Category Archives: Lombok Travel

Things to See and Do While Island Hopping the Gili Islands

Things to See and Do While Island Hopping the Gili Islands

The beautiful white sand-lined beaches and clear turquoise-tinted waters of the Gili Islands have been tempting travelers for decades. This lovely cluster of three islands is now a firm fixture on the Banana Pancake Trail and a must-visit for anyone traveling to Indonesia.

Click here for a  full guide on how to get to Gili Islands and travel tips and info.

gili islands travel guide

While the most popular activity on any of the Gilis is plain, old-fashioned relaxation, there’s plenty else to see and do while here. Read on to find out more about things to see and do on each of the gorgeous Gili Islands.

Gili Trawangan

By looking at Gili Tranwangan today, one would hardly guess that the beautiful island was settled just 50 years ago. Travelers only began arriving in the 1980s but the white-sand beaches and colorful coral reefs of Gili T quickly gained international repute and is now dubbed the “Ibiza of Southeast Asia.”

gili trawangan

Today, Gili Trawangan boasts a range of lounge bars, hip hotels, cosmopolitan restaurants, reggae joints, and beach parties galore. The island is famous as a party place and the party-inclined will find endless options from swanky upscale lounges to the more wild and woolly bars around Gili Trawangan’s main strip. Drugs are widely available here and range from magic mushrooms and marijuana to the harder drugs like cocaine and even methamphetamine.

But Gili T is not all drugs, sex, and rock and roll – the island offers a range of other activities that are every bit worth visiting the island for, such as…

Dive

diving gili trawanganDiving is fast overtaking partying as Gili T’s most popular activity and that’s no surprise considering the fantastic dive spots scattered around Gili Trawangan. Sea turtles are abundant here, thanks to the island’s conservation efforts, and divers will also have the chance to swim with eels, white-tip reef sharks, sting rays, pigmy seahorses, and among a kaleidoscope of colorful fish.

There are also some great muckdiving sites for macro photographers, a Japanese wreck for deep diving and biorock artificial reefs which may interest environmental enthusiasts.

Note: Visibility is not great around December and January, when it tends to rain heavily around the Gilis – if you’re coming for diving, avoid these months.

Learn to Free Dive

freedive gili islandsDiving is wonderful – imagine how great it’d be without all the cumbersome scuba equipment.

Gili Trawangan has a freediving school where you can learn breathing techniques that’ll allow you to dive deep with just a single breath.

 

Snorkel

snorkel gili islandsFor those who prefer to stay near the surface of the water, Gili T offers fantastic snorkeling options. You can rent masks and fins off pretty much any beach, but instead of setting out yourself, it’s best to book a snorkeling trip. The currents are strong even near the shore and you’ll spend most of your energy fighting the currents before you reach the best snorkel spots.

A snorkeling trip, on the other hand, will pick you up around 10 AM in the morning and take you to 3 – 4 of the best snorkel spots around the Gilis.

Sea Kayak

kayak gili islandsA great way to explore the islands is to go on a sea kayaking trip.

Sign up for a day trip with Karma Kayak on the north beach of Gili T – you just might luck out and end up paddling alongside sea turtles or manta rays.

 

Visit the Turtle Sanctuary

gili turtle sanctuaryThe Gilis have been called the ‘turtle capital of the world’ and you’ll find that this is not an overstatement thanks to the islands’ conservation efforts. Green and loggerhead turtles are common around the waters of the Gilis.

You can see them both in the water and visit them out of the water by swinging by the turtle sanctuary where you can check out baby turtles in their pools and learn more about these awesome creatures.

Catch the Sunrise…and the Sunset

sunrise gili islandsAlthough you can’t beat Gili Air for sunrises and sunsets, Gili Trawangan’s are also quite superb.

Sit on the beach and watch the sunrise over Lombok’s Mt. Rinjani and then get yourself to the west side of the island (either to another beach or to the low-lying hill at the southern center of the island)  to watch the sun set over Bali’s Mt. Agung.

Explore the Island on Horseback

horseback on beach, gili islandsPretty much the entire perimeter of Gili T can be walked along the beach – or explored on horseback. Gili T is the only Gili Island on which you can ride horseback on the beach so this goes on the must-do list.

