What You Need to Know About Gili Air
Gili Air is an island located off the north-western coast of Lombok and around three hours away in a speed boat from Bali. It is known to be a slightly less busy and less naughty sibling island of Gili Travangan. Gili Meno, the third island, is the smallest and quietest of all. Majority of the people come to Gili Air to relax and to have some quality beach time but there are other attractions in the island too. Below is our summary of what you need to know about Gili Air before going.
The easiest and the most popular way for getting to Gili Air in 2019 is by speed boat from Bali or public boat from Lombok. We have been able to get speed boat tickets from Lembongan to Gili Air for 375k Indonesian Rupiah per person. Prices should be similar for boats from Bali. Getting to Gili Air from Lombok on a public boat will cost you 15k.
The best option when it comes to purchasing tickets is to buying them directly from boat operators in Bali which are usually found at the piers. Agencies will always charge a commission which means it’s a bad deal for you!
In our case, we found out that everybody was selling tickets for 400k and so were able to get a small discount. It is worth keeping in mind there is only one boat from Lembongan going to Gili islands per day (9:30 departure). If you are travelling from Bali you will have more options. Boats from Lombok do not havea set schedule and leave as soon as they are full (40 people).
Note: Although Gili Air has a pier you are not guaranteed to make your journey completely dry as some boats drop you off in the beach right next to the pier and you just have to make the last couple of meters on foot. Be prepared for this and don’t wear long trousers or trainers!
As of February 2019, there were three or four ATMs in total in the island. I did not have any problems with withdrawing money. As a matter of fact, I found one ATM which allows you to withdraw 3M instead of the usual 2.5M. It is the CIMB Niaga ATM which is located a few hundred meters away, east from the main pier.
No motorized transport is permitted in Gili Air therefore your options are limited to renting a push-bike, an electric scooter or taking a horse cart. I do not have any proof or first hand information, but I have read online horses are treated extremely poorly so a lot of people opt to walk or rent a bike instead of using services of horse carts.
We have been able to do everything we wanted in Gili Air without any of the above. The island is so small (1km diameter approx.) you can quite easily walk everywhere.
Due to the fact we visited Gili Air in February which is considered low (rainy) season we have had a lot of choice in terms of where to stay. We booked a hut at a centrally located homestay called Mirna Homestay and ended staying there the whole time.
For a mere 125k a night we had our own spacious, air conditioned hut with toilet and shower and the best part – breakfast was included too. Huts right next to the beach at places like Matahari Bungalow were going for around 250k but we did not feel there was a need to move. We had everything we needed in Mirna Homestay.
During high season these sorts of prices might not be on the table and availability might be a lot more limited. Speaking to one of the hotel owners who lived nearby we learned prices double or triple when the season picks up and Gili Air sometimes gets so busy EVERYTHING is booked out completely.
We really enjoyed food in Gili Air. As a matter of fact, this is where we found The Best Bowls in Indonesia. For those who are not familiar with Fruit Bowls these are essentially smoothie bowls topped with granola, seeds and fruits. Super tasty.
Our top recommendation is Aura Bowls although H2O café comes as a close second. I was personally a little disappointed with ultra-highly rated Musa Cookery because the food we tried was tasteless. Pachamama is also very popular in the island but compared to others it was really expensive. I think a lot of food in Pachamama is responsibly sources and/or organic so it might be the reason why.
Despite being tiny Gili Air is an awesome place to spend a week or even two weeks. You can scuba dive or snorkel, practice yoga, go on cooking classes and more.
I love scuba diving so the first thing I researched was local dive shops and dive sites. We were recommended two shops by the owner of a hotel called Gili Matiki that we unexpectedly befriended and both shops left really good impression when we went in to have a chat.
Ocean 5 (PADI) were super friendly and gave us a great overview of their favourite dive sites, however my choice was 3W (SSI). I only did one dive with 3W and these guys seemed very reasonable both above and under water. One of the instructors explained to me they are planning on launching a scheme for coral farming which was something new to me. Their idea was to train staff of how to grow and attach newly grown corals to existing ones in order to improve the quality of marine life around Gili Islands. Ocean 5, on the other hand were actively running beach and reef clean-ups so both shops looked really good. I would have been perfectly happy to do more diving with either of those shops.
Diving in Gili air costs 490k per dive and prices seemed to be the same in all the shops.
Tip: If you scuba dive, go diving at the Turtle Palace (also known as Turtle City). The experience is unbelievable. My video of what sorts of crazy things you can see there can be found on Youtube.
If you are in Gili Air the top thing I would recommend is a snorkelling tour around Gili Islands. It costs 100k (don’t buy it if you are asked for 200k!) per person and you are taken to 4 different snorkelling spots. You are very likely to see turtles and some nice fish (we saw turtles on three out of four stops). You will also be taken to the famous Gili Meno underwater sculptures.
If you are interested in Yoga there are two options to choose from – H2O or Flowers & Fire Yoga. Classes are 120k per class although the bigger package you take the better cost per class will be.
Is Gili Air worth checking out?
Gili Air is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Indonesia. Obviously, this would never be the case had Gili Islands not been so amazing. A word of caution before you book your tickets though. During high season this place receives and overwhelming amount of visitors which brings a number of problems to the visitors and also to the locals living here.
Firstly, as a visitor you will notice that the prices I talked about previously might not be on the table anymore. Because we visited Gili Air during low season, there was loads of space everywhere, accommodation was cheap and it really felt quiet. If you visit during high season you are unlikely to get any of that.
However, what concerns me the most is the rubbish that is left after everyone had a great time and gone home. Infrastructure for dealing with rubbish is not really in place so a lot of that rubbish might end up in the ocean and in beaches. Furthermore, I highly doubt any wastewater treatment takes place either so anything that goes down the drain ends up in the ocean too.
Now, I am not saying don’t go to Gili islands at all. It is a magical place and you really should visit it but for your own benefit consider doing it during the low season. You will enjoy it more. Also, my recommendation is to use re-usable water bottles as much as possible. If you bought a plastic bottle re-use it too! Cafes and restaurants will gladly refill your bottle for as little as 5k. You will not only save money but will contribute to cleaner environment.
Tip: Got some spare time? Go the extra mile and join Ocean 5 beach clean-up which takes place every weekend. Turtles and colourful fishies of Gili Islands will be eternally thankful to you.