In my last blog post I talked about how we got from the heart of Bali, Ubud to the Gili Islands. I hope you enjoyed the photographs I shared of Gili T (as it is affectionately known). Those are some of my favourite photographs of our whole time away in Asia. I just look at them and feel happy. I look forward to sharing more Gili Trawangan photos in this post. But first things first: I have to tell you a little bit about this amazing island.
10 cool things to know about Gili Trawangan
The three Gili Islands are located between the island of Bali and Lombok. They are about an hour and a half fast-boat ride from Bali and a ten minute fast-boat ride from Lombok. They are actually just off the coast of Lombok. Most travellers make the journey to The Gilis from Bali. However as Lombok is now getting more and more popular as a tourist destination, you can also just spend your holiday in Lombok and go to the Gilis for a day trip. You can of course fly into Bali. The international airport in Denpasar is only about an hour and a half away from Pedang Bai, where you can catch your fast-boat to the Gilis. However Lombok also has its own international airport and you can catch a 3 hour flight here from Singapore. You can then get an airport transfer to Bangsal, the departure point for boats towards The Gili Islands.
2. horse carts
Once you arrive on Gili Trawangan you will immediately notice that there are no scooters here. There are no motorised vehicles of any sort in fact as they are not allowed. Instead, the main modes of transportation here are cycling, walking or taking a ride on a Cidomo. A cidomo is a horse-drawn cart, which the locals use for transporting everything from building materials, to shop supplies as well as passengers and their luggage. Adam and I loved the idea that the locals were trying to preserve the authenticity of the island by not allowing any motorised vehicles. I hope this will stay like this for a long time. On the other hand, the cidomos can be a bit controversial. Some people might not like the way the horses might be treated. We took a ride a couple of times on a cidomo, and one of the guys was certainly a bit heavy handed with the whip. However the island is small, you can get anywhere on foot.
3. supplies and water
Every morning boats upon boats arrive on the shores of Gili Trawangan and bring in new supplies, food, drinks, ingredients, materials and so on. It’s fascinating watching the locals work together on the shore to get everything off the boats and distributed as quickly as possible.
Interestingly the Gilis also don’t have their own fresh water supply and water is also transported here from Lombok. On Gili Trawangan desalinated water is now available, but many accommodations still only have salt water showers. You should not drink tap-water, but bottled water is available everywhere as it shipped in from Lombok every day. As an alternative you can also drink coconut water, which is the most refreshing drink ever! I loved it! I drank it at every possibility I had. A whole coconut cost about a £1. Bargain, if you think how much you pay for a teeny-tiny carton of coconut water in the UK!
When you first arrive from Bali you might notice that the Gilis are no longer Hindu. In fact Bali is the only Hindu island in the whole of Indonesia. The Gilis are home to the Sasak people who are predominantly Muslim. All three of the Gilis have a mosque and the call to prayer can be heard on the islands 5 times a day, the first one at around 5 am.
5. diving and snorkelling
Earlier in our travels we spent a couple of weeks on the Thai island of Koh Tao, which is undoubtedly the scuba divers’ number 1 paradise destination. Adam did research other Asian scuba diving sites and Bali kept coming up. Now what we also discovered is that the Gilis have amazing diving sites! So much so that I believe the first tourists who discovered the islands’ potential were travelers looking for diving opportunities. Now Gili Trawangan beachfront is lined with scuba diving schools so you can take your pick who you want to learn with! But if you don’t feel like scuba diving, you mustn’t miss snorkeling! There are plenty of opportunities to go out as part of a small group on one of the snorkeling boats circling all three islands. Even if you don’t feel like going with a group, you can grab and rent snorkeling equipment on every corner. This is what we did and we only had to swim about 20 meters off-shore to come across a stunning giant turtle! We came about as close to it as possible without touching it (try not to touch the wildlife underwater while diving or snorkeling).
Gili Trawangan is not exactly the sleepy paradise island that you may think it is. Out of the three Gilis, Trawangan has definitely grown into the party destination. The East side of the island is lined with restaurants, bars and pubs and walking along this stretch after sunset means that you will inevitably end up in one of these establishments for a drink and dance. You should definitely start your evening in the night market – this is where most people on a budget come for dinner. It’s basically rows upon rows of street-food carts with the most amazing dishes at a fraction of the price of a restaurant meal. There are party boats 3-4 times a week as well if that’s what takes your fancy, I’ll be honest we didn’t really go for that. We went to a full-moon party while we were on Gili-T, but it was sooooo windy by the sea that night that we left before the crowd really got going. We’re a bit old now, so we don’t hang around if we don’t love something 🙂 The music was good though, so maybe next time we’re there. There is of course an Irish bar here, like in most places in the world and that seemed to be the most happening place while we were on Gili T.
I have to say I love a good sunset-watching. And I honestly do think that the sunsets we saw on Gili Trawangan are amongst the best ones we have ever seen. There is a bar on the Western side of the island, the Paradise Sunset Bar that is THE place to be for a bit of sunset watching with cocktail in your hand, reclining on a giant bean-bag on the beach, with quiet chill-out music in the background. You can’t beat it.
Another popular spot for watching the susnset is on the top of Sunset Hill, which is a 100 metre high lookout point on top of the island. It takes about 15 minutes to walk up there from the village. You can usually find another group of people sitting in the grass with a bottle of beer for the exact same purpose. Just make sure you have a torch with you – once the sun dips below the horizon it gets dark really quickly and you still need to quickly find your way back down.
There are no police on Gili Trawangan. The island is run by the village head. He gets to make the final decision on most matters, for example he banned gambling, pool tables and even dogs!!! Yes, you heard it right – dogs are not allowed on Gili Trawangan, there’s not one of them on the island. Although there are no police, the island still feels very safe.
9. cats of Gili T
As I have already mentioned there are no dogs on Gili Trawangan! They are banned the poor things. I guess it’s because the main mode of transportation is by horse cart and dogs do like to chase and bark at horses! They also like to jump up and down guests and poop in the sea… So as lovely as dogs are they are not allowed on the Gilis. Which however means that the cat population on Gili T is thriving!! I love cats so I was more than happy to share my spot with a lazy snoozing cat, wherever we went. 🙂
Aahh I was so happy finally, for the first time in our travels I got to do some yoga! I’m glad I found a really cool yoga studio on Gili Trawangan. It wasn’t one on the beachfront, which I’m sure is pretty popular. The one I went to is owned by an American girl who married a local guy and together they built their dream home right in the middle of Gili T with a beautiful yoga studio in tow. When I went she was still very much in the early days of her business, but I really hope that as the island becomes busier and infrastructure more developed, her studio will be discovered and she will get lots of business, because by far she was the best yoga teacher I have ever practiced with! If you’re on Gili T, check out this yoga centre: Soraya Yoga
So there we are, hope you like my little list of cool things to know about Gili Trawangan. This island is definitely one that I would love to vis
it again in my life. If you are ever in Bali, you really must as it is so easy to get to, you cannot miss it!