Gili Air – Lombok Indonesia
Reasons to Visit or Stay on Gili Air:
- Perfect mix of beach bars, restaurants, and calm, secluded swimming areas
- Good assortment of accommodation options for all budgets
- Nice snorkeling, scuba diving and SUP opportunities on eastern shoreline
- Small surf break to the south (may need boat to get there, as it’s quite far off shore and largely depends on tides)
- Less crowded than Gili Trawangan
- More crowded (and more to see and do) than Gili Meno
- Excellent views of Lombok and Bali
How to Get to the Gilis:
After reading many, many horror stories of fast boat crossings from Bali to the Gilis, especially during rainy season, I was a bit apprehensive about getting here. However, the other option, which includes a short flight to Lombok, followed by a long cab ride to the harbor, and finally a short boat ride to the Gilis, honestly seems like much more work.
We traveled from Amed to Gili Air on Pacha Express (with a quick drop-off at Gili Trawangan) on the way there, and were careful to choose a day with calm winds and water, which you can keep an eye on through sites like Magic Seaweed and Buoy Weather. We arrived in an hour, and the ride was super efficient and enjoyable. We even saw dolphins!
On the way back to Bali, we chose the early morning option from Gili Air to Serangan Harbor with Marina Srikandi, which has gotten very mixed reviews. With a quick pick-up on Gili Trawangan, we arrived back in South Bali in 2 1/2 hours and had no problems, other than the boat being fairly hot and crowded.
My advice is to do your research about the best companies to travel with, but more importantly, pick a day when the weather is supposed to be calm. I have previously traveled from Gili Gede to Padangbai on a tiny dive boat during rough wind and waves and was none too happy about it, so be mindful and definitely give yourself an extra day to get back to Bali in case boats are cancelled due to bad weather and/or overcrowding issues.
Also, since it does take some time and planning to get there and back, it is really not worth the trip unless you plan on staying a couple of nights – otherwise, we recommend exploring a new area of Bali, and/or heading to Nusa Lembongan for an easier journey.
Good to Know: The Gilis
Religion: As a part of Lombok, the Gili Islands are Muslim. Nude sunbathing is strictly frowned upon (and by our estimation, a bad idea anyway considering the number of terribly sunburnt visitors we saw), and walking around with a bathing suit cover-up is respectful, though by no means enforced.
Legal Issues: Also, there is no police station (and therefore no police officers) on any of the three Gili Islands, unless they decide to make a visit from neighboring Lombok. This means that drugs, including mushrooms, marijuana, ecstasy, etc. are fairly readily available and advertised widely. Take caution, though – if you are caught buying, selling or using any of these drugs, Indonesia is known worldwide for its extremely harsh drug laws, which can (and have) included the death penalty. Be smart!
Getting Around: There are absolutely no motorized vehicles of any kind on the Gilis. While each island can be traversed end to end in a matter of hours, the best way to get around is by bicycle or simply walking. Some locals have electric bikes and scooters, but you’ll largely enjoy the lack of noise from cars or bikes so common in Bali. Another way to get around is by cidomo, or horse cart, though we’ve read and seen many horrible things about the treatment of these animals – including their use to transport heavy cement and tools all around the island, being given ocean water as drinking water, and forced to stand in the direct sunlight all day – and chose not to use them during our stay.
Money: Gili Trawangan and Air now have ATMs, but plan to bring extra cash if you are traveling to Gili Meno. Also, expect the Gilis to be slightly more expensive than Bali, from accommodation to drinking and eating out.
Weather: Gili Air is literally one of the top 3 hottest places I’ve ever been. For the first (and hopefully only) time in my life, I got extremely sunburnt laying under a beach umbrella. And keep in mind, I live on Bali and regularly see sunshine.
Things to Bring: In addition to eco-friendly sunscreen and a hat, don’t forget your camera and snorkeling gear!
Marine Life: We were amazed to see marine life like clown fish, hawksbill turtles, green sea turtles, mantis shrimp, a feather duster starfish and more right off shore!
Gili Air Activities:
As if lounging under thatch roof beach huts with cold beers wasn’t enough, we highly recommend the following activities…
Private Snorkel Tour: Though there are tons of options for group snorkeling tours, we decided to splurge a little (600,000 IDR total – rates highly negotiable) and hire a private boat for a 4 hour snorkeling tour of all three islands. So worth it! This was one of my favorite days in Indonesia so far, and we even stopped on Gili Meno for lunch at a local warung. BYOB!
Brunch at Mowie’s: Also a popular hangout for sunset cocktails, we loved the menu at this cool little restaurant, located about a 10 minute walk west of the harbor. Eggs benedict for the win!
Live Music: Alright, so I have no idea what this place is called, but it’s directly west of Mowie’s and has live music almost every night of the week, beginning about 9pm. The food was just alright, but the musicians were very entertaining. Head here for post-sunset drinks and tunes.
Sunset at Lucky’s: The best sunset view on the island, hands down.
Scallywags: This chic beach bar and hotel serves up a delicious lunch, and snorkeling and swimming right out front is ideal. Head here if you’re looking for something a little different, food-wise.
Get Off the Beaten Beach Path: Take a detour through the center of the island to enjoy a unique perspective of the local life, and also meet friendly locals.
What are your tips for visiting Gili Air? Let us know what we missed, and terima kasih for reading!