Now I don’t want to tell you how to live your life but if you’ve been considering a trip to Indonesia I BEG OF YOU – extend that trip to include the Gili Islands. Only a few hours from Bali by boat, Gili is pretty much the most tranquil, exotic place on the planet – the very definition of paradise.
Gili is made up of three islands, the largest being Gili Trawangan. Gili T seems to be the most touristy and the busiest while Gili Meno and Gili Air are much smaller. Hannah and I stayed on Gili Air and did a couple of day trips to Gili Meno – both are beautiful.
If you do decide to make the trip, here are my recommendations on how to make the most of your time there:
1. Do All The Things
That doesn’t sound very helpful but hear me out. There are so many things you can rent for the day in the islands. Snorkeling is a must and is also very cheap – a mask with fins and snorkel costs less than AUD$5 a day. You can also try paddle boarding, kayaking, scuba diving and pretty much any other aquatic activity you can think of. If you don’t want to spend a dime, go swimming! Most of the bungalows have their own pools and the beaches are absolutely perfect for a dip. I have never seen clearer water.
There are also a couple of yoga studios on Gili Air and I’d say these would definitely be located at the other islands too. We sampled H2O Yoga a few times which is also a retreat. Slightly back from the beach the yoga studios are wall-less with high bamboo ceilings. When lying in Shavasana at the end of one of the classes Hannah and I were naughty and didn’t close our eyes, watching as a huge lizard perched way up on the ceiling clumsily attempted to catch a fly. H2O Yoga offers two classes per day (morning and evening), the type of class depends on the day and includes Hatha and Vinyasa. The retreat also offers Yoga teacher training and mediation courses if you feel so inclined!
Bikes are also available for hire pretty much everywhere to help you get around the island – though once you’ve attempted to cycle over deep sand you may decide walking is actually easier.
Spend your mornings being active and DOING the things you wouldn’t normally do day to day and your afternoons/evenings doing any of the remaining activities on this list!
2. Eat. Like, Everything
As cycling wasn’t working for us (see above re. sand) Hannah and I found a new means of transportation – Eat your way there. The premise is simple; Wake up, have breakfast, walk to next location, have second breakfast, walk to next location, have morning tea, walk to next location, have brunch etc etc.
Our favourite places and dishes to eat on Gili Air were:
- Sandy Beach Cafe – Banana Pancake. Ok so i didn’t try any other Banana Pancakes as we stayed here so breakfast was free – but I had this for breakfast (first breakfast) every single morning so I think it deserves a mention.
- Le Cirque – Paw Paw Salad
- Youpie’s – Vegetarian Spring Rolls. Bonus totally cool staff.
- The Mexican Kitchen – Everything on the menu
- Yahuuut’s – Gado Gado (Indonesian salad of slightly boiled or steamed vegetables and hard-boiled eggs served with a peanut sauce dressing)
- Mowie’s Bar – Crispers (baked pita bread). Mowie also had amazing pizzas and this ciabatta bread made with bamboo which is black in colour and has this smoky, burnt taste which makes it sound really bad but it is really, really good. Mowie’s is also perfectly located to watch the sunset and the staff are chill.
It’s hard to eat your way around an entire island without quenching your thirst at the same time. Most places do juices, “mix” juices are a fave everywhere. We particularly enjoyed the freshest fresh mango juice at a little place located in the harbour where the fast boats come in. I’m not sure what it’s called but there are big “Fresh Juice” signs at the front and fresh fruit on display on the counter.
Coffee-wise. A tender subject. I live in Melbourne so nowhere in the world will ever make better coffee. I am sorrynotsorry for being a #snob. There are a couple of places on Gili Air which claim to have the “Best Coffee On The Island” but, to be honest it was so hot that I only had iced coffee everywhere and that’s pretty hard to do wrong. Mowie’s Bar did add a delicious chocolate sauce to mine though so they get a special mention and my iced coffee was also pretty ace at Zippo’s and the Turtle Beach Club.
Alcohol-wise Le Cirque were hands down my favourite with their Mojitos – the classic Mojito also available in strawberry or ginger flavour. Honorable mention to the ridiculous frozen margaritas at Scallywags which pile up way too high and melt very quickly and again the Mojitos at The Mexican Kitchen. Can you tell I like Mojitos?
Also a sensible one. DRINK WATER. Gili Air has predominantly salt water running from its taps but even if the place you’re staying does have fresh water, exercise caution – the water is not drinkable. You can buy large 1.5L bottles of water everywhere on the island for 6000-10,000 rupiah (60 cents – $1 AUD). Try to drink at least two of these a day. Some places also do refills for usually around 5000 rupiah.
4. Go On A Snorkeling Day Trip
When Hannah and I rolled back to our bungalow after another successful day of eat-traveling the hotel staff asked if we wanted to go on a snorkeling trip. This wasn’t on our agenda (the schedule was quite tight what with all the meals we had to fit in) so we asked if we’d see turtles.
“Oh yes, guarantee”
That settled it. A guarantee to see turtles! There are a number of these chartered (private ones are available too) snorkeling trips on Gili Air and we enjoyed the first one so much we went again another day. They only cost about AUD$10 and you leave in the morning to visit a couple of different snorkeling spots around the island. You do see turtles. Guaranteed. In fact, if you know how to snorkel below the surface (which you should practice/learn to do before you go on the day trip) you can TOUCH them. Turtles are the chillest chill bros on the planet. Most of them hang out near Gili Meno, the middle island, so I think when (yes, when) I go back I will try and stay there.
For the final week of our trip we got a spa treatment every. single. day. It’s kind if a joke how many spas there are on Gili Air. Like, more than 5. That’s more than 1 per kilometre of the circumference of the island. We tried three out and went back to Beach Spa Gili Air deciding it was our favourite. It’s located opposite the noisier area of the beach so I was surprised at how tranquil it feels – set up really beautifully and unlike the other spas we tried at this one you can choose your treatment. For example if you are having an aromatherapy massage you can choose your favourite oil scent (Sandalwood, Jasmine, Lavendar etc). Spending time in the sun and with no fresh water to wash in your skin and hair are going to want some pampering so I highly recommend their hair treatment and exfoliating massage. I’ve never felt so soft! Also – it is much cheaper to do this rejuvenating there than it is to wait until you get home so make the most of it.
So there you have it – enjoy your stay! I have linked to websites above if I could find them and if not , TripAdvisor listings so hopefully you find this helpful. Also a side note on accommodation: most of the food places are also hotels/bungalows and if you stay with them they usually include breakfast in the room rate.
If you have any questions at all about Gili/Bali whether it be to do with cost/accommodation/food/whatever please let me know in the comments or you can email me directly 🙂 I am happy to help where I can!