Virtually unheard few years ago, The Gili Archipelago consisting of Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air in the northwest coast of Lombok is fast becoming the jewel of Indonesian tourism.When I first visited Indonesia I heard about its beauty and comparable beaches to that of Philippines pristine coasts, but I was amazed to see how different the sister islands are even after being a stone throw to each other.There are no motorized vehicles in the Gilis to preserve its cleanliness ,with only horse carriages and bicycles being the mode of transport.It was a fine January morning when we packed our bags for the weekend gateway to know this beautiful part of Indonesia around four hours from Bali but often overlooked as a holiday destination.
Our flight from Jakarta was to Lombok, a mystery in itself , famously called the unspoiled Bali, being the same size of Bali and home to the beautiful beaches of Senggigi , Malimbu and Kuta, majestic waterfalls of Tiu Teja, Tiu Kelep or Sendang Gile, and the second highest volcano in the country Mount Rinjani.The multiday Trek to Rinjani to its crater lake and peak is one of top tourist destination in Lombok.Lombok and Bali airports are the two airports which provides direct and easy access to the Gili islands.
The Senggigi Beach is the most visited beach is Lombok, as most of the prime resorts are located there, with secluded areas to enjoy the sunset.It was early afternoon when we reached Sheraton Senggigi beach resort, a piece of heaven - with a picturesque view of Mount Rinjani and the beautiful Sea.No sooner did we unpack and freshened up we rushed to have a look at the unspoiled beach.
We spent a day there to detoxify from the work pressure of the week with a nice massage with the soothing music of the waves making us ready for the exciting journey ahead.
The afternoon we checked out of the resort, hired a taxi for Bangsal harbor to catch the public boat to the Gili Islands.The 40 minutes ride by the fast boat with the fresh sea wind, bringing some droplets of the sea water to our face. In no time we reached to the harbor of Gili Trawangan.
They say there is a Gili for everyone, you just need to pick your one up. The Gilli Trawangan the largest and the most developed and is a lively island, loved for its white sand beach, kissed by the short palm trees with a growing reputation as the diving capitals of Asia.
Gili Trawangan is a preferred place both for luxury seekers found on the north side of the island as well as backpackers mostly in the southern part.Its the party island of the three Gilis, and famous for the full moon parties, boat parties and some nice pubs around the beach areas.We checked into Pearl of Trawangan a beautiful resort with eastern structure and promise of western comfort.We had reviewed it on the internet and were excited about its dome-shaped “Lumbung” roofs, its private beach, tasty western dishes catering to our Indian vegetarian palate.We took a small swim just outside our resorts in the warm sea water and then cooled sometime in the swimming pool inside the resort while having a nice glass of orange juice.As our next two days were already planned for diving and Island hopping, we decided to spend the day exploring the island. The Gili Trawangan beach stretches for 3 km, and we took a stroll towards the northern part of the islands admiring the various luxury resorts sprinkled along its coast.We walked to Villa Ombak which has one of the best views of the sunset from the island and took one of the beanbags waiting for the mighty sun to prepare for his sleep. The beach along the resort has few nice swings installed by them which bring hundreds of customer daily to have beautiful shots of them.
The view from the swing admiring the orange sun dip into the sea and creating an allure of warmth and serene is still one of the best moments in my life.We took a horse carriage back to the islands main hub the southern part filled with backpackers, budget resorts, and dive shops and booked for a scuba diving trip for the next day.
Scores of traveler hoard to Gili Trawangan to dive as well as earn their certification in diving.Since the cost for diving is constant in all the dive shops, its boils down to visit each dive shops and talk and get to dive with the one you would feel comfortable with.I will be shortly writing an article on the things to watch out for in case you are going for the first diving experience of your life.
We chose Buddha Dive shop for our trip to the two diving sites Shark point and manta point for dives.We were able to see some turtles and Manta ray during our dive.The boat served us a sumptuous lunch and we rested a bit between the dives.With successful encounter with the sea creatures, we turned back to the shore just in time to catch the sunset from the restaurant of our shore.
We got attracted by the music being played in sama sama bar , the ambiance was lively with people dancing to the tune of the DJs away from the hustle of work and city life in towns far away.
Next day morning we got up early and after a quick breakfast started our quest for the uncovering the other two Gilis as a day trip combined with snorkeling around the cost.
Gili Meno is the next in Size island and preferred place for honeymooner and traveler looking for more me time. the accomodation out here are more expensive and beautiful cabanas and beautiful stretch of pristine unspoiled beach.We Walked around the island and observing the diversity of flora and fauna around the saltwater lake. We visited the turtle hatchery
where one of the residents explained us the migratory pattern of turtles as well as the steps to be taken for Ocean conservation.
Gili Air - as its name suggest "air " - means water in Bahasa Indonesian is the only one with the fresh water source, it's the smallest of the Gilis but with the largest indigenous population, and slowly making up her name in the island scenes. Gili Air has the best of both Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan. In one way it has nice resorts and diving facilities like Trawangan and it also boasts of the peaceful and tranquil lifestyle of Gili Meno.It's the must adventurous of the Gilis and has quite a facility for Paddleboarding, kitesurfing, Surfing and of course scuba diving.It was nearly late afternoon when we started from Gili Air for our trip back to Trawangan and had the last snorkel outside its shore before ramming into its nightlife again.
As the morning sun shone our vacation was coming to an end, post a chartered fast boat we reached back to the familiar terrains of Lombok, with a promise of spending more time and climbing Mt Rinjani in our next visit to this part of the world we took a taxi straight to the Lombok airport to be with the Jakarta crowd .
Things to Do in the Gilis
Surfing, Paddleboarding,Kitesurfing,partying, snorkeling, scuba and free diving, Honeymoon destination, horseback along the beach, listening to good music in the umpteen bars, beach bumming and an awesome sunset watching.
Time to avoid
The people of Lombok and Gilis being predominately islam followers its advised not to visit during Ramadan , when late night parties are shunned in most bars.But if you are more into beach bumming , adventure sports and will be enjoying your luxurious resorts anytime is good time.
There are plenty of places to stay in Lombok for budget , mid -range as well as luxurious rates.
backpackers hostels : Gili Castle , Gili Klapa , Good vibes Bungalows - are some nice trusted hostels for backpackers.
Mid-range hotels : Les Villas Ottawa Gili trawangan ,Ozzy Cottages and bungalow ,Rumah Kalua Villa
If you can splurge :Pondok Santi Estate, Desa Duniya Beda , and Amalika villa the list goes on ..
How to reach Gili Islands.
Reaching Gilis from KL ,Singapore and Perth
Lombok International Airport (Bandara International Lombok) is southwest of the small regional city of Praya, Lombok.
Transport between Bali and Lombok
Flights from Ngurah Rai International Airport (IATA: DPS) to Lombok International Airport (IATA: LOP) take about 40 minutes.
Lombok international airport is located in southwest Lombok, 1.5 hours drive to Senggigi main tourist areas in the west Lombok
Public Ferries depart from Padang Bai (Southeast Bali) and Lembar (Southwest Lombok) every hour, taking a minimum of 4–5 hours make the crossing in either direction.
Fast boat services are available from various departure points on Bali and principally serve the Gili Islands, with some significant onward traffic to the Lombok mainland.
Indian Alert: -
Though there are no Indian restaurants in Gili Islands , but there are multitude of restaurants serving western food with a wide choice of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food .Few restaurants like Pearl beach restaurant. Casa vintage Beach restaurant, and Wilson's bar and Cuisine.