Many people have asked me what are the things to do in Gili Islands, Lombok, and how does it compare to other similar places such as Bali, Phuket, or Boracay? Well, to begin with, the Gili Islands is indeed different from its other island competitors. It can be difficult to choose between traveling to the Gili islands or to Bali especially if you’ve never been to either. Although the distance between Bali and Gili Islands is merely a two hours boat ride away, but the differences between the two areas are very distinct. Bali, I would describe it as crowded and developed whereas Gili Islands is inhabited and underdeveloped. Meaning, you will expect a slower pace, peaceful and less crowded than Bali. Sounds good?
There are three main islands in the Gili Islands archipelago, Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. They are located just off the coast of North West Lombok Indonesia. This laid back remote island has a lot to offer! But as everyone has their own likes and dislikes when it comes to planning a vacation destination, I have decided to help my dear readers gain some knowledge before deciding if you want to spend your vacation in Gili Islands, so here is the checklist on 12 reasons why you shouldn’t visit the “Turtle Capital of the World”! 🙂
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#1 You don’t like Island hopping via local boat
There are three main islands in the archipelago. Fancy a boat ride and hop around the gorgeous islands? You can take a public boat service and the prices range from 20,000 – 23,000 rupiah per single trip and you can buy the tickets directly at the harbour. If you don’t like island and beach vacation, Gili Islands is definitely not for you then. 🙂
#2 Relaxing in beautiful beaches is not your cup of tea
The scenery and beaches in the Gili islands are unique in their own way. The blue turquoise waters against the backdrop of the Lombok mountains makes it an ideal place to chillax and rejuvenate your energy from the material world. If you think this will be a waste of time, then Gili Islands is not for you! 🙂
#3 You don’t want to be alone in the photo, you love photobombers
In Gili Islands, you won’t have problems taking photos without photobombers unlike in Bali, where there are a thousand of tourists everywhere, especially when you want to have some nice beach shots or peace without people, it is rather hard! On the other hand, this is easily achievable in the Gili Islands. If you prefer photobombers and want busy crowd in your photos, Gili is not for you! haha 🙂
#4 You hate to see turtles don’t want to snorkel with them
Gili Islands is also known as “Turtle Capital of the World!”, and is renowned for its sanctuary for turtles. It is absolutely a paradise for watching wildlife turtles through snorkeling or diving. Remember, they are live turtles, NOT Pokemon! So please refrain from catching them when you see them around. Respect these sea creatures, they are wildlife and rightfully belong in the sea, not in your hands or dive bags! If you are afraid of turtles and hate the sight of them, Gili Islands is not for you. 🙂
#5 Staying in a nice resort is not your ideal vacation
Fancy a relaxing vacation in a nice beautiful resort? Villa Ombak may satisfy your crave! This relaxed beachfront resort amid tropical gardens is about 9 minutes walk from the Trawangan’s jetty. They offer laid-back accommodations with free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and tea and coffeemakers in the room. The rooms are decorated in a modern style mixed with traditional indigenous touches like wooden huts with outdoor bathrooms and open-air living areas. The spacious bungalows offer daybeds, the cottages have terraces and the airy villas have their own private pools. The resort has 3 eateries, including an outdoor sea-view option, as well as 3 bars. Where else can you ask for a perfect vacation?
#6 You like going to bed immediately after dinner
Gili Trawangan (one of the island) is famous as the “party island” among the three Gilis. Whereas Gili Meno and Gili Air are more laid back and quiet. There are so many beach bars and hang out places for you and your friends to relax, have a drink and cool your skin after a full day in the sun! Every day it feels like a weekend on this island. Perhaps this island is full of vacationer, that explains the mood! haha 🙂
#7 Island shopping bores you
In Gili Trawangan (the busiest islands among the three Gilis), you don’t have to worry about running short on supplies. There are tonnes of outdoor shops stretching from the East to West around the islands. Many of them sell interesting and creative merchandise. One thing for sure, there are no Prada, Gucci or Coach, so if you prefer fully air-conditioned shopping centres or luxury goods, then I’m afraid Gili Islands is not for you. 🙂
#8 You are reluctant to try local snacks and bbq
If your stomach is adventurous enough, after sunset, begin your night in the Nightmarket @ Arts Market, it is a great place to sample sumptuous authentic Indonesian food with more than 50 local stalls selling cheap and delicious food. All prepared freshly like a live performance in front of you. In general, the food served here are very cheap range between $3 to $5.
For vegetarians: Only restaurants on the island served vegetarian fried rice, pasta or pizza. Some local stalls can prepare vegetarian Indo mee (without the seasoning), but only for the adventurers! haha
#9 Local warriors engaging in stick fighting is just not your thing
Presean is a traditional combat fight between two warriors/fighters with each holding a stick and shield. This is a traditional popular sport practiced by the Sasak people living on the island of Lombok and Gili Islands. You can catch the fight / performances on Sundays in the market area on Gili Islands or in Lombok’s Sade Village.
#10 You are not into water sports, especially stand up paddling
Standing paddling or Stand Up Paddling is a very popular activity in the Gili Islands. This sport lets you comfortably paddle in the sea, but you need a good balancing skill to maintain your balance and stay afloat out in the open sea! A piece of advice, never underestimate the underwater current, sometimes it can be very strong and a change in current may turn you upside down without a moment’s notice. haha 🙂
#11 You are too cool for magical sunsets and #12 Hanging out at a swing in the sea is not your thing
In my opinion, this is a MUST DO activity if you are on the Gili Islands! I repeat and re-emphasize, you CANNOT miss the sunset in the Gili Islands. It will be a shame if you miss it! Especially sitting on the swing in the middle of the sea, with the sunsets beside you, does it sound unreal and surreal to you? LOL To be honest, this was one of my major highlight for the things to do in Gili Islands. It was truly magical and sensational. A live performance by mother nature. So don’t miss it! 🙂
A friend of mine collated a collage of all the swings around Gili Trawangan. There are a total of 8 swings in Gili Trawangan. If you wanna take a swing, remember to catch them all! haha
Tips and Warning: Remember to check the timing for sunset and be at the beach early. There will definitely be a queue at the swing, especially during sunset time! Make sure you time yourself well for that perfect sunset. Let say one person takes 3 minutes, if there are 10 people in front of you, it will be 30 minutes of waiting! 🙂
If your answers to the above are all YES, then you most probably should give the Gili Islands a miss. But if you like the fun in the sun and sea, experiencing local culture and culinary as well as exploring less touristy destinations, get on a plane to Bandara Internasional Lombok now and then take a ferry to Gili Islands via Teluk Nare pier. Alternatively, you can travel from Bali instead and take a direct ferry from Serangan or Benoa, South Bali tourist hub or Padang Bai, East of Bali to the Gili Islands. 🙂
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