The Gili’s are a trio of tiny islands situated to the east of Bali in Indonesia. A tropical paradise offering crystal clear warm waters, chalky beaches and rainbow coloured reefs. Each island has its own vibe and all are a haven for travellers looking to live the island life!
Gili Trawangan is known for its party atmosphere, Gili Meno offers a secluded retreat popular with couples, whilst Gili Air blends a perfect mixture of the two!
With so many things to do it’s hard to know where to begin, but after spending nearly a month island hopping between the three, we’ve put together the ultimate Gili to-do list.
Go under the sea
Whether you choose to try your hand at scuba diving or you prefer to stay closer to the surface and snorkel, the Gili islands are renowned for having some of the best dive sites in the world!
Set sail to Turtle City for an up and close experience with turtles, Manta Point for rays and a colourful array of fish, and Shark Point for the more daring of divers! (This isn’t the most daring thing we’ve done mind you, we took on the Worlds Deadliest Trail…)
These tiny islands have it all and its waters are known as some of the best in the world to start your PADI Open Water course at a price of $428. The Gilis have a fixed price agreement to ensure that all dive shops charge the same for the qualification, meaning that you can shop around for the dive center that floats your boat!
Forget the glass bottom boats it’s all about the see-through kayak
If you prefer to stay dry but still want to see what’s going on beneath the surface, we’d recommend ditching the busy, overpriced glass bottom boats and opting for a see-through kayak instead – for as little as $15 for 2 hours.
Paddle out to your favourite parts of the island and avoid the overcrowded tourists spots consumed by boats.
Chill out on one of the island beach clubs
Beach clubs in the Gilis come in all shapes and sizes and are really the only way to enjoy the dreamy, paradisiacal lifestyle you would expect of tropical island life.
Cocktail in hand, music blaring, sun blazing, life’s a beach!
You really are spoilt for choice on Gili Trawangan. You’ll find beach clubs a plenty along the main strip offering good food, classic and Gili style cocktails, chill out zones, table tennis and even swimming pools.
Over on Gili Meno, travellers looking for a more quiet, secluded escape can find beach clubs dotted around the island’s shores. Take your pick!
Watch the sunset
A more obvious one, but there is a different way to enjoy sunset for every single night you have the pleasure of being on one of the three islands.
From a beach club lounger to secluded sands or a bbq seafood restaurant, the golden glow from a Gili sunset is like no other. We even climbed the lighthouse located on Gili Trawangan for the best seats in the house for sunset. Yes, while traveling, we still know how to keep the romance alive!
Kayak between the islands
The calm, warm waters of the Gilis are perfect for kayaking and it is perfectly safe, not to mention fun, to kayak between the islands. We rented a kayak one afternoon from a beach bar called Lava on the main strip of Trawangan for approximately $15 and rowed across to Gili Meno.
As Charlie got the kayak into shore, Charlotte got the beers in at the beach bar so we could kick back and enjoy a change of scenery for the afternoon. Bliss!
Play beer pong
Exactly what it says on the tin! Play. Beer. Pong. In true USA fashion, this has become most popular on Gili Trawangan with travellers looking to get into the party spirit of the island.
Choose your side, choose your drink and get necking your losses! You may even want to play your neighbour and do your nation proud. We had fun getting to know other travellers this way and trust us, one round will definitely not be enough. It will almost certainly be best of three, best of five, best of… You get the picture!
Ride a bike around the island
Without the need for cars or scooters on the islands (they are actually banned), one of the best ways to get by and explore is to rent a bike for as little as $5 a day.
You can bike the 7 mile circumference of Gili Trawangan in just under 3 hours, but you will surely want to stop off as you discover hidden beaches, quiet and quaint little restaurants, beach clubs and hammocks along the way.
For those interested in seeing how the locals thrive on the island, you don’t have to bike far inland for a real insight into their way of life.
Eat BBQ fish
Catch of the day… Never has the saying been so apt! Head out into the night and look no further than the hearty and plentiful seafood BBQ’s served around the island.
Freshly caught that day from the Java Sea, restaurants cook your selected dish to perfection on the BBQ. Savor the taste, it doesn’t get much fresher than this.
One of our favourite restaurants located on both Trawangan and Air was Scallywags. A superb seafront restaurant that served as our final supper on the Gili islands.
Watch the locals battle it out in a stick fighting competition
When we were invited to watch a stick fighting contest, we slightly underestimated the fighting part. Hugely popular with the locals, arenas are packed to the rafters as Balinese lads battle it out with bamboo sticks and shields to win over a judging panel, or ultimately draw blood from their opponent.
As brutal as this sounds, and believe us some of the strikes are indeed BRUTAL, the fighters love what they do, love to win and love their adoring audience. Put $5 in the ring and be entertained!
Visit the famous swings
You’ve seen the pictures, now get down to the beach and capture those perfect Instagram worthy shots. Dotted at locations around each island, many opt to capture the moment as the sun goes down, where you will merely be cast as a silhouette amongst the orange haze of the sunset and the backdrop of the Java Sea.