There is only one stable called Stud Stables and they have experienced guides who will take you on a relaxed, scenic horseback ride through the island for around $25 USD per hour.

It’s best if you have some experience with horses beforehand.

Take the Party on a Boat

party boat gili islandsGili T is home to the Gilis’ only party boat – the boat rid starts at 3 PM and tours around the 3 Gili Islands, stopping over at Gili Air for a swim and a snorkel before watching the sunset over the water toward Bali.

Dinner is served on the boat on the way back to Gili Trawangan and the party continues all the way back.

Surf

surf gili trawanganMost people head to Bali for the surfing, but you can catch some decent waves on Gili T as well. The locals regularly surf off the south end of the island.

 

 

Unwind at a Yoga Retreat

yoga gili trawanganAmidst the partying and the diving, a small but strong yoga community exists on Gili T.

You’ll find dedicated yoga centers here that offer both yoga classes as well as longer, more comprehensive yoga retreats.

 

Beach Lazing

gili trawangan beachIn between the sunrise and the sunset lies our most recommended thing to do while on Gili Trawangan – just laze around.  This “party island” offers so much in terms of natural beauty to enjoy.

The beaches are soft and powdery white, the water a beautiful clear blue, and the warm island climate perfect to just lie on the beach and laze.

Gili Meno

Gili Meno has the lovely distinction as the least touristy Gili Island. It’s the smallest of the Gilis and the crowds flocking to Gili Trawangan and Gili Air haven’t quite made their way over to this middle island so far.

Gili Meno

It’s the perfect getaway spot for honeymooners, families, and people who are looking for a genuine beach-side retreat. The accommodation, dining, and especially the partying options are more limited than on the other Gilis but Gili Meno does have some of the best beaches of the three Gilis and it offers something not many island retreats can these days: peace and quiet.

Still, there’s plenty to see and do for anyone intent on exploring the beauty of this middle island. Here’s a few suggestions…

Dive

diving gili islandsSea turtles are abundant in the waters around the Gilis, thanks to the islands’ conservation efforts, and divers will also have the chance to swim with eels, white-tip reef sharks, sting rays, pigmy seahorses, and among a kaleidoscope of colorful fish.

There are over 25 fantastic dive spots scattered around the Gilis and Gili Meno is very close to some awesome dive spots. Make sure to check out:

  • Meno Wall: This one is a must-dive spot – make sure you sign up for the night diving. The Meno Wall runs from 5 meters down to 16 meters with a second wall running a bit deeper. You’ll see a bunch of sea critters here from lobsters, huge sponge crabs, Spanish dancers, baby cuttlefish, Scorpion fish, and sleeping turtles.
  • Meno Bounty (aka Jubblies): On the south west side of Gili Meno, there’s a 30 meter long sunken platform covered in hard and soft corals. It’s an ideal dive spot to watch Scorpion fish, Stone fish, and Juvenile Batfish, among others.
  • Mirkos (aka Secret Reef): Mirkos is a really long sea mound stretching nearly the whole length of the island. This is a wonderful deep dive with beautiful coral.

Note: Visibility is not great around December and January, when it tends to rain heavily around the Gilis – if you’re coming for diving, avoid these months.

Snorkel

snorkel gili menoFor those who prefer to stay near the surface of the water, Gili Meno has several great snorkeling spots. The waters around Gili Meno are calmer than around Gili T and you can rent masks and fins from pretty much any cafe or hotel and head off to explore underwater.

The best places to snorkel is off the beach in front of the Good Heart Cafe on the northwestern shore as well as the west coast of Gili Meno. The east coast is not so recommended due to boat traffic.

Visit the Turtle Sanctuary

gili meno turtle sanctuaryThe Gilis have been called the ‘turtle capital of the world’ and you’ll find that this is not an overstatement thanks to the islands’ conservation efforts.

Green and loggerhead turtles are common around the waters of the Gilis. You can see them both in the water and visit them out of the water by swinging by the turtle sanctuary where you can check out baby turtles in their pools and learn more about these awesome creatures.

Check out the Bird Sanctuary

gili meno bird sanctuaryThere’s a bird sanctuary located in the center of Gili Meno where you could spend a few hours ooh-ing and aah-ing over the beautifully exotic birds in a pristine landscaped environment.

