The Gilis are an archipelago of three picture-perfect islands (Gili Meno, Gili Air, and Gili Trawangan) dotted off the shores of Lombok, Indonesia. I had never even heard of the remote Gilis before I booked my flight to Bali, and started obsessively researching ‘best of this’ and ‘best of that’. Gili Trawangan really is ‘the best of’ in regards to remote islands.
Stepping off the fast boat and onto the white-sand beach of Gili T is like stepping foot into another world, a beautiful parallel universe with no motorized vehicles, no traffic jams, and no worries. Just dirt-caked bikes, horse-drawn carriages, dive boats, mosques, beachside restaurants, and an aura of ease. A sliver of white-sand beach wraps around the island, perfectly colliding with crystal blue waters.
The pleasant vibes of the island turned my ‘supposed two day stint’ into a ten day adventure filled with night dives, 5 am wake up calls from chanting mosque speakers, bike rides through local Indonesian life, endless happiness, and an appreciation for the simplicity of life on the island.
Where to begin …
Diving is huge in Gili T, and there are 20+ shops scattered along the main road. They have a ‘fixed island price’ of $395 USD to get your PADI Open water certification, which is a little pricey, but worth it if a lifetime of underwater adventures are in your future.
I chose to get certified with Gili Divers because:
Completing the three-day open watercourse, deep diving to 30 meters, and experiencing complete darkness on my night dive made for one of the most exhilarating weeks of my life. I am officially addicted to diving and have Gili Divers to thank for that.
Biking the island takes approximately an hour, and is a beautiful way to explore. The bumpy road passes right by hidden beaches, a varying continuum of luxurious accommodation, restaurants, beachside warungs (shops), and the infamous swings in the sea. Be sure to negotiate your bike rental, as they should cost only about 30,000 Rupiah ($2 USD) per bike/ day!
Like every other aspect of life on the island, the food is just better here. My favorite dish, Gado-Gado, is a vegetable mixture sautéed to perfection and accompanied with peanut sauce. Or try the Indonesian staple, Nasi-Goreng, a simple fried-rice dish that will erase any trace of a hangover.
Gili T is known for its abundance of backpackers, booze, and beach parties. Most nights in Gili kick off with a round of the infamous ‘Joss’ shots. These babies are deadly and consist of pouring an energy packet of yellow-ish powder into your mouth, taking a shot of vodka, and then swishing the concoction together before slinging it back! Talk about vodka red bull on crack, but it definitely makes for an interesting ‘morning-after’ story.
As of lately, Wednesdays and Sundays are the craziest nights to go out, and no night out in Gili would be complete without starting off at Jungle Bar.
As you walk downtown you will pass adorable café after restaurant after ocean side bar, making it hard to choose just one. The good thing is, they are all pretty amazing and grant beautiful views, laid back beach tunes, and fine-dining at its cheapest.
Both hostels are very reasonable (300,000 Rupiah for a private room, or 120,000 Rupiah for a shared dorm room). We started at La Boheme which is french-style hostel with a laid back, relaxed vibe and UNLIMITED PANCAKES! Broken Compass is just beginning to add its finishing touches, but is an absolute gem. I loved the daily dinners and breakfast cooked by Bonnie, the fun atmosphere for pre-games, and the rooms are brand spanking new! If you’re going to Gili I would highly recommend either of these places.
I came to Gili T planning to stay two days. I stayed and played for ten, and would have stayed forever if I could. This island of bare feet, bikes, and bliss is consuming. Its aura of ease is incomparable, and the synergy of life above and below the turquoise waters is indescribable. There is just something about the people here, the continuous smiles, and the happiness this island exudes. Gili T is a tiny drop of paradise that will forever leave you longing for its friendly people, crazy nightlife, and epic diving.