Indonesia is without a doubt on of the most spectacular destinations on planet earth.
Countless smoldering volcanoes meet with terraced rice paddies climbing vertically up mountainsides, while jungle clad mountains stretch into the clouds and sunsets straight out of a travel magazine set on the horizon from your vantage point on a powder, white sand beach.
The Gili Islands, however, may be the most beautiful destination in Indonesia.
Three tiny tropical islands nestled between Bali and Lombok, “The Gili’s” as they are known locally, have become something of a sensation among travelers and backpackers alike.
Almost all backpackers take a speedboat from Bali (there are multiple trips per day) which should cost you around $30 or 400,000rb by current exchange rates. You can also get here by launching off from Lombok.
One top tip to remember is that if you go from Lombok, you’ll stop at a cafe and be left waiting for around twenty minutes. Then a swarm of men with horses and carts will approach you and tell you the boat is leaving and you have to move quickly. They’ll charge you 20-40,000rb, for a ride which literally lasts less than a minute. You can simply walk from the cafe to the launch beach in about two minutes max.
You’ll likely arrive on Gili Trawangan, the biggest of the three, and here you’ll have plenty of options of where to stay. Mid-range accommodation will cost you between $30-$40, but there are some more upmarket places costing hundreds of dollars per night, for those with cash to flash who crave a little luxury. I personally stayed at Blue Winds Bungalows. It’s spartan and basic, but it is comfortable and safe and costs in and around $30 depending on demand.
On Trawangan you have lots of fun options. Spend your days basking in the sun on the beach, go out snorkeling on the reef, catch a sunset from a boat out on the waves, or just walk around the entire island, since it will only take you about 45 minutes, if even!
At night, Trawangan comes alive. There are a few clubs along the main beach selling vodka red bull for $1 a pop, and plenty of places to eat fresh seafood or traditional Indonesian grub (Nasi Goreng, Sate Ayam). Be sure to bring all the cash you need as there isn’t a single ATM anywhere on the islands.
After you’ve had your fill of Trawangan, if you fancy something a little more chilled you can head over to Gili Meno or Gili Air. These are smaller again, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to feel like Robinson Crusoe on either of these islands. Air has a restaurant and a juice bar, but I was unable to purchase a drink as the guy behind the counter was passed out cold and I was unable to rouse him!
All in all, The Gili’s is just a place to kick back, relax, unwind and enjoy the sheer natural beauty of the place. There isn’t much to do in terms of activities, but then again, who needs much to do when you’re standing on an incredible tropical beach, looking up at countless glimmering stars, while glow in the dark plankton washes up onto the shore on the crest of gentle waves?
One final thing to note is that there are no police on the Gili Islands and drugs of all kinds are widely available. If this is your scene, you can do whatever you want without any consequences whatsoever. Just don’t disrespect the locals who live there, since the islands chief sorts out disputes and you can guarantee he knows the people you’ve offended as the population is very small and close-knit. As always, show respect and everything will be just beautiful! Enjoy the Gili’s…I know I did!