Bali is one of the most beautiful islands in the Indonesian archipelago, but if we are already in Bali, it is worth visiting the surrounding beautiful islands: The Gili Islands, Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida and Ceningan.
In this blog post, I show you the Gili Islands, which are about a 2-hour boat ride east of Bali!
The Gili archipelago consists of 3 islands:
These three small islands are located next to each other, next to the shores of Lombok. Each of them is only a few km2, easy to walk around.
They are very similar, but still so different. Therefore, it is definitely worth choosing which island to spend your vacation on.
Gili Air is mostly recommended for families cause it is calm, quiet and full with cozy beaches and restaurants.
Gili Meno, the middle small island is the most romantic and the least touristy of the three islands. This is usually named as a honeymoon / romantic island destination. Its coastline is really beautiful, with white sand in some places.
Gili Trawangan, which we see in many places with the abbreviation “Gili T” is clearly an island for those who want to party. There are plenty of entertainment venues here, and the party and music that lasts until dawn, so brace yourself! Of course, there are also calmer parts of Trawangan, especially the west coast.
What is for sure is that on all three islands you will find wonderful beaches for snorkeling.
How to get to Gili:
You can get to Gili from Bali or Lombok. (You can even find boat companies that take you to Lembongan or Nusa Penida from Bali or return.)
From Bali, several boat companies offer trips to the Gili Islands.
If you are departing from the south of Bali, the boat will depart from Serangan or Sanur. However, if you are coming from Ubud or the northern part of the island, the boat will depart from Padang Bai port.
Tickets for the boat can be bought online, but it is definitely worth asking at the reception of the accommodation or going to a small travel agency or tourist information office. You may want to bargain on ticket prices, because if you are not buying it online but from a person then you will likely get some discount.
In many cases, the ticket also includes a transfer from the hotel with vans.
Bali - Lombok - Gili - Bali boat ticket for us was about 30 Euros per person in 2015, and in 2017 the Bali - Gili - Lembongan - Bali ticket was about 60 Euros. But it was definitely very worth it!
And when the minibus gets to the port, the chaos begins, because hundreds of people are “collected” there not even knowing where to go. The boat tickets are really different than the ones at home, where you go to the box office and you get a ticket printed for you. Here it is rather a paper clip from the tourist information center, with a pair of scribbled data on it: who, where, when ...
At the port based on “your ticket” you get a marker tape that you need to put on your bag, a sticker to put on the T-shirt with the destination on it, and a plastic boarding pass.
Then a couple of locals will start shouting, in a good case you will hear it in the crowd, and then the people grouped by destination will be directed to the right boat. It is very important to put the received marking tape on the packages, which indicates the destination because as I mentioned above there are 3 small Gili Islands. The packages have to be handed over before boarding the boat and they are packed in a huge pile in a separate part of the deck, when the ship arrives at the first island, the packages marked with the tape e.g. “Trawangan” → as the first island are “thrown out” from the boat. Therefore, I definitely recommend that you do not leave any values, important things in your big suitcase / backpack, so that it doesn’t get mixed up accidentally and handed out on another island of Gili, but rather have everything in your small handbag that stays with you on the boat.
But really everything will be okay. It’s typically Bali, they don’t worry, they don’t complicate things too much, and in the end, everything goes well. But to make sure, watch out and pay attention both in the port and on the ship and then you won’t miss anything!
The cruise itself is very wonderful, especially in nice weather, but if the sea is turbulent, we can be part of an extreme experience. This is because small boats are very tossed by the sea, and there are waves that flood the open deck completely, and you shouldn't be surprised if you find some water directly hit you on your face.
In stormy weather, people with seasickness will not have a great experience on the cruise, but after a few hours, the wonderful small islands will surely make up for it.
And of course, most of the time the boats don’t go in a storm, but in beautiful sunny weather, and then the boat trip is an amazing experience. :)
There are no cars in Gili, you can go everywhere on foot, or maybe by bike or chariots pulled by donkeys or horses.
There are mostly dirt roads on Gili Air Island, except the main streets where there is asphalt.
Therefore, it is definitely an advantage if one travels with a backpack instead of a suitcase!
