Yes, paradise does exist on Earth and it can be as tiny as 15km2. Divide it by 3 and you get three pieces of land in Indonesia that contain the tranquility of quiet beaches, the hippie party vibe, the adventurous water spirit and the splendidness of every sunset that island life has to offer.
Located northwest off Lombok, the islands are easily accessible with a speed boat both from Bali or Lombok and are present in almost every Indo-traveler’s route. White beaches, crystal blue water, unbelievably approachable sea life, no motorized transport, lots of places, cushions, beanbags and hammocks to chill on – a true island dream! Not to worry about tourist overcrowding as Gili T, Gili Meno and Gili Air have their own very distinct characters that will suit every sun soul traveler.
Gili Trawangan is the biggest one and it is often considered as the party one. The white sandy beaches are backed up with island chic style cafes and restaurants, while the busy main alley is buzzing with horse carriage – taxis, tanned happy crowd on bicycles, flip-flops and snorkels, beach shops and delicious food.
You can truly lose track of time here and dive into a happier, worry-free sandy-toes life. And luckily I have so far done in twice. Both years I was staying on Gili T. The accommodation options are plenty and you can easily find colourful bungalow type rooms with lush tropical garden and a terrace with bamboo chairs and hanging seashells.
On the food side Gili T has plenty of restaurants offering local and western food, however where everyone is really heading to is to the open street market. Abundance of fresh fish and meat to pick from which is then thrown onto the coals and grilled right there in front of you. For the veggie people like me there are plenty of local dishes around, massive veggie skewers and the grilled spice corn on the cob is just to die for!
You won’t head for dinner though before watching the sunset on the west side of the island, which has really turned into a ritual here. Adding the low tide revealing the narrow coral sea bottom and the reflection of the sky that changes shades of red and yellow every minute, the scenery revealed in front of your eyes is truly breathtaking.
You can find plenty of chilled bars to watch the sunset from of course.
The Gilis hide one more treasure, actually a shoal of treasures! Swimming graciously and carelessly just meters away from the shores live families of SEA TURTLES, accompanied by the whole cast of “Finding Nemo”.. LIVE!!! This was truly one of my most memorable experiences I have ever had. You don’t need any diving equipment. Just jump in the water with a snorkel and you will see them! After seeing my first Mrs Turtle I was so flooded with emotions that I was telling pretty much everyone about it. The answer I was getting around me though was usually “Oh, great, I saw 5 an hour ago!” which along with slightly killing my beginner turtles spotter enthusiasm, motivated me to go back and back in the water looking for the whole turtle family. One day we also joined a snorkeling trip with a boat that takes you around different sea-life spotting places. Unfortunately, this was not the only snorkeling boat as you can imagine and you end up with more Nemo-enthusiast in the water than Nemos and the intimate discoverer moment is gone.
You should definitely allow yourself several days here, just to embrace completely into the atmosphere the Gilis have. Even if you are more of the active type of traveler there is plenty here to get you busy. Few yoga places have now popped up here and there, giving you the perfect early start of the day while most of the island is still sleeping. As a bonus you get to see the sunrise which many people here get to miss while recovering from the night before!
Get a bike and venture through the inner jungle-like parts of the island while encountering flocks of shiny cows and feeling more of the local island life. Get your diving course here or just spend a lazy day on a boat, jumping in the water whenever you want a break from the hot sun.
Gili Меno sits right next to Gili T but the vibe and the size are quite different. Often referred as the honeymoon island of the three, Meno is the perfect island escape with no noisy crowds and loud nights. Just the sea, the beach, (the loved one perhaps) and the tranquility. Gili T is however a short boat ride away, just in case you want to escape. From the tranquility, I mean.
Gili Air sits closest to Lombok and it seems to balance the craziness of Gili T with the snooziness of Meno. It is perfect if you want some quieter time but still want a bit of island vibes. Nice restaurants, cute cafes, lots of diving schools and probably the best beaches of the three islands are found here. Do not get tempted to get a bike here as you will end up pushing it through the sand more often than you expect!
Whatever your idea of a perfect island is, these three little gems are unmissable stop in your Indonesia adventure. Yes, you might be going on the well-beaten path, but the Gilis are popular for a reason! Little happy place I can’t wait to go back to soon!