Aaah, Gili Air. There is a lot to love about this little Indonesian island (and dare I say it, a couple of things not to love - but we’ll get to that).
The Gilis are a bunch of three small islands just off the coast of Lombok, Indonesia - however are also very accessible from a number of locations in Bali, which is the route we took to get there. The three islands are Gili Trawangan (better known as Gili T), Gili Meno and Gili Air.
We knew we only had about three nights to spend on the Gilis so we decided to stick to just one island. It was a tough call deciding between Gili T (party reputation!) and Gili Air (peaceful reputation). Although we had plenty of great feedback on Gili T from friends who have been there, we naturally felt a pull towards the more chilled out Gili Air.
We made our way there from Ubud. Prices depend where you are coming from however it is very common to get ripped off on the price of this - some people end up paying more than double what you should - and its not exactly cheap to begin with!
We paid 500,000 rupiah each (approx $50 NZ) return. This included pick up from accommodation in Ubud, shuttle bus transfer to Padang Bai (approx 2 hours), fast boat to Gili Air (1.5 hours), fast boat return to Padang Bai (1.5 hours) and return shuttle to Sanur (approx 2 hours).
Tip: There are plenty of boat companies, so shop around. Some companies are known to charge more than double what we paid…be sure you have agreed to a good deal before you hand over the cash!
Regardless, the minute you arrive on a paradise like Gili Air, such worries about money will elude you.
Let’s start with what I loved about this beautiful island.
- It is tiny. You can walk around the entire island in less than 1.5 hours, and thats walking slowly! We did this…once. We were far too busy lounging on the beach, bobbing in the warm sea and sipping mango smoothies in cafe cabanas to care much about exercise.
- The snorkelling is great. I’m going to be honest here, those who know me well are aware that snorkelling is perhaps not my most preferred activity (too many fish all up in my face!). Alan went snorkelling plenty of times in our three days on the island, and even saw a TURTLE!!! That was enough to convince me I needed to get out there with my mask and snorkel on, so I did. I saw plenty of rather pretty fish but alas, no turtles. The Gili Islands are also fantastic for diving if you are that way inclined!
- The cabanas in the cafes. Just about every cafe on Gili Air sits on the beach with cabanas nestled into the sand to comfortably dwell away your days, mango smoothie in hand.
- In the evenings many of the restaurants set out tables, each with a glowing candle, on the beach right down to where the water licks the sand. Its pretty romantic.
- Gili Air is so peaceful! There is one main swimming beach/area (the island is surrounded by coral so this is your best bet for being able to get in and out of the water easily!), and even on a busy day the beach was far from packed.
But in the sake of being honest, there are a couple of downsides we discovered to Gili Air.
- Horse and carts. There are no cars, scooters or motorised vehicles on Gili Air. Other than your own two feet (which is what we used the whole time we were there), the other forms of transport on the island are bicycles or to be taxied around by a horse and cart. Seriously it was 30+ degrees every day we were there, these horses were NOT in good health and were made (read: whipped) to run around all day long in the heat. To make it worse, they are decorated with colourful ribbons and bells, which you could hear jingling in the distance. Each and every time I heard some jingling coming up behind me my heart would break. The horses are used to cart supplies around the island however mostly are for tourist purposes. I couldn't understand why any tourist would get in one of these. Its animal cruelty and inhumane, in my opinion.
- Decent local food is hard to find. Gili Air is a tourist island, so just about all of the cafes cater to tourist taste-buds. Half-decent western food is available just about everywhere, but unfortunately the local food is pretty average too.
As we floated away from Gili Air after three relaxing days we were pretty content. I’m not sure we discovered paradise, but Gili Air is pretty darn close.
Have you discovered an Island paradise? Please do share!