7 Things To Do on the Gili Islands
Last Updated: 30 October 2018
Located to the northwest of the larger Indonesian island of Lombok, the 3 Gili Islands are the place to go for that authentic, rustic tropical island experience. These peaceful gems combine white sand beaches, turquoise waters and coconut trees with still-small crowds and accommodation for a wide variety of budgets and tastes.
In this guide, we will cover all your Gili Islands queries like:
‘Do you have to walk to get around Gili Islands?’
‘How long does it take from Gili Islands to Bali?’
‘Can you do a day trip to Gili Islands from Bali?’
‘What are the top things to do in Gili Islands?’
Do you have to walk to get around Gili Islands?
The Gilis consist of Gili Trawangan (“Gili T”), Gili Meno and Gili Air. All motorized traffic on the islands, including cars and mopeds, is forbidden by law. This means you’ll have to get around on foot, bicycle or using a regional horse-drawn carriage, known as a “cidomo”, which looks more like a horse-powered version of an Indonesian “bajaj” (auto rickshaw).
How long does it take from Gili Islands to Bali?
- Duration: Approximately 2-2.5 hours
- Cost: Typically ranges from IDR 350,000(one way) and upwards
One of the quickest and most popular ways to get to the Gili Islands from Bali is by taking a speedboat. Numerous operators offer daily services from various ports in Bali, such as Padang Bai, Serangan, and Amed, to the Gili Islands. These boats are fast and comfortable, providing a relatively smooth journey across the Lombok Strait. It’s advisable to book your tickets in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons.
2. Public Ferry
- Duration: Approximately 4-5 hours
- Cost: Around IDR 40,000 to IDR 50,000 (one way)
For budget-conscious travelers, the public ferry is an economical option. You can catch a public ferry from Padang Bai to Lembar in Lombok and then continue your journey to the Gili Islands by land and sea. While this option takes longer, it offers a more authentic experience and a chance to see the beautiful landscapes of Lombok along the way. Be prepared for longer travel times and less comfortable conditions compared to speedboats.
3. Seaplane (Charter)
- Duration: Approximately 30 minutes
- Cost: Significantly higher, typically chartered
For a truly luxurious and scenic journey, some private seaplane operators offer charter services from Bali to the Gili Islands. While this option is considerably more expensive, it provides a unique and time-efficient way to reach your destination while enjoying breathtaking aerial views of the Indonesian coastline.
These are a few options to help you get from Bail to Gili Islands. Remember to check the latest schedules, availability, and prices with the respective transportation providers, especially during the high season. Regardless of which option you choose, the Gili Islands are well worth the journey, offering a slice of paradise just a short distance from Bali.
Can you do a day trip to Gili Islands from Bali?
This would depend on the mode of transport you opt for. A day trip to the Gili Islands from Bali is possible but comes with time constraints and a limited experience of the islands. It can be a good option for those who want a brief taste of the Gili Islands’ beauty and are comfortable with a long day of travel or are willing to spend on faster modes of travel. However, if you have the flexibility, consider spending at least a night or two on the islands to fully enjoy all they have to offer.
7 Top Things to do in Gili Islands
Since nature is king in this beautiful and still relatively untouched corner of the world, things to do on the Gili Islands are centered on the islands’ pristine and wondrous natural environment. Whether you’re on an adventure holiday, a family vacation or romantic honeymoon, there is plenty to do in this unspoiled island paradise.
Enjoy All the 3 Gili Islands
While all islands feature beautiful nature and are peaceful, relaxed and laid back in character, they each have their own unique personality. In short, the 3 Gillis could be categorized like this:
- Gili Trawangan, or Gili T, is the most developed of the islands and a centre for nightlife. Come here for a more social, luxurious holiday, replete with lots of restaurants, nightclubs and bars. Nonetheless, the permanent population of Gili T is less than 1600.
- Gili Air is the nearest to the island of Lombok. It has the most local character, with the highest permanent population and a more rural, backpacker vibe. However, make no mistake — it is a romantic honeymooners’ spot that caters to all budgets.
- Gili Meno is the ultimate desert island destination and easily the most chilled out of the three Gili Islands. Meno is home to the prettiest beaches, the most pristine nature and the fewest people, restaurants and bars. Though Gili Meno has enough creature comforts to satisfy Western tastes, it is a place to get away from it all rather than party it up.
Lately the Gili Islands have been booming, especially Gili T. However, regulations such as the ban on motor vehicles (and even dogs!) and the efforts of organizations like the Gili Eco Trust, are helping to keep things quaint and under control.
Head there while things are still magically quiet! Here is our list of just a few of the thrilling, relaxing and fun things to do on the Gili Islands.
Surfing in Gili Islands
The Gili Islands are yet to become a surfing Mecca like Bali, but all 3 Gili islands are home to some incredible breaks. A large amount of right-handers, some great, year-round breaks, and the absence of large crowds all help make the surf so special. Some days you may even have the waves to yourselves.
As is the case in general, each one of the Gili Islands has its own unique qualities in terms of surfing. That said, all 3 feature gorgeous scenery and friendly locals.
