Claiming there’s an “ultimate destination” in an archipelago as intoxicatingly beautiful as Indonesia is a big call. But here at InBali, the vote is unanimous: Gili Meno, the middle child of the Gili trio, is our winner hands down.
Blend the surreal ocean edges and perfect sunsets with other-worldly horse and cart transportation and simple living, and you have yourself an idealistic escape just a boat skip from Lombok. Unwind, disconnect and enjoy a little time in paradise. If those photos have your inner travel bug itching, here’s a complete travel guide on the best that Gili Meno has to offer, from our very own Gili Insider at InGili.com.
Getting to the Gilis in style
The most stylish way to get to the Gili island from Bali is via a 45 minute helicopter charter, operated by Air Bali.
Departing from the state-of-the-air helipad in Benoa, the Bell 206 Long Ranger flies over the Lombok Strait and lands in Paradise Sunset beach in Gili Trawangan. The views of Bali and Lombok’s mountain peaks and the birds’ eye view of the Gili islands from above will take your breath away. The helicopter charter operates on Fridays and Sundays at a special rate, or you can charter the aircraft on any other day for the full charter price.
Air Bali, Benoa HarbourJl. Raya Pelabuhan, Benoa Pesanggaran, Denpasar 80222, Tel: 62 361 767466 or 62 361 766582 (during Bali office hours 08.30 – 17.00 pm)Email: [email protected]
Another way to cruise to the Gili islands in style is on the recently-launched Bounty Cruise; A 44-meter luxury catamaran that carries up to 650 passengers from Benoa Harbour in Bali to Gili Trawangan. The boat sets sail at 9am and arrives at noon, allowing plenty of time to settle in and enjoy the day.
Special introductory rates for this daily service are IDR650,000, which includes breakfast. Or IDR1.2 million for a return trip. Contact Bounty Cruises for bookings at 62 361 726666 or 62 812 389666.
Fast boat from Bali to Gili Meno
For most visitors, the voyage to paradise begins at Padang Bai harbour in Bali. If you’re spending a day or two in Bali before visiting Gili Meno, you can get fast boat tickets in Kuta, Padang Bai, Amed and a few other hotspots across the island.
Gili Fast boat tickets from Bali to Gili Meno cost between IDR300,000 to IDR450,000 depending on the which fast boat operator you go with, and the time of year. The most reputable fast boat operators are Blue Water Express, Gili Cat, and the newly launched Semaya One fast cruise. Organise your fast boat tickets at least 24 hours before you cast off to the Gili islands (a last-minute booking premium applies, even if the boats aren’t full).
People tend to wonder if they should spend the night here or get a shuttle bus from Kuta at around 7am to make it to the jetty in time for the 9.30am ferry. Padang Bai is a wonderfully charming place when night falls and the tourist guides and hawkers shut their doors.
There’s plenty of budget friendly places where you can spend the night quite comfortably. Padang Bai is also surrounded by some of the best dive sites in Bali, so why not? It certainly beats grappling with the crowds in Kuta. Plus, you’ll get to check out White Sand Beach, which is absolutely stunning.
Gili Meno accommodation & resorts
BASK Gili Meno
You’re hearing it here first: A new luxury beachfront development, featuring a clutch of divine boutique villas, is underway in Gili Meno. Now you can own your very own slice of paradise. That’s all we can tell you for now, if you want to find out more, sign up for news and updates from Bask Gili Meno.
Karma Beach Gili Meno
Away from the crowds of its more visited neighbours lies a stylish boutique resort near Gili Meno’s jetty. A day well spent at Karma Beach Gili Meno involves doing very little. Spend the afternoon lounging on a plush daybed, and top it off with an indulgent visit to the divine Karma Spa, set right on the beach. Contact Karma Beach Gili Meno at [email protected]
Mahamaya Gili Meno
Mahamaya boutique resort is known for having the best sunset vistas in Gili Meno, and the most romantic dinner tables on the island. Set right on the water’s edge, it’s a toes-in-sand dining experience at its finest.
If you’re looking for authentic Sasak style beach bungalows in Gili Meno, on the other hand (that are friendly on the pocket), we recommend Meno Dream Resort, Ana Warung & Bungalows Gili Meno, and Mao Meno Resort.
