Written by: Will 🙂
We arrived at the Gili Islands with high expectations from everything we had been told, and from all the photos of the Paradise looking white sand beaches! But all was not as it seemed!
Firstly, how to get there…
We were in Ubud and got a minibus to Padang Bai, and then a fast boat from there to Gili Trawangan. We paid 275’000 rupiah each as we took the small boat (cheaper option). The journey over to the island was very choppy, and the boat being small, was getting thrown all over! If you’re prone to sea sickness it’s advisable to be prepared for this journey!
Transport on the Gilis
We arrived at the Island and walked to our accommodation. There are no motorised vehicles allowed on the islands, therefore the local mode of transport is by a horse drawn tuk-tuk (for want of a better term). However, the horses are worked long hours and all appear physically distressed and are whipped by the drivers openly and often. The islands are incredibly small, our accommodation was on the opposite side of the island to the pier, and it only took us around 15 minutes to get there with suitcases.
Some horses are used for transporting goods and equipment such as scuba gear, which is understandable to an extent. Animals have been used for work for thousands of years, and it is evidently part of this culture. However, lazy tourists should not use these ‘taxis’ as they are unnecessary and undoubtably unethical.
We chose to stay at Matahari Inn on Gili Trawangan (£20 per night). This was a lovely place, we had a private bungalow with a terrace and a great outdoor pool area too. This place was made special by the staff there and their love for music. Each morning, there was breakfast served with some acoustic guitar playing in the background!
On Gili Air we chose to stay at Diyu Guesthouse (£11 per night). The guesthouse was clean, it had a pool, the host was friendly and the check in process was efficient! It was such good value for money!
Things to do on the islands
This is where our expectations were not really met I would say. If there was one main thing we were excited for here, it was the snorkelling. The Gilis are renowned for their turtles and beautiful bright fish. We headed out with excitement but all wasn’t as expected. Firstly, snorkelling shoes/fins are a necessity. Where the beach meets the ocean is filled with coral and rocks that make it completely inaccessible without a form of footwear. We chose snorkel shoes, which we hired for only £1.50 per day, each. This was great, however, the tides are so strong that in hindsight we would really recommend using fins instead. The tide at times literally made it a fight to go in one direction.
The beaches on the Gili Islands are absolutely beautiful, however, due to the popularity they have been taken over by resorts almost completely. This makes it super difficult to find a nice spot on the beach to pitch up!
However, we did see a turtle just a few metres off the coast which was an amazing experience for us! So if you are going to the Gilis, get the right gear and enjoy the turtles! Maybe even go on a snorkelling tour (but those were too pricey for us!)
The Gili Swings
Another thing people like to do on the island is take pictures in the famous swings!
I cannot inspire you all with beautiful Instagram perfect photographs of these swings as we didn’t even bother! Walking past such swings is enough! It looks horrid! Queues of people waiting (and paying) to take that “perfect” photo! Is it worth it?
Places to eat on the islands
One thing that the island does boast is plenty of places to eat! From beach side restaurants to local eateries tucked down tiny streets; there is definitely something for everyone there!
On Gili Trawangan one of the best places we found to eat was Warung Jaman Now (around 40’000IDR per dish). This was a brilliant little restaurant serving local Indonesian cuisine! We ate here two times and it certainly didn’t disappoint!
We were on a backpackers budget so didn’t venture to any of the more up market restaurants. However, the fresh fish in many of the beach side spots is definitely worth trying and is always rated very highly!
On Gili Air a place that stood out to us was Warung Alam Damai. This was run by a man who puts care in to every dish he serves. We were impressed with the food here, it was very reasonably priced for how good it looked and tasted (around 50’000IDR per dish)!
Would we recommend?
On the whole, if we were visiting this area again, we would likely not visit the Gilis. They seem overrated and overpopulated with the wrong type of tourism for our tastes. If you’re seeking more of a party atmosphere and beach club vibe, then it’s probably spot on for you. However, there are so many other, better (in our opinion) places nearby. We spent time on Nusa Penida, Lembongan and Ceningan which provided much more in terms of activities, and opportunities to explore!
Let’s not leave it on a negative… here are (a small few) photos we took!
Thanks for reading! 🙂