If you were stuck on a desert island, what would you want to take with you? Well you’re in luck, a trio of desert islands in northern Indonesia called the Gili Islands already have everything you’re looking for. You just have to jump on a boat and get to the Gili Islands.
The gorgeous Gili Islands attract a range of holidaymakers; from the backpacker to the luxury traveller. But they all come to the Gilis for the same reason; it’s like stepping back in time. The modern conveniences like cute cafes, restaurants and day spas are all on hand. But it’s the laid back atmosphere, the old school charm and the crystal clear water that calls visitors to the Gilis.
The islands are accessible by fast ferry from Bali or a 20 minute boat ride from Lombok, which is where our day on the Gilis began. Adventure Lombok collected us after breakfast and we drove to nearby Nipah Beach where we climbed into a traditional Indonesian fishing boat (thankfully with an added engine).
After cruising across to Gili Trawangan, we stop short of the coastline in search of turtles. A couple of tips from Rul our guide on how to use the gear (it was my first snorkelling experience) and I drop into the feast of blues below and begin to take in the underwater sights. Coral and tropical fish dance with the currents as I float around on the surface, mesmerised. Alas, with local fishermen standing in waist deep water near us and other eager snorkellers in the water, we conclude the spot is too crowded for turtles, this time.
Back in the boat and we dry off before being dropped off on Gili Trawangan, or Gili T as it’s known, with a tip from Rul to stick to the side of the road while wandering around. With that note quickly forgotten a near miss as a horse and carriage barrels past my shoulder acts and I understand the warning. There aren’t any cars on the Gilis. Walking, biking or the local horse and cart is the way to get around the islands – all part of the unique Gili experience.
The biggest of the islands, it’s buzzing with activity. People fill up diving shops listening intently to a briefing before they head out. We wander past others relaxing with a drink, a book or a dip in the resort plunge pool. It’s easy to see why they call Gili-T the “party” island. Bars and clubs line each side of the street with signs promoting Happy Hour deal and their menus promising they don’t use Methanol in their drinks. But it’s not just a destination for school leavers; Gili-T is home to the Gilis’ five-star resorts for those on a more generous budget.
Our half-hour sticky beak is over when we jump back on the boat, bound for the next snorkelling spot, this time off the quietest island, Gili Meno. A Japanese shipwreck attracts divers and snorkellers and tropical fish alike, an even more beautiful site than the last. We hover above a group of divers getting a closer look at the sunken ship, their oxygen bubbles streaming to the surface.
Gili Air, the last of the islands is our lunch destination. Gili Air is a good option if you aren’t looking for complete isolation, but you want to avoid the crowds. It’s offers a mid-point between the Meno and the Gili-T experience. Rul leads us to Neverland cafe for lunch. We cosy into a cute, thatched hut right on the sand, order some Indonesian favourites and take in the view. The restaurant is a hot spot for guides and their groups – with boats and people pulling in and filling up tables at the local. The food comes fast, it’s delicious and only set us back $AUD10 (for 2).
Rul has saved the best for last with our final dip, just off Gili Air. Interrupting a group of girls doing SUP yoga (sorry ladies), we pull in close to shore and jump in. Rul soaks some bread and breaks it into small soggy pieces. We take a little each, hold it in wait and the fish begin to feed. It’s a surreal experience but strangely enjoyable.
Heading back across the glassy water, weary from a day of snorkelling and sunshine, the afternoon storm clouds began to clear over the moody mountain island of Lombok, landing us back at the resort just in time to for a sundowner on the sand.
JI. Raya Sengiggi Km, 8 Sengiggi Lombok
Skye is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Fit Traveller. She is a journalist, writer, photographer, intrepid traveller and a former personal trainer with a passion for helping others reach optimal health. As a TV journalist and producer, Skye has worked for household names such as 60 Minutes, Sunrise, TODAY and Nine News. She has also written for Women’s Health, Fodor’s Travel and Yahoo7 Travel, among many others.
Skye created The Fit Traveller as a beautiful online space and community where people feel inspired to escape the desk to move and explore more.
Equally comfortable in a 5-star resort or hiking a far-off mountain, Skye loves the unexpected and enriching life experiences that each trip brings and can often be found in a backstreet chatting to locals with her camera in hand.
Skye is based in Sydney, working to master the balance between motherhood and her insatiable appetite for adventure.