We didn’t really know what to expect when we arrived in Gili Trawangan via the Gili Cat from Bali ($32 per person, 2 hour journey) near the island of Lombok. The largest of the three islands, Gili T, as it is commonly known, houses the major dive and snorkel operators and has the most accommodation options compared to the smaller Gili Meno and Gili Air.
We walked around the first night to find a small beach bungalow before the night set, only to find out that the electricity on the island ‘turns off” every night for due to lack of infrastructure and the showers were salt water! Although tolerable, we decided that being “flash packers” and not 18, we could afford and preferred a more lavish travel lifestyle.
After a sweaty and humid night, we moved to the more luxurious and generator clad, Buddha Dive Resort, where we spent two days diving a few of the best rated dive sites in the world. Our dive master, Rhiannon, guided us around Bio Rocks, a dive site that contains man-made metal structures (in various creative shapes; dolphins, stars etc.) that pump electricity through their pipes to encourage the underwater coral restoration and have now become apartments for the delighted local fish.
We saw giant sea turtles mating, free swimming lion fish, an abundance of clownfish (Nemo), cuttle fish, blue spotted stingrays and tons of beautiful coral and tiny sea life. Three days in the Gilis were plenty to see all the islands had to offer since the beaches were a little polluted and rocky, not the best swimming conditions when you weren’t snorkeling or diving, so we headed back to the island of Bali for some relaxation time.
Sights & Activities: Snorkelling is the most popular activities in the crystal blue waters of the Gili islands and numerous local long tailed boats make several trips throughout the day to get you to the best reefs. Prices are always negotiable, so gather some friends, haggle the price and rent a boat and driver for an impressive day of snorkeling.
There are 6 dive operators on the island offering the same per dive price ($45 per dive) and similar itineraries, so be sure to visit all of them and see where you are most comfortable with the instructors and dive guides.
Transport: The Gili islands are small enough to walk the entire coast. No motorized vehicles are on the island, but if you fancy, you can take a quick ride on a horse pulled buggy or rent a bicycle. To get to the Gili Islands from Bali, there are three options which include the fast catamaran ($32, 2 hours), slow boat ($20, 6 hours) or the really slow boat ($12, 10 hours). Note that the journey times have been known to double if there are rough seas ahead.
Accomodation: Walk right off the pier on the only road and you will find all the bungalows and resorts dotted along the way. Be sure to ask if the showers are salty or fresh water and if the electricity works 24 hours!
Eats: Scallywags is the organic and fresh seafood favorite, located on the north end of the beach, near the only ATM on the island, where we gulped down some pineapple-guava fruit shakes and beet and goat cheese salads for lunch. Another cheaper and local recommendation is The Living Room, which had a huge menu, hearty banana milkshakes and toasty wood fired pizzas.
Entertainment: Rudy’s is a sure bet for a great time. Just make sure your accommodation is far away since the loud music plays all night long!