What is it about island getaways that is so irresistible? Is it the feeling of a free laid back life while being surrounded with so many elements of nature that makes the beer/cocktail/milkshakes taste that extra smooth? Especially when on an island like Gili Trawangan – also known as Gili T – where shenanigans of the outside world take a backseat to a natural rustic charm. An island so small that it can be circled around in one hour riding a bicycle yet it is big enough that even four days of fun might seem less. Once having set foot on the shores of the island one does not need a second invitation to say “When in Gili T, be like how this place deserves us to be”.
Lazying at the beach and/or Exploring the reefs
Well, this is the most obvious and easiest thing to do on Gili T. The beaches are pristine white and the waters are crystal clear. Majority of the shoreline is surrounded by a network of coral reefs hence the scattering of many corals along the beach. Getting a Bintang and lying down on that white warm sand is an easy temptation. Even better, head out to the sea for a swim/snorkel past the shallow water and dead coral reefs to catch a glimpse of famed sea-turtles and beautiful marine life. You don’t even need to go out on a boat for snorkeling. Just rent the equipment from the many shops/bars/restaurants along the beach and head out yourself.
Taking in the sunsets
Oh the magical sunsets on display from the west coast of this island!! Every evening there is a grand spectacle put on by the setting sun along with the clouds, sea and the island of Bali at a distance. At around 5:30 PM, people from all over the island throng to the several sunset bars and the beaches on the west cost of Gili T. With a cold Bintang (yes I can’t stop gushing about it!!) and a beanbag chair, I enjoyed watching the sky turning from blue to orange and even purple on some days. Admittedly, this was the first time I witnessed folks clapping at the sheer beauty of a sunset.
Walking up the hill
Not many know that this island was a small but important part of World War II. The hill at Gili T has remains of a huge machine-gun bunker which was used by Japanese forces during the war. The hill itself is not at all high and the walk up to the top takes not more than 20 minutes. Soak in a little piece of history as you have a look at the several small bunkers and the machine-gun post. For the believers in the supernatural, get up to the top to defy a local myth of the hill being haunted. Honestly, the place did feel a bit spooky as it bore a desolate look in the middle of the afternoon with nobody around. Read more about this place here.
Eating – at the night market or elsewhere
Being an island gives this place an advantage of being an obvious paradise for seafood lovers. However, the food here is beyond just seafood. Cuisines from almost all over the world are to be found here. Places serving Western, European, Chinese and even a restaurant with Indian food are dotted all around the island – especially near to the harbor. Dine it at these many restaurants or head to the famous night market if you want to experience Indonesian cuisine and delicious barbecue in an open communal setting. For as low as 2$, you can have a decent meal while being in the company of unknown friends.
Making new friends
If you are traveling by yourself to this place, chances are that at the end of your trip you will have made at least 4-5 friends. The celebratory vibes of this island makes it so easy to say or respond with a “Hello” to a complete stranger. Be it meeting folks on a snorkeling trip or dancing with folks in to the New Year and even the bartender remembering you after one evening of drinks, making new friends is the way to go here.
People keep saying that Gili T is too much commercialized and is overcrowded. Well, there is a reason why “crowds” of people come to this place and it is because they love this place. Yes, like every place there are a couple of drawbacks to this island. There is an underbelly of drug abuse (which is rampant across most tourist places in Indonesia) on this island due to the party atmosphere during the evenings and late nights. The “crowds” like all other tourist destinations will always have a few bad apples. It gets really really hot here – I mean this is probably the hottest place I’ve traveled to. The horse-driven carts – I did not use them just by looking at the state of those poor horses. I can’t imagine those creatures dragging tonnes of baggage around all day.
But inspite of the above drawbacks, I love Gili T. For me it is one of the best island getaways that can ever be. For its beaches, the friendly turtles, the amazing sunsets and for all the memories I’ve had with people, I will go back there someday soon.
How to reach
From Bali – Take the fast boat from any of the three ports Serangan, Padang Bai and Amed. Tickets cost around 45 USD one way to the island(s) and the journey takes from 60 – 100 minutes. You can book the tickets from any travel agent in Bali. You could also take the public ferry which is much cheaper but takes 5 hours to reach the islands.
From Lombok – Take the fast boat from Teluk Nara or Teluk Kodek located along the West Coast of Lombok. The journey takes roughly 30 minutes due to the close proximity of the islands to Lombok. You could also take the public boats from Bangsal harbor which takes longer but it much cheaper than the fast boats.
**If you are lucky, you can spot some dolphins on the way.
- Gili Trawangan is the largest among the group of three Gili islands – Gili Trawangan, Gili Air, Gili Meno. These three islands are located in the Lombok Strait between the islands of Bali and Lombok.
- Renting a bicycle should actually be the first thing you should do after you check-in to your accommodation. The island of Gili T (also the other two Gili islands) does not have a single motorized vehicle which is one of the major reasons I love this place. Bicycles and horse-driven carts are the only two modes of commute here.
- Stock up on water as this island does not have a water supply of its own. Water is being brought to this island everyday from other places.
- Avoid taking luggage that have roller wheels. The fast boats will drop you right on the beach. You don’t want to be dragging around that luggage on the sand.
- Luxury resorts, hostels and homestays are the three types of accommodation available here. For a more social experience, opt for a homestay.