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The Gili Islands, most have heard of it, many have already been there and yet few know what they are getting into. Party island like the Ballermann at its best or wonderful tropical paradise? Our answer: something in between.
We spent our time on the Gili island of Trawangan and therefore only write about the island - the largest of the three Gili islands. We only visited the other two Gili Islands as part of diving or snorkeling trips and therefore do not allow us to make an informed judgment.
The Gilis can be reached from Bali by boat. Here you can choose between speedboats and slow ferries. Of course, the two modes of transport also differ in price. We decided on the speedboat variant (e.g. gilibookings.com). You can cast off in Bali towards Gilis from the following ports: Serangan, Senggigi, Padang Bai, Sanur Beach, Amed and Benoa.
The Speedboats offer seating in the inside cabin or on the sun deck.
We chose Gili Getaway and Blue Water Express and each had a free transfer from / to the hotel to / from the port. Overall, we can recommend both providers.
As an option for boat transfer: flight from Bali to Lombok, 3 hours transfer to the port, short ferry ride.
You get the first impression after leaving the boats on the busy east side of Gili T. The east side is known as the party area of the island. Restaurants, bars and diving schools are lined up. In the old days, the beaches with small booths, restaurants and tour providers were also built up, but the government released the beaches after the turtles stopped laying eggs in Gili Trawangan.
The Gili island of Trawangan is a car-free island and you have three options to get from the ferry port to the accommodation:
- You take a horse-drawn carriage (approx. 150,000 IDR per trip, from the animal welfare point of view rather questionable)
- You go on foot
- You rent a bike
The island is small, but you shouldn't underestimate the distances.
Especially at night, you should definitely take a headlamp with you for cycling, as walkways and cycle paths are poorly or not lit and are in poor condition.
You can circumnavigate the island on the coastal path, but there are also spur roads through the interior of the island to the opposite side.
South coast: The south coast of Gili Trawangan is the most beautiful stretch of beach on the island. Strangely enough, not many people are bathing here. In any case, you will always find a quiet place. This side of the islands is not really suitable for snorkeling. There are neither colorful coral reefs nor a lot of fish here.
West coast: Here is the Sunset Beach. Due to the shallow water and the coral rubble, the beach is not suitable for swimming or swimming. The sunsets with Balis Mount Agung in the background are awesome. In the evenings, many people come here for a sundowner drink before going to dinner.
East coast: This is the tourist center of the Gili island of Trawangan. Restaurants, bars and diving schools are lined up. Many young people are traveling here. The beach, admittedly gorgeous, is relatively crowded and paved with the loungers and chairs of the bars and restaurants. Due to the diving schools and snorkeling providers, there are tons of boats in the water. Nevertheless, snorkeling is worthwhile here, because you will definitely find one or the other turtle.
At night the riverside path becomes a party mile.
North coast: In the north, the density of hotels and bars is lower and there are more recreation seekers than party goers. The beach is suitable for swimming, but visually it can't keep up with the south and east of the island. The hotels located here place more value on design, quality and sustainability. If you scroll down, we have linked a hotel recommendation for Gili Trawangan. So the most important of our Gili Trawangan travel tips is, look for a hotel in the north or west if you value quality and want to support sustainable small business owners.
Restaurants are located almost along the entire coast. The restaurants on the riverside path are more expensive than the streets in the island's interior. Many restaurants have adapted to the western palate, so you shouldn't expect any taste explosions with regard to spiciness and spices.
In the evening, the night market takes place directly at the harbor. That was our culinary highlight on Gili T. You choose the most delicious skewers from the display and grill them right in front of your eyes. We tried shrimp, calamari, octopus, red snapper, chicken and beef. All skewers are marinated marvelously and come crispy and juicy from the grill. You can choose from the side buffet. Each skewer costs € 2. This market knocked our socks off - even if we weren't wearing them ;-). Great taste and a cool experience. We did not have any problems even after this fish and meat skewer, which may not always be perfectly chilled.
Restaurants we found to be delicious:
- Gili-Frame (middle of the island)
- Night Market (east side)
- Gili EsCOBAR (North West)
I (Kathrin) did my Open Water Diver at Blue Marine Dive. We can really recommend the diving school. Competent staff at all levels, new equipment and a pleasant atmosphere contribute to a successful time at Blue Marine Dive. Due to the location at the end of Main Road, this diving school and its boats are not as crowded as the others.
The prices for the OWD were 5,500,000 IDR. The dive including equipment was about 435,000 IDR.
For beginners, Gili Trawangan is really fantastic. Diving spots suitable for beginners without current but still intact corals, a variety of colorful fish and other marine life such as turtles.
We have dived the following diving spots:
- Manta Point: Cool spot, but unfortunately no manta rays
- Bounty Wreck: Here an old platform was sunk as an artificial reef
- Turtles Heaven: A pinnacle with lots of corals and turtles
- Halik Reef: A bit of a current, but great diving spot with lots of fish and healthy corals
- Seahorse Bay: Located in front of Lombok, this bay offers great muck dives with seahorses and other critters like frogfish and many snails
Our dive guide Lou told us that the government had all the buildings on the beach removed in recent years. The reason is apparently that the turtles have not laid eggs in recent years. Due to this measure, the first turtles are said to have already returned.
Sustainable management has found its way into many resorts on the island. Recycling, self-sufficiency with food and drinking water, as well as dispensing with plastic are not isolated cases of Gili T. Even if that alone is not enough, there are good approaches.
We had the impression that the hotels in the east and north of the island put a little more focus on sustainability.
* Update: After the terrible earthquake in 2018, more hoteliers will probably see the rebuilding as an opportunity to give the sensational environment a little more back than was the case before the disaster.