Visiting Bali’s smaller laid back brothers – The Gili islands

Gili, Bali, IndonesiaWe catch the ferry to Gili from Bali. It is raining hard, so we expect a tough trip. The first bit along Bali green hilled coastline is quiet, but as we leave the coast for the open waters, big waves starts splashing heavily up the windscreen of the small ferry.  Soon after several pale faced people leave their seat rushing to the exit only to come back soaking wet a few minutes later. It doesn’t get better, when another big wave pulls off the single window viper, leaving it somewhere in the Bali Sea and making it almost impossible to look out the window. The captain doesn´t look too worried and about half an hour later, just as the rain stops, the ferry hits the white sands of Gili Trawangan and the pale faces soon get their color back as everybody gets of the boat.

Just as wild as the ocean had been, just as quite is Gili before noon.  Here are no cars and motorbikes. The only way to get around the 7 kilometer long coastline is to walk, by bike or by horse. We pick up our bags and start walking down the coastal road that also serves as the islands main road. We pass several places that rents out nice looking bungalows and we quickly find one that we like. We leave our bags in the bungalow and head for a walk along the beach. Soon the distances between the houses grows longer and longer and the only attraction is the white sand and the crystal clear blue water.

The water is just too tempting, so we rent some snorkeling gear from one of the little shops along the road and dive into the blue waters. I had been told that sea turtle spotting in Gili is almost guaranteed when snorkeling.  After 45 minutes in the water I have been swimming with three different sea turtles, so I guess the guarantee holds up.

Before we return our hired equipment, e digest the magical experience of swimming side by side with a sea turtle among thousands of colorful fish over an ice cold avocado shake, in a pile of pillows in the shade of one of the many wooden gazebos on the beach.

A Quite Day on Gili, IndonesiaAs the sunset approaches the cozy bars and cafes along the beach starts to fill up. The restaurant owners display the catch of the day along the street. Just take your pick among lobsters, shrimps, barracudas and a lot of other good stuff from the local seas and you will soon find your choosing’s on the barbeque.  We pass on the restaurants and walk down to the central market, where the local fishermen have offers similar to the restaurants. Unlike the restaurant there is no tablecloth on our table here, but what we miss out on in decoration we get in atmosphere and good prices. We order a plate of shrimps and a large Bintang – the preferred beer in Indonesia – to go with it. Half an hour later we have shrimp juices up to our elbows and all that is left on the table is the empty shrimp shells and bottles.

The fishermen start packing their stalls down as the night takes over and the music from the surrounding bars gets louder.  Monday, Wednesday and Friday are the nights for going out on Gili – the rest of the week is fairly quiet. Since it is Wednesday we decide for one more Bintang in one of the bars, before we return to our bungalow.

On the way back we realize that we on our first day have covered almost everything there is to do on Gili –snorkeling or diving and relaxation in the sun. Well that is not so bad after all – we don’t mind repeating it all again tomorrow.


About the author

Stefan Russel is one of the founders of Vilondo villa rental, that rents our luxury villas in Bali and runs a Travel blog on Bali.


Facts about the Gili islands

  • The Gili islands are a part of Indonesia and can only be reached by boat. If you come from Lombok it is just a 5 minute boat trip, while it will take you around an hour from Bali.
  • Gili Trawangan is the main island of the Gili Islands.  The two Gili other islands  – Gili Meno and Gili Air – are even  smaller and less visited.
  • The distance around the coast of Gili Trawangan is 7 km

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