The Gilis

by Anna

If Lonely Planet describes Takaka, New Zealand as “laid back to near horizontal,” then I think Gili Air must be upside-down! It is definitely the most laid-back, chilled-out place we have been on our trip and was the perfect remote island destination for the final week of our travels.

“Gili” literally means “small island,” and the archipelago of three tiny islands off the northwest coast of Lombok, Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air, have come to be known collectively as “the Gilis.” They are so tiny that all three have sandy paths bordering their perimeters and can be walked around in about an hour.

One of the most charming (and appealing) aspects of these little islands to us was the non-existence of cars and motor scooters, replaced instead by horse-drawn carts called cidomos, and bicycles…no horns honking, no diesel fumes and no revving engines…just the sounds of coconuts dropping, waves lapping and locals playing the guitar. And if the peace and quiet and coral strewn beaches weren’t already enough, the islands have the added bonus of being surrounded by magnificent coral reefs brimming with fish of all shapes, colors and sizes, as well as hundreds of sea turtles! We could literally walk out of our room in the morning, throw on a snorkel, swim out about 100 feet and almost be certain to be swimming with a giant sea turtle a few minutes later…amazing!

We chose to spend our time on Gili Air, the mid-sized of the three islands  with a reputation for being mellow and relaxing while also having good eating and lodging options. We loved our bungalow at Italian-owned Biba Beach and also loved their super authentic thin crust pizzas! All of the locals who worked there were so sweet, and their friendly smiling faces made the beautiful surroundings that much better. We spent our time reading, lounging, snorkeling, drinking fresh coconuts, eating local curries and chicken sates, taking walks around the island and through the local villages in the middle of the island and watching the sunset. We also spent a lot of time reminiscing about the past nearly 11 months of travels…all of the incredible sites, wonderful and unique people and memorable experiences that we have been lucky enough to share. It was a perfect place for self-reflection.

The boat ride over to Gili Air, balancing on a giant basket of bananas!
Cidomo The “main street” on Gili Air
Johnny getting into the island groove at Biba Beach
Johnny and Juan More delicious banana pancakes!
Breakfast at Biba
View of neighboring islands from Gili Air
Walking the sandy path around the island The beaches were covered in coral
We shared the beaches with cows and a handful of other tourists
Tourism, coconuts and fishing are the Gilis main sources of income Local climbing for coconuts
Beautiful day on Gili Air
The interior of the island was just as pretty as the sandy perimeter
Johnny’s favorite young papaya curry…delicious and about $1.50! Magic Mushrooms, anyone?
The island is well-equipped for sunset-viewing

We also went on a snorkel trip one day to see the coral gardens and other good snorkel spots closer to Gili T and Gili Meno and had lunch on Gili Meno, the smallest of the three islands. Its white sand beaches and even more deserted feel made us wish we could have stayed there a couple nights as well. The snorkeling was the best I’ve ever seen…I couldn’t believe the varieties of coral, quantities of fish and crystal clear waters. We also ended up befriending a German couple on a four-month long travel adventure. They had been in South Africa, India, Thailand and Bali, and were headed for Australia and then California! We had such a good time swapping travel stories and decided to meet up again on our last night for some pizza and Bintangs at Biba.

For our final morning, Johnny and I took advantage of Biba’s prime view of Lombok’s Mount Rinjani, Indonesia’s second highest volcano, and woke at 5:30am to watch the sunrise.

Heading out to snorkel with the turtles We saw turtles through the glass bottom boat too
There were also some awesome surf breaks around the islands
Sea turtle nursery on Gili Meno Cidomo on Gili Meno
One of Gili Meno’s lovely white sand beaches
Our last night under a full moon With new friends, Franziska and Dominik
Sunrise over Indonesia’s 2nd highest volcano, Mount Rinjani
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3 Responses to “The Gilis”

  1. You gotta grab a board bra!!!

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