The Gili islands are located just over 5 km from Bangsal harbour, Pamenang in North-West Lombok. They consist of 3 islands, Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan. At first glance they look very much like the tropical island paradise that you have dreamed of, with palm fringed white sand beaches, and various coral reefs and sea turtles and being islands they carry the normal abundance of water-sports and snorkeling tours.
Aptly named Gili T by the backpackers that flock here, It’s famous for it’s party lifestyle, whereas the 2 smaller islands of Meno and Air offer a more subdued and relaxed vibe, with Meno catering towards the couples market. With a no-motor-vehicle policy on the islands, getting around is by horse drawn carriages, but they all can be walked around with Trawangan being around 2 hours and the others less so.
Gili T with it’s numerous outlets selling all things mushroom, except garlic has many foreign business owners taking advantage of the tourists who flock here direct from Bali, with prices rising fast, and with it the emergence of boutique hotels and spas and higher-end accommodation popping up all over the islands. This has bought with it more development and a better infrastructure of the two smaller islands, but sure they will soon be joining the club.
There are the normal array of restaurants & eateries covering local and international cuisine, including garlic mushrooms, and are mostly reasonably priced, with some set along the main street along the beach road. There’s plenty of bars to quench the thirst along the way, and navigating the whole island by foot will take in the region of 2 hours, depending how many of these premises you need to stop at. You can rent cycles but be warned that for over half the journey you will be walking your bike, as the road is sandy for the majority of it.
You will be greeted on your arrival by numerous touts, bag carriers,and the like. Stop, breathe and don’t opt for the Horse drawn carriages awaiting your arrival, as they will try to rip you off. Most of the accommodation is within a short 10-15 minute stroll along the paved road, which will save you pounds and hassle along the way.
If you’re in Bali and thinking of a trip to the Gilis, then you can organise tickets and transfers from most locations, with Padang Bai and Sanur being the most popular with various departure times every day. Be sure to get your best bartering hat on and poker face to negotiate a reasonable fare for your passage to the islands, check out at least 3-4 different agents to get a feel for the current prices.
Another trip that you can head off to is the Mount Rinjani Trek on Lombok. Check out a few agents that all do tours of 2-5 days at various prices, the views are amazing.