A two hour speedboat ride from the coast of Bali will get you to the Gili Islands, or ‘the real islands of Gods’ as many have termed it. The Gilis are made up of three tiny flat islands that look more like the images from a Maldives postcard than a Balinese archipelago. While it is fair to say that all three islands are idyllic, they are each defined by their own characteristics.
Gili Trawangan, or simply Gili T, is the most popular and developed of the islands. It has the infrastructure of a small Kuta; the beach is dotted with bars, rustic movie-theaters, dive centers and small shops. Once just a spot for keen backpackers, the island is now a must-go destination for all types of tourists, and this can make it somewhat overwhelming during peak season.
Gili Air is much quieter. Although there are still a few beach bars here, the beach itself is large and empty. The scenery is picture-perfect with some of the area’s bluest water slapping the shores and Lombok’s highest point, Mount Rinjani, providing a dramatic backdrop. The other side of the island faces Bali, the silhouette of Mount Agung far off in the distance. This view is especially stunning at sunset.
The last of three islands, Gili Meno, is the least developed and gives off a vibe that could be mistaken as 1970. There are only a few villas on the island and these are tucked away. A turtle sanctuary is the only place of interest, making this tiny island the perfect hideaway.
One thing you will notice on all three islands is the absence of cars and motorbikes. Transportation comes in the form of horse carriages and pushbikes, which can make especially sandy areas quite the challenge to negotiate. As these islands are closer to the Muslim area of Lombok than the Hindu mainland of Bali, the majority of locals are Muslim. This means that dogs are not welcome here although you will find many a healthy feline.
All three islands are very dependent on their big brother Lombok to supply food and supplies. Even young coconuts are delivered from Lombok daily, as too is fresh water, although as sustainability becomes more popular, many resorts are endeavouring to recycle their grey water and desalinate the ocean water.
The Gilis have a much drier climate than the mainland and the heat is easier to tolerate due to the islands’ flat landscapes. The rainy season lasts roughly from November through till March, but the showers don’t last long and are generally a welcomed relief.
Long-tail ferries cruise between the Gilis and Lombok and connect the islands. Tourists can hire a variety of small marine vessels as well equipment for ocean adventures including diving, snorkeling, wakeboarding, open water picnics and romantic sunset sailing sessions.