You’ll spot macaws, flamingos, pelicans, cockatoos, eagles, parrots, and a whole lot more – including a crocodile, some deer, and a kangaroo. Random, yea?

Take a Leisurely Stroll

gili meno beachThe coastal path of Gili Meno is a particularly beautiful walk and not to be missed. It’ll only take you a little over an hour to walk the entire island.

 

 

Laze on the Beach

gili meno beachGili Meno has the best beaches of all the Gilis – they’re beautiful, uncrowded, and the horizon seems to stretch to infinity.

By far the most popular thing to do on this peaceful island is just sit back and relax.

 

Gili Air

Gili Air is the Gili Island closest to Lombok and the only Gili with an indigenous population of around 2,000 inhabitants. Gili Air has been styled as the more sophisticated of the Gilis and traditionally the domain of families and couples wanting a quiet island escape in stylish beach bungalows amidst beautifully lush settings.

gili_air

The most popular activity on Gili Air is hanging out by the beautiful beaches, but there’s plenty else to do in between relaxation such as…

Dive

diving gili trawanganThere are over 25 excellent dive spots scattered around the Gilis. Sea turtles are abundant here, thanks to the island’s conservation efforts, and divers will also have the chance to swim with eels, white-tip reef sharks, sting rays, pigmy seahorses, and among a kaleidoscope of colorful fish.

There are also some great muckdiving sites for macro photographers, a Japanese wreck for deep diving and biorock artificial reefs which may interest environmental enthusiasts.

Note: Visibility is not great around December and January, when it tends to rain heavily around the Gilis – if you’re coming for diving, avoid these months.

Snorkel

snorkel gili airFor those who prefer to stay near the surface of the water, Gili Air has several great snorkeling spots. The waters around Gili Air are calmer than around Gili T and you can rent masks and fins from pretty much any cafe or hotel and head off to explore underwater. The waters are crystal clear – to the point where you can see where the coral starts and ends.

Gili Air’s east side is the best for both swimming and snorkeling and conveniently, it’s also where the majority of accommodation is.

Surf

Surf Gili AirGili Air isn’t exactly known on the global surf scene but for skilled and experienced surfers, the island offers a few great surf spots as well as a fantastic surf shop – Ozzy’s Surf Shop – where you can check out the conditions and get the scoop on the best surf spots around the island.

 

Yoga

gili islands yogaGili Air has a great yoga and mediation center – H2O Yoga and Meditation Center – which offers twice-daily yoga classes as well as yoga teacher training and yoga and meditation retreats.

 

 

Take a Stroll Around the Island

gili air beachYou can walk around Gili Air in around an hour – it’s a beautiful walk and highly recommended.

 

 

Catch the Sunrise…and the Sunset

Gili AirThis is a must-see on Gili Air – the sunrise and sunsets here are things of legend.

Sit on the beach and watch the sunrise over Lombok’s Mt. Rinjani and then get yourself to the west side of the island to watch the sun set over Bali’s Mt. Agung.

 

Do Absolutely Nothing

gili islands beachThis is by far our favorite activity. There are no cars to interrupt your reverie and a range of bungalow-style accommodations with verandas that overlook the ocean that you can hang out on all day.

Hammocks are nice, too.

 


There’s plenty to see and do on the Gili Islands, but they’re also a short distance from a number of other awesome destinations to explore!

Check out:

And wherever you roam, make sure your travels are safe and covered with travel insurance. We highly recommend World Nomads. They cover cover travelers from over 150 countries around the world, offer great rates, and cover a range of travel-related costs from the more commonplace – lost baggage and cancellation costs – to the more severe – emergency medical and evacuation assistance as well as coverage for a wide range of adventure sports and activities. Click here for rates!

 

Destination Paradise: Gili Islands, Indonesia

Destination Paradise: Gili Islands, Indonesia

The Gili Islands are a cluster of three small islands located just off the northwest tip of Lombok, Indonesia. This archipelago of islands only recently came to the attention of the wider world in the 1980s and 1990s but is now officially Lombok’s most popular tourist destination and a firm fixture on the Banana PancakeContinue Reading