If you are in search of a picture-perfect tropical island with sparkling azure waters and soft golden beaches, then look no further than the Gilis. Situated just off Lombok, these three small satellite islands of Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan are the Western beach lovers’ paradise; boasting long hot days, easy-going locals, and enough palm trees to impress even the most well-travelled sun-seeker.
In recent years, it is the largest island – Gili Trawangan (or ‘Gili T’ as it is commonly referred to) – that has undoubtedly gained the most renown. Reached by speedboat from Bali or neighbouring Lombok, Gili T has become a mainstay on the backpacker trail and tends to attract a slightly younger and livelier crowd than Gili Meno and Gili Air. Nightlife here continues until late, with most nights ending up at the island’s largest Irish bar ‘Tir Na Nog’ or one of the many buzzing beachside bars along the coastline. For those in search of a more relaxed evening, the island is also well endowed with upmarket restaurants serving mouth-watering food at incredibly reasonable prices. Health junkies will love the nutritious fare on offer at 'Pituq', and those preferring refined European cuisine will be undeniably impressed by the offerings at 'Scallywags', where diners are treated to breathtakingly beautiful Indonesian sunsets every night.
For those who are apprehensive about Gili T’s raucous nightlife, we recommend instead a visit to Gili Air or Gili Meno. The second largest island of the archipelago, Gili Air is delightfully peaceful and exudes laid-back charm: like its neighbouring islands, this is due in large part to the local authorities’ ban on all motorised vehicles which has limited transport to quaint bicycles and horse-drawn carriages. Free of any landmark sightseeing spots, time spent on Gili Air is best spent blissfully relaxing along the stretching coastline, reading a good book and peeking out at the sparkling sea beyond. Gili Meno offers much the same draw – although with fewer tourists still and arguably a more authentic Indonesian atmosphere (not to mention the chance to see sea turtles at Turtle Point!).
Although the landscapes of these islands are undeniably breathtaking, it is the underwater world offshore that remains the real gem of this archipelago. Fortunately dive schools are in abundance across the Gilis, offering support and instruction to divers of all levels as well as reasonably priced PADI certification courses. We recommend a visit to Shark Point off Gili T for a chance to see larger marine species including reef sharks, rays and green turtles, as well as a dive at Wreck Point near Mentigi Beach to explore the decaying remains of a sunken ship.
With each island possessing its own unique character, there truly is something for every type of traveller in the Gili Islands.
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