Despite being the closest to Lombok’s mainland, Gili Air is often the forgotten jewel in the Gili Islands crown. Tourists flock to the party hub of Gili Trawangan, and honeymooners make for the peaceful bliss of Gili Meno. This leaves Gili Air to cater for those searching for that something in between.
Here’s why that, is exactly what you should be looking for.
1. Shoes are not required
Ditch your shoes! Even though your friends may laugh and call you a tramp, from the moment you step foot on the island shoes are one less thing for you to contend with. The island is laden with dusty pathways, sandy beaches and only the occasional razor sharp coral. What a feeling it is to have the sand between your toes and the ocean up to your ankles. Just watch out for the horse shit!
2. The ocean is literally everywhere
Never has there been a more obvious statement! Of course there is water all around the island, that’s the very essence of an island! But not until you have the pleasure of the clear blue ocean at your constant beck and call, will you appreciate just how amazing this is. No matter where you are on the island you are never more than a hop, skip, and a jump away from water.
3. You can snorkel with Sea Turtles right off the beach.
You don’t have to go far to find incredible snorkeling on Gili Air. Rent a mask and snorkel from a local vendor, navigate your way through the rough shallow coral and dive down towards the beautiful reefs surrounding the island. You’ll be treated to an array of fish and coral and if you’re really lucky, you’ll be chasing turtles all afternoon.
(As a side note, Gili Meno is actually the best place to snorkel with Turtles as it is much quieter, however there still plenty turtles to see on Gili Air!)
4. Exceptional Diving
Diving around the Gili islands is spectacular. Each island has a selection of professionally run dive schools which explore the numerous dive sites surrounding the Gili Islands. It’s a great place to get your PADI license as the diving is fun and manageable whilst remaining relatively cheap for the quality tuition you receive. Each dive school will post their dive sites a day in advance. If you’re looking for a cruisy dive site check out the Meno Wall. It’s a great spot to see turtles and with the wall sloping down towards a sandy bottom at approximately 22m it is a relatively shallow dive. For the adrenaline divers out there, Deep Turbo will offer strong currents, overhangs and small caves. It’s a perfect place to dive on Nitrox.
All my dive experiences on the Gili’s have been with 7Seas – located just a short walk to the right of Gili Air’s Pier. They offer courses, fun dives and discovery dives as well as their own accommodation and training pool.
5. Fresh Seafood
My dad has always told me “never eat the fish unless you can see the sea”. Well, no problems here! As you wander along Gili Air’s main strip you’ll be hypnotized by the smell of BBQing fish as it mixes with that crisp sea air. Select your sea critter and watch it sizzle on a smoky coal BBQ whilst you sit with your toes buried in the sand.
My personal favorite is the Seafood Kebab from ‘Chill Out’; a quiet and relaxed beach-side eatery which proudly displays its numerous daily catches. Choose from a huge range of fish including; Tuna, Marlin, Mahi-Mahi and Parrot-Fish.
6. The Sunsets
This is how its done:
-Slouch lazily in a colourful beanbag.
-Position it just right to ensure that every muscle is sufficiently relaxed.
-Bury your feet in the cool sand.
-Order yourself an Ice-Cold Bintang.
-Watch the sun sink below the majesty of Mt. Agung.
It’s that simple!
7. The Sunrises
With views like this, it isn’t hard to drag yourself out of bed for the sunrise. You’ll find the island at its absolute best – calm, peaceful and serene. Head to the East of the island and watch the sun burst from behind the majesty of Lombok’s Mount Rinjani.
8. Local Culture
As you venture inland away from the ocean, you’ll be able to get a glimpse of the way island life used to be. A winding maze of dusty laneways laden with horses and carts. In the dry grasslands skinny cows laze in the shade under thirsty looking trees. The sound of laughing children is ever-present as they chase a deflated football around their schoolyard. A stroll through the islands heart is a stroll back in time and a gentle reminder of the islands humble roots.Be sure to check out the little shops selling local spices and vegetables.
9. No Motorised Vehicles
As the headline suggests, there are no motorised vehicles on the island. And nor should there be! Islands are built for ambling along at a leisurely island pace.There is no need for hustle and bustle, no need for speed. Nothing is far enough away that you have to rush. In fact there is no real need to even know what time it is. However, if you are looking to explore the island at more than a snails pace, you could always either hire a bike or take a ride on a traditional horse and cart.
10. Its Just Downright Beautiful
The fantastic thing about Gili Air is that you’ll find everything you are looking for in an island escape. The beaches are wild and untamed, rocky in parts, pristine in others. The ocean is cool and inviting; its waves create that hypnotic draw, beckoning you in. Its dusty paths are shrouded by overhanging flowers which flood the walkways with summer colours. The floor is littered with fresh coconuts and ornate coral ornaments, and around every swooping bend is another smiling face, peering out of an old bamboo hut and waiting to greet you like an old friend. The beauty isn’t just in what you see but how the island makes you feel. The pace of the island strolls to the slow strum of an acoustic guitar. The waves wash away your worries and the Bintang is just simply always there.
Yes, there’s a but. And it’s a big one! If you’re going to go, you need to go now! …or at least soon! Because this won’t last. The lure of tourism is a slippery slope. The draw of income for the islands original inhabitants is, understandably, hard to refuse. I’ve been lucky enough to visit the island three times over the past three years and each time I’ve noticed a stark difference. The bars are ever so slightly bigger and there are more of them. On my most recent visit, to my horror, I saw the first big concrete structure tainting the islands shoreline. I have no doubt it will become a beautiful resort, but it seems like such an eyesore on what was once such a traditional island. But fear not, we aren’t quite there yet. Gili Air is by no means as commercialised as Gili T. It still has its innate island-ness about it. The beaches are clean, the water is clear and coconuts, oh so fresh! My advice is to sling your backpack on, abandon your shoes, and immerse yourself in all that Gili Air has to offer, because in this case, diamonds aren’t forever!
Perama run a daily shuttle bus and boat service over to the Gili Islands.
The shuttle bus leaves Kuta each day at 10.00am and takes you to the port town of Padangbai.
The boat will leave Padangbai at 13.30pm and takes you directly to the Gili’s.
Give yourself a full day to travel as travelling in Bali is rarely punctual. In total from start to finish it should take you about 8 hours and cost in the region of Rp 400000 ($40 AUD)