ourselves when first got down to our Bali itinerary planning and noticed this absolute wonder within such close proximity! Located 35km from Bali and 14km from Sengigi in Lombok, these tiny islands take up just 15km² but have oh-so-much to offer. With white sandy beaches, affordable luxury and stunning coral reefs, the Gili Islands are most definitely a must-visit destination if they’re within reach. To break down where to go and what to do, here’s my quick little guide…
With some of the best partying scenes in Indonesia, if you’re looking for epic nightlife- Gili T is the place to be! Popular amongst backpackers, it’s a great place to meet new people and party long into the early hours. The South & Middle of the island is where it’s all happening, so when looking for accommodation: this is where you want to pick! Despite it’s reputation, there is also a quieter part of the island up in the north. It’s more expensive, the atmosphere is different, but it can be great for couples or families. So if you want to head to the Gilis and are interested in making the most of all the attractions in Gili T, there are places you can stay that are away from the party scene. Gili T is the most ‘built-up’ of the islands (or as much as you can build up a place with no roads or cars!), so there is a lot to do to keep you busy in the day and plenty to choose from when heading out on the night!
In contrast, Gili Meno is known as honeymoon island- with the most tranquil white sandy beaches, some, so quiet and secluded, you can have your very own private beach! The waves here are not only great for surfing, but also the best I’ve ever jumped/ swam in. The water is incredible, and of the whole Bali trip, staying here was 100% one of the highlights. With some of the best snorkelling spots of all the islands, stunning beachfront cabanas and a beautiful walking route that will take you around the entire island in just 1 and a half hours- there is certainly enough to break up those chilled days! You can get to Gili Meno via the public boats, that leave every morning and return later that day. It takes just 30 minutes from Gili T, but is well worth the visit. It just gives you that time to really switch off and I’d definitely recommend at least a couple of nights stay on the island itself (day trips just don’t do it justice!). Prices are higher here: for both food and accommodation. And you’ll feel the drop in options when it comes to restaurants (they’re also all dotted a little walk apart and close far earlier on the night). But it still has everything you need and is a real experience (one of our favourite for sure!)
Gili Air is then the final island on the edge and is a mix on both Gili Meno and Gili T. It has the bars, the atmosphere, the activities, but also the peace and quiet- enabling you to soak up the turquoise waters and really appreciate the paradise you are in. It’s like the ‘best of both worlds.’
Things To Do:
The Gili Islands are PERFECT for an idilic break. Sit by the pool, chill at the beach, have a swim in the sea, do a touch of sunbathing, indulge in great food and drink, but also make sure you try out a few of Gili’s other activities:
- Snorkelling/ Diving: There are great diving tours across the Gili’s for both active divers and beginners. Then, when it comes to snorkelling- you can do this either with tours and independently, as there are snorkel hire stalls dotted across the islands for day hire. If you’d like to have the freedom for a quick snorkel as and when I highly recommend grabbing some before. The coral reefs are full of tropical fish, special turtle spots and even ancient underwater sculptures to explore; so there will be plenty to keep you busy!
- Cycling: Renting a bike is a super fun way to get around the island. It gives you a whole different experience and the opportunity to see the Gilis in another way.
- Horse Riding: You will see horse-and-cart is a popular way to get around, but why not go via horseback? They do some pretty impressive sunset tours for an efta-special memory.
- Walking/ Exploring: Like I mentioned above, the Gili Islands are small enough for you to walk around by foot. This makes them great for great for getting out and exploring!
- Glass Bottom Boats/ Kayaks: A super cool way to see under the ocean, whilst exploring the islands via boat. See the island from a whole new angle!
- Yoga: OMMMMM. Stretch and meditate out all of your frustrations. Yoga classes are popular throughout the islands and will certainly help you leave feeling relaxed!
- See the Turtles: If you don’t manage to spot one whilst snorkelling, why not head to a turtle sanctuary to see the babies being raised before they’re released? Adorable to say the least!
- Water-sports: Aside from surfing, you can also do Kite Surfing, Wake-boarding and “Stand Up Paddling” (SUP) across the Gili Islands: something to get the adrenaline pumping!
How To Get There:
Sound good? Alright then- all that’s left is figuring out how to get there! Despite what you may read, getting to and from the Gili Islands is surprisingly easy. Be warned: reviews for boats can be BAD, but in our experience- it was actually okay. On the way there we got a Fast Boat from Amed (we were already up North after dolphin watching in Lovina so it made sense). It only took about 45 minutes and we headed over in the morning, which then gave us the rest of the day there! Most people catch the Fast Boat from Serangan Harbor as it’s just a 30 minute drive from Kuta and they have transfers from popular destinations. You can check that out here. Heading back, we had a bit of a nightmare. We hadn’t pre-booked, so when we turned up to then try to sort our return transport (leaving it to the day before!) we went with whatever we could. However… when we then looked at the reviews online, well, let’s just say I was a little bit frightened for our lives! After a little convincing, we went on the boat anyway and was pleasantly surprised to have an equally fine journey back! (This time we went to Nusa Lembongan, instead of straight back to Bali.) So when you arrive on the Gillis, head over to the nearest boat booking office to sort your journey back.
Aside from fast boats, the other option is the ferry. But this is painfully slow, taking 5 long hours! It’s -arguably- a smoother ride and at a cheaper cost however, so it depends on how long you have and what’s more important. Please note: the fast boats can be rocky getting around the islands, and the spray from the waves can sometimes pour inside (usually when the windows aren’t closed properly, or some plonkers kept it open ‘for the breeze!’ but they do all seem to be safe, so don’t worry.!) They’re traveling to and from multiple times a day so you will be absolutely fine!
The Gili Islands are certainly a place you won’t be forgetting in a while! Heading over there and have any questions? Fire them in the comments box below. Got any thoughts/ memories? We’d love you to share!