Gili Air – Welcome to Postcard Island!
Well, where shall I start – GiliAir is not a hidden paradise or secret spot anymore, i know. Hundreds of tourists from Bali and Lombok are going to Gili Air as well as Gili T (Trabangan) and Gili Meno. Gili Trabangan is the favorite spot for party- and adventure seeking backpackers.
Gili Meno on the other hand is famous for its quietness and peace. As motorbikes are not allowed on all three islands, the calm- down and relax factor compared to Bali (Kuta, Seminyak and the bigger cities) is more than high on all of these islands.
1. The Island
There are no more words than this island is perfect – on the one hand, you have a lot of really good restaurants, fresh fish, tropical fruits, white sands beach and a really peaceful nature. On the other hand, the island doesn’t offer as many activities as Bali – I found it perfect to be really active and practice Yoga at two awesome places and go for runs on the lonesome beach. Sweaty like hell, but totally worth it. As the island is smaller than 2 square km² and has less than 1.500 inhabitants, you don’t need a transport. You can reach every spot on the island by feet. Many places also rent bikes, but I wouldn’t recommend that, because of the sandy ground – it takes you even longer than walking. Not kidding at all.
2. The preparation
Before you start your trip to Gili Air – consider that the three Gilis (The word Gili means small Island in the Language Sasak) , different to Bali, are muslim. Due to that fact, during ramadan, many Restaurants are closed. Also get used to the muezzin, calling for the prayer, several times a day and all over the islands. A good advice: Better stick to bathing suit and bikini.
3. What to do on Gili Air?
My favorite moment at the island were my sunrise runs – i got up at 6.am to run around the island – it’s 6k and there is a lot to see. I totally underestimated the humidity at early mornings as well as the sand – i was so done afterwards, but the scenery was unique – especially because it was only me and the sea! So, don’t forget to bring your running stuff!
The perfect Island for Yogis
Another highlight were my two awesome Yoga sessions – first, I tried the MandalaBlue Company. They offer lessons directly at the beach – what a view! Their schedule is broad, you can choose from Hatha Yoga to Yin, Beginner Classes and even Stand Up Paddling Yoga. My teacher was more than excellent, she really tried tot explain the poses, corrected my positions and gave a lot of background information about the history of Yoga. I totally loved it!
The second day I tried a Hatha evening class with Tibetan singing bowls at the h2o yoga and meditation center. The open studio is brilliant, directly located in the middle of a green scenery, you can hear the frogs croak while you are doing your Asanas – the class was very challenging for beginners, but I was up for a challenge and I made it through it (with a really red head, but who cares)! The surrounding is amazing and I would have loved to stay longer to try their broad schedule.
Snorkeling is also fun, right?
On my last day I also tried snorkeling – you can rent masks and fins all over the island – I tried snorkeling at two spots, recommended by locals – unfortunately the corals were all broken and I didn’t see anything. For the real snorkeling experience, I think you have to book a tour or a boat and go to special spots in the open sea to see turtles and corals.
4. Where to eat on Gili Air?
The island impresses with a big variety of awesome food. You can choose between Italian, Indonesian, European as well as Mexican food. The prize range starts at low budget up to haute cuisine level. I stranded at the Mexikan bar and resto “The Mexican Kitchen“. A really laid-back place, with the best nachos and guacamole I’ve ever eaten (and to be fair, I am a real expert when it comes to guacamole) and ceviche ever . The whole place is amazing, with the perfect sea view it is even a very good option for watching the sunset. And on top – everything is styled in bright colors with Mexican highlights!
To save a little money, I’ve tried out a lot of Warungs (little, family owned restaurants with fine Indonesian cuisine) all over the islands. They also offer sea view, but on a really low budget. I had a really good fish, the staff was really friendly and it was half the prize than in other places. Just stroll around the island and pick one with a free table – you won’t regret it.
Just a tiny hint: Don’t try magic mushrooms or other drugs – they are sold in every corner as on Gili Island there is no police, it’s the paradise for consuming drugs. So better stay safe and drink Bintang – better be safe than sorry.
5. Where to stay on Gili Air?
I decided to go to Gili 2 days before i actually went there – as you can image, during high season, it was not easy to find a good accommodation an a budget level. I was lucky enough to book a bungalow at Mustika Ocean Lodge (only for me, yeah) with a huge bed, a spacious outdoor bathroom and a tiny balcony. Breakfast is included and I really loved the place – especially because of the staff. This Lodge is run by a family and it really felt like home, without being home. Awesome!
6. What about the Gili Air Highlights?
Don’t forget to take your Instagram pic on that picture perfect spot: The Gili Air Swing – during sunset, you will have to line up to take a picture on the swing – so better be there early! If you don’t want it too crowded – enjoy the swing during sunrise!
And another thing you can’t miss while staying on Gili Air: The fruit juices on the island are so amazing and cheap – so you definitely have to drink as many as possible!
7. And how to get there?
There are various options to go to the Gilis. As there are huge tourist attractions, there is a broad variety of boats and prizes. My personal advice after finishing this trip: Before you go, already book your return ticket to Bali in advance – the prizes are a lot higher on the island itself and the chance of getting ripped off is more likely.
I pre-booked my transport 3 days in advance and I paid (compared to others I talked to) a very good prize IDR 600.000, around 40 Euro. This transport included a pick-off from my hostel in Legian, bus to Padang Bai harbor (the bus drive was around 1,5 hours), the boat trip from Bali to Gili Air (around 45 boat drive, it was not too bad) and the whole package back. Everyone who ever traveled around Bali knows that pre-booking doesn’t mean you are safe. Not at all.
I went with a transport company called Eka Jaya (one of the biggest companies concerning the Gili Transports) and it was more than chaos. The day I had to get back, my boat was planned for 2.30 pm. I had to be at the harbor 1,5 hours in advance to check-in (don’t think that this is a real check-in, you only get a paper saying „boarding pass“) The guy at the office told me then there is no boat at 2.30 pm – the engine is broken. Aha, alright. Then let’s do it Bali-Style. I begged him to tell me when the next boat will be arriving – he said at 5 pm. Maybe yes. Maybe no. The girl next to me had to catch a flight in the evening and didn’t stop crying, because she would’t make it without the planned boat at 2.30 pm. What a huge drama.
8. And what did we learn?
- Advice 1: When you arrive at the islands, a lot of carriages are waiting for the arriving tourists to take them to their hotels and homestays. As the horses look absolutely tired: Avoid to take a carriage. As said above, every spot can easily be reached by feet.
- Advice 2: You have to catch a flight? Better plan to go back one day in advance, for not being in a hurry. Boats are often overbooked, schedules are not fixed or other unexpected things happen. Just to be sure and relaxed: Don’t plan anything after your boat trip back.
- Advice 3: The boat trip return is normally to Serangan. That means, that the boat trip enlarges up to 2,5 hours and the bus trip is shorter. This boattrip back was bumpy as hell – approx. 50% of the people on the boat got sea sick. Even me – and I am normally fine with sea disturbances and boat trips. So don’t eat too much before you hop on the boat and prepare a plastic bag. Or maybe two!
And now: Safe travels and stay curious!