- Gili T is uncrowded and suitable for experienced surfers who are willing to wait for large swells. Though the dry season of May to October is best to go surfing in Gili Islands, the wet months of January to June provide 1 – 2 m swells. Surf during high tide for fast waves and steep barrels.
- Gili Air features a right-hand reef break that is accessible by boat or a long paddle. Also free from large crowds, it is short, hollow and fun when conditions are good. Beware of the reef during low tides.
- Gili Meno showcases a nice break called Secrets, located 100m off the beach. Secrets lacks consistency, which means small to none crowds. Good conditions provide a fast, long, hollow right with barrels and walls that are worth the wait.
See this post for a more comprehensive guide on surfing the Gili Islands.
Scuba Diving in Gili Islands
The Gili Islands are well known for having many great dive spots and the islands’ diving schools have a good reputation for teaching scuba to all levels, right up to some highly respected instructor qualification courses.
The majority of dive centres are located on Gili T, but all islands have SSI and PADI-licenced operators. Most are also members of the Gili Eco Trust. Explore the coral reefs, a World War II Japanese wreck, biorock reefs and great muck diving sites for underwater macro photography.
Sea turtle spotting is almost a sure thing in the Gili Islands, while other aquatic species like boxfish, batfish, stonefish, bumphead parrotfish and reef sharks are plentiful.
Snorkelling in Gili Islands
Snorkelling is one of the most popular and rewarding things to do on the Gili Islands. This is because of the incredible coral reefs, tropical fish and sea turtles. There are numerous spots on all 3 islands and local dive shops can arrange snorkelling programs along with equipment. Independent snorkelling off some of the beaches is doable as well, but caution is advised due to strong ocean currents and using fins is strongly advised.
Relax and Revive with a Staycation in Gili Islands
One thing that makes the Gili Islands so great is that it is the perfect place to get away from it all and simply relax. Since there are no motor vehicles and the islands have maintained such a laid-back atmosphere, particularly on Gili Air and Gili Meno, you should have no trouble finding a nice stretch of beach to relax on. Spa treatments, such as massage, and Yoga classes are available at centers and resorts on all 3 islands to soothe, relax and help you revive.
Enjoy Multi-cuisine Restaurants in Gili Islands
Believe it or not, but this age of globalization has brought an Irish pub, a sushi bar, a pizza place… Also a hot dog stand, creperie, plus Italian, Thai, vegetarian and international restaurants — all to Gili Tranwangan. And let’s not forget the local cuisine and numerous bars and cafés. For something a bit different, check out Gili T’s exciting night market.It is perfect for Indonesian specialties and fresh seafood. The quieter islands of Gili Air and Gili Meno feature both local and international fare but to a lesser extend.
Wildlife Sanctuaries in Gili Islands
While most wildlife that attracts people to the island is underwater, there are also a few sites on land worth seeing. Notably, there are sea turtle hatcheries/sanctuaries on Gili Trawangan and Gili Meno. This is where visitors can see baby green and loggerhead turtles. They are raised until the age of 8 months before being released into the wild.
Gili Meno Bird Park is a wildlife sanctuary, which is home to many exotic birds, as well as crocodiles. Also deer and kangaroos, though not all the animals at the park are native.
Take a Boat Trip
Several companies on Gili Trawangan offer cruises to Gili Air, Gili Meno and other islands such as Lombok and Komodo. Some firms run cruises and party boats incorporating camping, dining, diving, snorkeling and stops at several points of interest.
There are more activities to choose from besides the 7 mentioned above. These include deep-sea fishing, horseback riding, golfing on Gili T, trekking, sea kayaking and wake boarding.
Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or a bit of both, the Gili Islands have something to offer every type of traveler. You can lose yourself in the tranquil beauty of the beaches, embark on thrilling snorkeling and diving expeditions, immerse yourself in local culture and cuisine, or simply savor the island’s relaxed pace of life.
While we’ve highlighted seven must-do activities, remember that the Gili Islands are a place to unwind, disconnect, and embrace the simple joys of island living. From the spectacular sunsets to the friendly smiles of the locals, every moment in the Gilis is an opportunity to create lasting memories.
As you plan your trip to the Gili Islands, consider your interests and preferences, and choose the activities that resonate with you the most. Whether it’s watching sea turtles glide through the crystal-clear waters, exploring the underwater sculptures, or sipping cocktails by the beach, the Gili Islands invite you to slow down, recharge, and savor the beauty of this tropical paradise.
So, pack your swimsuit, grab your snorkel gear, and get ready for an unforgettable journey to the Gili Islands. Whether you’re a solo traveler, a couple seeking a romantic escape, or a family in search of adventure, these islands have something magical in store for everyone. With its blend of natural wonders and island charm, the Gili Islands promise an experience that will linger in your heart long after you’ve left their shores.
In addition to the seven incredible activities we’ve explored in the Gili Islands, don’t forget that Bali is just a boat ride away, offering even more adventure and excitement. If you’re a surfing enthusiast or someone eager to catch your first wave, Bali is renowned for its world-class surf breaks and vibrant surf culture.
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