The Gili Islands has been the stuff of my travelling dreams since two years ago. Back then, I was doing a road/train trip across Java, and had written in to a fellow backpacker to ask for tips. When she heard I was heading to Bali, she strongly recommended the Gili Islands, comprising (Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan). Blue waters, white sand and the chance to cycle around the little islands was totally my idea of FUN.
Two years later, I have made it to the Gilis. In all honesty, I was expecting the Maldives of all beach resorts, and that did not come true. But a splendid villa did await us, and so did the corals and fishes of Gili came before my very eyes, as we snorkelled around the waters of Gili.So is Gili Islands worth going to? Head there only if you…
1. Have enough time to spare
Never did we expect the journey to Gilis to take longer than a plane ride from Asia to Europe. We took 12 hours, through four different modes of transport – an internal flight, a car ride, a speedboat ride, and lastly, via a horse cart.
This should not deter you if you have time to spare. Getting to the Gilis is much faster via a speedboat from Bali. That being said we arrived at Bali at 3pm in the afternoon, and boats to Gili had left for the day. We thus had to take the longer route, which involves flying to Lombok, and taking a 2 hour car ride to the harbour. To get the best of Gili and Bali, make sure you have at least five days to spare.
2. Understand that the best things in life always take longer to get to
It’s true. When we opened the door to our villa, we were taken aback (in a positive way of course). The villa had a personal swimming pool, outdoor dining table and a tanning bed. There was a large space in the garden to play football (which we never did as we were busy enjoying the pool). The kitchen came well equipped with a built-in over and a well stocked up fridge. Before the influx of flying ants and a gecko, I felt that this was my dream home. The villa is for a blogpost of its own.
3. Don’t have high expectations
If you’re thinking of Gili as an island resort with clear blue water with never-ending beaches of pure white sand, think again. Yes, the waters are blue and beautiful. You can see coral and colourful, tiny little fishes when you snorkel. But the beaches are small. Most of the beaches we came across were about 1m in breath, the distance from the sea to the grassy patches. The beaches are also dotted with bits of wash up coral, so don’t expect a clean white beach to be sun-tanning to.
4. Are looking for some peace and quiet
If you’re looking for a relaxing trip without doing anything, Gili is the place for you. The villa was so comfortable that we didn’t feel like leaving it at all. You could order villa-service (equivalent of room-service) or take a walk to the beach for a meal. (Lovely seafood by the way). If you’re not into the pubbing culture of Gili Trawangan, escape to the other islands, or back to your villa. There’s more than enough space available to accommodate everyone.
5. Enjoy walking or biking
I wouldn’t recommend biking if you’re not a strong cyclist, like yours truly. The paths are not the smoothest, and if you intend to stroll along the beach, the bike doesn’t hold up well against the sand. We ended up pushing the bikes. The walk around the perimeter of Gili Trawangan takes about 1.5 hours to 2.5 hours, depending on your pace. We stopped for lunch, a bit of shopping, a massage, to check out some travel agencies and we never got around the entire perimeter.
6. Are into star-gazing (to impress, maybe)
I thank my lucky stars [no pun intended] because the stars were in full swing at the Gili Islands. Along the way from the jetty from Lombok to Gili Trawangan, everywhere was pitch dark. Except the sky had burst into thousands or millions of white lights. Some emitting a strong beacon, while some fading in the distance. It’s like having the entire universe, or Milky Way right in front of you.
In Gili Trawangan, it was slightly more difficult to enjoy the night sky, because of the lights from the bars, pubs and restaurants, an also because of the coconut trees blocking the view with their long leaves. I can imagine quieter islands such as Gili Meno and Gili Air to be romantic little spots for star-gazing.
To impress and act knowledgeable, make sure you read up Wiki on astro-formations like the Orion’s belt while tapping into the Wifi connection at one of those bars or restaurants.
7. Looking to meet that special someone
This is a family friendly blog, and I’m not advocating that young teenagers go around Gili Islands picking up someone. All I’m saying, is that if you’re a mature adult looking to relax and enjoy the sea and sand, there’s a high chance you’ll bump into someone with like-minded interests. The whole atmosphere at the Gilis is very relaxed, and I would say, rather conducive for romance and conversation than bustling Bali, which is packed with surfers and bikini babes.
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Hope this post helps you come to a decision on visiting the Gilis. Essentially, I’ll say it’s a go, just make sure your schedule allows you to catch a boat from Bali and back. In the upcoming posts, I’ll be sharing more on our lovely villa, and what we did during our time there. Stay tuned.