The Gili Islands are a group of 3 tiny islands, just off the coast of Lombak, the island to the immediate east of Bali. We’ve caught an early morning shuttle and ferry from Ubud to take us directly to Gili Trawangan – the largest of the 3 islands and the most developed. After 2.5 hours of travel we arrive to the sun soaked paradise that are the Gili’s. There are no motorized vehicles here, with the locals travelling only by bike and horse drawn carriages. There is but one main street that runs the length of the beach on the east coast and just a few small alleyways off of it. Accommodation choices here are plentiful ranging from ultra private luxury accommodations at the far ends of the strip, or basic backpacker digs with simple rooms.
Upon disembarking from our boat, a number of locals approach us offering accommodation for cheap. We check out a number along the way, and finally with the guidance of a local end up at one way up one of the alleyways. The place is half under construction, but there are 4 brand new rooms, each with their own veranda and beautiful outdoor bathroom. We decide the amount of money we will save staying here is worth the few extra minutes it will take us to get to the beach.
The main draw for the islands are diving and snorkelling and there are no shortage of companies offering day trips or certifications. We booked ourselves a dive for our second morning, and at $40 AU, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper here than anywhere in Australia. We head out on a traditional Indonesian wooden fishing boat for a 15 minute boat ride to shark point. With a backward roll off the boat we are in the water and descending down to 30 meters. The first thing I notice is how warm the water is – it’s like a bath, even down at 30 meters. Even in Cairns with the water at 25 degrees, I still usually felt a chill by the end of the dive. The coral here is much deeper, and doesn’t have the same amount of large structures that the Great Barrier Reef is known for, but it doesn’t disappoint in large aquatic life. We saw more giant turtles in this one dive than we have ever seen in total before, a small octopus (our first), a marble ray, a moray eel, and last but not least, a white tip reef shark. It may have just been our best dive yet.
If diving isn’t your thing, there are a number of pools and ample stretches of white sand beaches to spend an afternoon. Not to mention dozens of restaurants along the beach, each with private huts to enjoy your meals as you watch the waves lap up on the shore, or watch the sun begin to set. And every night here there is a different bar holding the main “party” for the evening. It is easy to lose days and even weeks in this small bit of paradise.