Ever heard of the gili islands? If you have any diving skill or desire to learn or simply love the vibe of an untouched island, this may be the place you’ve been looking for.
There’s absolutely nothing to dislike about gili…except the logistics. So here goes some useful tips & advice for anyone looking to head on over!
By far the most annoying part is physically getting there. But isn’t that the case with anything worthwhile these days? You’ll need to fly into Bali and take a boat/ferry. I’d recommend a speed boat (there are many companies priced similarly such as Gangari, Eka, or Marina) from the Pangdai harbor. It will likely not be on time, so you’ll be waiting in the scorching heat for a bit (or for a long time) but good news is you can pretty much book these things last minute so don’t fret about being super organized ahead of time. The speed boat will take approx 1.5-2 hours to whichever Gili you’ve chosen to hit up first. From there, the 3 islands are approx 10-15 min from each other by speedboat.
Important: I’d recommend choosing one base and staying on that island for accommodation while making day trips to whichever other you’d like to visit. At the end of the day, moving around with suitcases on mini boats and dragging them through sand isn’t the most ideal.
Now on to the islands!
Gili T – the “party” island. I’d highlight this one as more of a backpacker scene but definitely the largest in terms of options for dining & diving. This one is probably best for younger groups or more adventurous couples. Be sure to hit up Pink Coco for sunset and the infamous swing.
Gili Air – the more “romantic” island. The general vibe of Air is much more remote than Gili T. You’ll find fewer shops, hotels, restaurants and more local joints. The vibe is sweet and quaint making it ideal for couples looking for relaxation and potentially families. This would be my pick if I were to choose one location as a base.
Special call out – I had the lovely opportunity to stay at Camilla Resorts in Gili Air in an adorable private bungalow complete with its very own pool. This small boutique joint has just 6 of these rooms and has incredibly friendly staff as well as complementary bikes for you to explore the island. The staff is superbly attentive and make your breakfast daily in an open space kitchen above the reception. The only thing to note: the location of the resort is north on the more quiet side of the island and about 15 minutes by horse carriage away from the harbor and most restaurants. Also to note – these little horse buggies are the clear monopoly on the islands and charge a pretty flat 100k no matter the distance. Be sure to have cash on hand.
Gili Meno – the “nothing to do” island. I actually didn’t step onto land here so I can’t give my genuine opinion but it’s key to note this island is the best location for spotting turtles right off the coast. No matter which you choose to stay on, make sure to take a snorkeling trip to Meno’s turtle heaven. If you get lucky they’ll swim up right next to you! For this, I’d say try to book a private boat so your guide can cater to you. Make sure to bargain for the price! We paid 500k for the full snorkeling trip on a private boat for 2. The general tourist shops will probably quote you 1.2million.
If you’re thinking of going and have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them!