Gili Air just like the other two small islands can be walked around in a few hours and the beachfront is full of cozy little restaurants, bars, chill areas and beautiful frangipani trees → the ones you might just call Bali flowers. Everywhere you look, you will see small signs, boards with positive quotes made by locals.
Wind chimes made of beautiful corals and shells jingle everywhere, bamboo seats make the shore homely, not to mention the large shell lanterns, and of course the inevitable swings both on land and in the water.
This great atmosphere covers the whole island.
The sunsets in the direction of Bali and the sunrises in the direction of Lombok are perfect opportunities for a nice coral (of course dead coral, thrown out by the sea) gathering walk on the beach.
During the day you can go snorkeling / diving probably one of the highlights of your visit to Gili.
Immersed under the water near the shores of Gili, we find ourselves in an underwater “flower garden”. Wonderful corals, special fish in all colors of the rainbow, shells, turtles, octopuses. A wonderful experience, Paradise under the sea itself.
You can also participate on half-day diving trips, where you are taken by boat and the boat docks at different points around the islands, so you can see a variety of marine life in various shallower and deeper diving places. If you are lucky, you can also swim with turtles. By the way, these turtles are not domiciled here, but they really live there, and you can meet them even during snorkeling not far from the shore.
On the east coast of Gili Air, not far from the shore, is an underwater cliff where the seabed is suddenly deepened, and turtles often swim near this cliff.
And on the western and northern shores, larger corals, shells, and rainbow-colored groups of fish are more typical. For a few-day stay, it is worth trying scuba diving / snorkeling in several places, because the underwater wonder garden is different everywhere.
Talking again about the boat trip, there is an option to take the boat to Gili Meno (the central island) where you can have lunch between two dive stops.
However, instead of lunch, I recommend exploring the small island, as it has beautiful white sandy beaches and even a small local turtle sanctuary where we can even look at tiny newborn turtles.
Here, people are warned about the importance of not touching them while diving, even if they are swimming so close, that you could pat them. Touching them is a very harmful thing, because people’s oily skin and sun oil do very bad things to marine life, not only to turtles but also to corals and shells.
Therefore, I would definitely like to warn everyone to pay special attention here and practice the following: “Everything for the eyes and nothing for the hands” while snorkeling / diving. This is the only way that these wonderful creatures have a chance to survive.
In addition, avoid plastic bags, disposable plastic cups, and straws not only during the holidays but also in your everyday life! After all, plastic pollution is a very big problem for Bali and the Gili Islands. And it transforms, destroys our wonderful environment at an extreme pace - all this unnecessary garbage!
This fence in Gili Meno for example is built of garbage (plastic bottles stuffed with plastic waste), which is really thought-provoking. And that’s just a fraction of the amount of plastic waste in general, unfortunately.
So let’s protect our environment and try to produce as little plastic waste as possible so that in the future, you and other travelers will have the chance to see the same wonderful underwater world that I was lucky enough to do.
Diving tours provide goggles, a pipe, and even fins, but I highly recommend that you take a Decathlon snorkeling mask with you on the trip. It takes up a lot of space, but it's worth it because it's a completely different experience to dive without having to dehumidify your glasses every five minutes. Plus you don't get saltwater in the pipe and have a great broader view.
If you're a water fan like me and you can’t get enough of the amazing sight then you’re going to spend at least half of the days snorkeling and the experience is really enhanced if you use a good diving mask. From now on, if I go snorkeling anywhere, I'm sure I'll take the mask, even if it's taking half of the place of my backpack ...
Once you get tired of a lot of swimming and diving, then try the locals ’favorite food, Nasi Goreng, which is a bowl of vegetable-meaty rice with a fried egg on top. Delicious!
As a dessert, you can get a pineapple sweet as honey from the local vendors (for about 40 Cents), and if you are lucky the shopkeeper can even peel it for you at the speed of light. And then you can try pineapple peeling on your own, which seems so easy and fast, but it will be hard to compete with the locals! :)
In the evenings, it is worth taking big walks or even walking around the island.
In the sunset, you can take wonderful photos on the water swings while in the background the music is played in the nicely decorated bars with outside seats in the sand, and the warm breeze caresses you.
There is no better place than Gili for a perfect relaxing holiday!
Have a nice day!