admin May 5th, 2012
Just a short 2 hour fast boat trip from Bali, on the northwest tip of Lombok, the Gili islands are three idyllic atolls where the beaches are still powdery white, the water a beautiful clear blue, with sunsets over Bali’s Mt Agung and sunrise over Lombok’s Mt Rinjani.
Home to the largest Irish bar on the smallest island in the world, a real Japanese sushi restaurant, 3 turtle hatcheries, 20 + world class dive sites like ‘Manta Point’ and ‘Shark Point’, empty white sandy beaches, Lombok’s Gili islands are becoming increasingly more popular.
Some would say Gili Air is the original backpacker Gili destination, even now still relatively untouched, a few new bar shacks have appeared on the west side of the island, with accommodation slowly catching up with the other islands.
The island of Gili Meno lies directly in line in the middle of the other Gilis of Trawangan and Air, both only separated by 1 Km or so of water, it is by far the quietest most undeveloped natural island of the 3 islands. The only Gili island with a salt water lake, a bird park with a Beatles memorabilia bar, and some cool places to stay like Shack 58.
The largest of the Gilis and now by far the most popular to visit, Gili Trawangan boasts accommodation choices starting from backpacker beach huts and budget hotels, an increasing selection of mid range hotels, boutique bungalows, and two resort style hotels and some luxury villas.
No Cars, No Bikes, No dogs, No worries……..
Fortunately all three Gili Islands will not permit any type of motorised transport on them and therefore rely on walking, bicycles or horse drawn carts, locally known as ‘Cidomos’. Bicycles can be rented from any of the kiosks and cost from around Rp20,000 an hour, or better value, ask for the daily rate. Cidomos are easily located all over the islands but tend to hang around the harbours and busy spots, arrangements can be made if you are staying in a more remote place on the islands, for instance a late ride home. Haggling is the norm, and always agree a price before your journey.
Although originally discovered by backpackers in the mid eighties, and a reputation as a party destination, Gili Trawangan now boasts itself as a great destination suitable for families of all ages. Various new hotels and boutique bungalows now cater for children and offer good discounts, some have babysitting services, and with lots of activities on the islands families are sure to enjoy their holidays to the full.
Snorkeling and Diving in Gili
The best place for snorkeling and swimming is along the main beach areas,usually a few hundred meters from where the boats pull in, this area on Trawangan is known as Goodheart. Masks, fins and snorkels can be rented by the hour or day, from any of the dive shops or the kiosks in the street. Glass bottom boat trips around the three islands are available and cost around 150,000rp per person. You can see all types of marine life just by snorkeling including the turtles, but please be careful not to touch the coral or ride the turtles.
There are dive sites to suit all levels of diver, and all offer a huge diversity of marine life including turtles, white tip reef sharks, rays, octopus, cuttlefish, and some unusual small stuff like frog fish, pipe fish and scorpion fish. Most of the dives are drift dives along walls, slopes, sea mounds, canyons and more, and all dive sites are within a 10 minute boat ride of the dive centers on all 3 islands, allowing plenty of time to enjoy these paradise islands between dives.
There is now an 4 ATM machines on Gili Trawangan Island and 2 are located at Villa Ombak, and 2 right after the harbour area. There is also now 1 ATM on Gili Air, but there are none on Gili Meno yet. The dive centres and bigger hotels accept Visa and MasterCard credit cards with a 3% government bank charge. Money changers will cash travelers’ checks and currency but at a lower reduced rate than on the mainland.
All three Gilis now have their own PLN electric generating stations and have power 24 hours a day most of the time; however in the peak seasons this can be put under strain particularly late afternoon and early evening. A number of businesses have their own generators such as the larger hotels and restaurants so as to avoid the problem, and usually power cuts or ‘mati lampu’ only last a few hours.
There are a number of internet cafes on Gili Trawangan all charging approximately the same, (around Rp500 per minute) although all operate at different speeds. For telephone calls the best place to use is the Wartel, located next to the art market.
Crime, safety and health
Generally there is very little crime on the islands, however nowhere is 100% crime free. As with anywhere in the world you travel its best to leave your valuables in your room, and ideally in your hotel safe. If you do have any problems on the island report them to the Head of the Island (Kepala Desa) at the Satgas office, located opposite the Harbour.
There is also now a small tourist police presence on Trawangan to help fill out insurance claims etc.
There are two small basic clinics on Gili Trawangan that can deal with minor problems, located in the village and a very good one at Villa Ombak with a Doctor on cal 24 hrs.
The Wallace line
Alfred Russel Wallace, the so-called father of animal geography, formulated his ideas on evolution by natural selection while observing and collecting wildlife in the islands of Southeast Asia. He was particularly impressed by the sudden difference in bird families he encountered when he sailed some twenty miles east of the island of Bali and landed on Lombok. On Bali the birds were clearly related to those of the larger islands of Java and Sumatra and mainland Malaysia. On Lombok the birds were clearly related to those of New Guinea and Australia. He marked the channel between Bali and Lombok as the divide between two great zoo geographic regions, the Oriental and Australian. In his honor this dividing line, which extends northward between Borneo and Sulawesi, is still referred to today as Wallace’s Line. The very first island of the Australian region is Gili Trawangan.