We also suggest booking your accommodation in Gili Meno in advance. The small island fills up quickly in high season and if you’re on a budget, you might find yourself roaming around the island trying to find a place to sleep. Contact the resorts via their website, or find accommodation in Gili Meno on AirBnB.com (we’ve spotted some pretty interesting island bungalows, at a very sweet rate).
Contact Mahamaya Boutique Resort Gili Meno at +62 888 7155 828 or email: [email protected]
Where to eat & drink in Gili Meno
There are more beach bars, warungs and restaurants dotted around Gili Meno than you’d expect for such a tiny island. You’re never far away from somewhere interesting to sample culinary delights from, and you should be sure to linger and indulge in a late afternoon tipple. The resorts and beach bungalows mentioned above all have superb restaurants that serve everything from authentic Sasak cuisine and Indonesian fare, to pastas, pizzas and even organic juices and salads. Adeng-Adeng beach bar is a quality spot for a tropical seafood BBQ right on the beach.
Then on the northeast tip of the island you will find Sunset Gecko, a no-frills bar and restaurant perched right on the doorstep of the best snorkelling reef in Gili Meno.
If you’ve stumbled on a great place to eat and drink in Gili Meno, we’d love to hear about it! Leave us the details in a comment below.
Gili Meno’s salt lake
A walk to Gili Meno’s salt lake should be on any visitor’s itinerary. The collection of flora and fauna you’ll find is utterly remarkable for such a small island ecosystem. If you have a bird whistle, this is the place to put it to use. Migratory birds, rare blue kingfishers and tropical feathered creatures can be spotted in the foliage above, and swooping into the water below. The salt lake is also home to the shy, but enormous monitor lizard.
Diving in Gili Meno
Gili Meno is home to the best dive sites and snorkelling reefs in the Gili islands. Turtles are often spotted by snorkelers in the shallow reef, but if you want to encounters larger groups of turtles, you’ll find them in the Gili Meno Wall, a dive suitable for all levels. You’ll also encounter crustaceans, Spanish dancers, crabs, lobsters, cuttlefish, scorpion fish and an enchanting array of other ocean critters.
Blue Marlin Dive and Divine Divers are the go-to dive centres in Gili Meno. They organise diving trips around Gili Meno’s dive sites and around the Gili islands to suit every level. If getting your PADI is on your bucket list, then Gili Meno’s tranquil waters is the place to do it.
More things to do in Gili Meno
Gili Meno has a reputation for being uber relaxing. Unlike Gili Trawangan and Gili Air, nightlife is non-existent here, but there are enough island activities here to keep you, and the little ones entertained.
Gili Meno Bird Park is home to an impressive collection of birds, much more than you’d expect to find on a remote island. More than 300 birds, including brightly coloured tropical parrots and macaws, pelicans, eagles, hornbills and many more species of feathered friends will keep the kids entertained for hours. At the turtle sanctuary, the young ones can learn about environmental conservation, and if they’re lucky, witness turtles hatching. For a small donation towards the cause, you can release baby turtles back into the wild. When you get the urge to explore the other Gili islands, the local ferries operate between the three Gili islands in the morning at 9.30am, and again in the afternoon at 4.30pm from the public jetties. Tickets cost just IDR30,000.
A real highlight is a day spent on Lombok Strait, exploring all the little islands that look like peanuts in the sea. Local outriggers can be chartered for snorkelling day trips, costing around US$60. It’ll give you a chance to explore the other 23 unmapped Gilis. Lastly, a walk around this tiny island that measures 2km by 1km, getting lost in the network of paths that lead into the villages and back to the beach, is a must-do. It takes less than two hours to walk around the perimeter of the island, but you could really spend an entire afternoon getting to know the locals and Gili Meno’s unique island life.
You’ll start the day exploring the island on foot, or in a cidomo (horse cart), the ubiquitous transport of the Gilis and Lombok. Then kick back on a deserted shore with an icy Bintang at sundown.
Unwind from the gruelling demands of city life, switch off your phone and take a little time to relax in Gili Meno. Here are just a few pictures that capture Gili Meno’s blissful spirit, shot by InBali.org photographer, Emanuel Brai.
So. What’s that you used to say? You’ve shoved the Gilis in the “Save It For The Honeymoon Box”? Sandwiched somewhere between Tahiti and the Maldives? Because there’s no point oohing at paradise if there’s no significant other that can ahhh right back? Shame on you.
Reach back in that box and snatch it back out. This instant. This is an island as much for honeymooners and families as it is for singles and groups of friends. Paradise isn’t picky.