For years I’ve been hearing about the Gili Islands and when I mentioned that I was moving to Bali earlier this year, everyone told me to go. But two months ago a very strong earthquake hit Lombok and the Gili islands, followed by many aftershocks. People lost their lives and homes.
Was it still an option to go to the Gili islands? Is it safe?
Two months after the earthquake I decided to pay a visit to tell you about the current situation and if its still a good idea to go.
Little bit about the Gili Islands
Northwest of Lombok there are three tiny islands, Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan. The term “Gili” means little island in Sasak. They are known for their beautiful beaches and typical island lifestyle. Gili Trawangan is the biggest of three and known as the party island, Gili Meno is the most quite one and known for its beautiful waters and Gili Air is known as the honey moon island. We spend our entire stay on Gili Trawangan since we heard it was the most recovered after the earthquake.
How to get there
If you are visiting from Bali, there are two main harbors which the fast boats depart from. There is Padangbai which is located on the north side of Bali, it’s quite far and there is Serangan Harbor on the south which is around a 30 minute ride from Canggu.
Finding a trustworthy speedboat to Gili Trawangan wasn’t as easy and cheap as I thought. I read lots of bad reviews from boat companies and it got me worried. Read about boats that stopped working on the middle of the sea, really tiny boats with no air, being ripped off and asked to pay more to get home, getting your luggage thrown in in the water on the beach and so much more.
Simple TIP: You get what you pay for, if it’s a very cheap price.. don’t expect very good service or boat.
We ended up finding a speed boat from Blue Water Express for 700.000 IDR (around $46) a person for one way ticket and free pickup + drop-off close to where you are staying. Blue Water Express blew us away with their service, super comfortable boat and professionalism. They even had beds upstairs so you can lay in the sun during your trip!! We left Bali at 8am and arrived on Gili Trawangan around 11am.
Transportation on the island
There are only two options; 1). Renting a bike or 2). Using a horse carriage.
You can rent a bike everywhere, either from your hotel or on the streets. The price should be around 50.000 IDR (around $3) a day per bike. I recommend getting a bike during your entire stay, it’s cheaper and easier. The roads are really bumpy and sometimes you need to walk because there is so much loose sand, but it’s totally doable.
The Horse carriages are expensive (15 min ride is 150.000 IDR) and the horses are being treated badly. They get wiped and work the WHOLE day and night in the hot sun without many breaks.
The island is so small that it doesn’t really matter where you are staying, you can get to the other parts of the islands with a 15-30 min bike ride.
What to do
♥ Visit the Swings for sunset
The west side of Gili Trawangan has the best sunsets, for the most beautiful spot head over to the Exile where you will find swings, hammocks and some restaurants where you can grab a snack or a drink. If you look carefully at this shot, you can see that most of the water in the back is gone because of the tide. During our stay the high tide was early in the morning and late in the evening.
♥ Rent bikes and explore the island
♥ Take the boat to Gili Meno
Every day there are two public boats leaving to Gili Meno, one around 9.30am and the other one around 4pm. The prices are 35.000 IDR (around $2) per person (one way) and you can buy tickets at the boat ticket office in Gili Trawangan. The boat ride is only 10 minutes long and when you arrive you are welcomed by crystal clear waters.
Within 5 minutes of arriving on Gili Meno we found a boat tour that would take us to 5 different spots for 150.000 IDR (around $10) a person. We visited; The Underwater statues, the Christmas three, the sunken ship, the wall and turtle point.
We saw a total of 10 turtles and it was amazing! If you get the chance, take a boat trip in Gili Meno!
I dreamed of visiting the underwater statues for so long and was surprised how many people were in the water there, over 50 people swimming on top of the statues and just floating around. TIP: If you wait long enough (around 30 min) you might get the chance to be in the water alone.
♥ Have dinner on the beach
Almost everywhere on the island you will find restaurants located on the beach, where you can have dinner while your feet are in the sand & watch the sunset. Sounds perfect right?
♥ Watch a movie on the beach
Different hotels offer this service for free a few times a week. We got to experience this at our hotel called Le Pirate and it was such a nice location right on the beach with popcorn.
♥ Befriend the local cows
During our trip we saw so many cows (over a hundred) on Gili Trawangan. They are quite shy, but its an amazing sight to see them all eating. You can find them during different times of the day at the palm three fields. The palm three fields are on the road of Gili Khumba Villas.
Where to stay
We stayed at two different places during our trip. First 3 days at Le Pirate which is a dreamy hotel I’ve always wanted to stay in. They have the most unique looking rooms with beautiful colors and two pools! The are situated right in front of the beach with all the beach swings and you can rent a bike here to explore the entire island. They also have a restaurant so you can get breakfast, lunch or dinner without moving to far away from your roomMy favorite part is the movie nights they have a few times a week at their beach cinema.
On our last day in Gili Trawangan we stayed at Kelapa Villas,where we were welcomed with an entire 2 bedroom villa to ourselves. It had a living room, kitchen, pool and two bedrooms & bathrooms with beautiful outdoor showers. Couldn’t ask for a more perfect villa to stay in!
Should you visit?
There are a lot of open hotels, restaurants and ATM’S that operate. During your stay there you will see lots of empty places due to the lack of customers and locals are desperate to have more tourist come over. There is still a lot of visible damage on the island of buildings and houses and the locals are working hard on getting it all fixed. Definitely go and visit, the island is a lot more quite than before, prices are lower and the locals need your support. Even if you don’t get the chance to visit, you can still help the people that lost their homes after the earthquake in Lombok through this link