We’ve all seen those postcard perfect photos on Instagram of dream-like deserted islands. Every time I see one of those pictures I start to drift off to fantasy land and picture myself lying by the pool or on a golden sand beach with turquoise water with a cocktail close by and a good book.
When you enjoy travelling, exploring new cultures and going on adventures, and try and do it as much as time and money allows I think these type of relaxing, lying on the beach type of holidays seems a little bit luxurious with regard to valuable travel time and money.
Well, let me tell you something. You must get your butt to Indonesia and visit the Gili islands before they get completely invaded by tourists. Don’t get me wrong, tourism keeps their economy alive but at the moment there is a nice balance of tourism and feeling like you are visiting a small piece of paradise.
We unfortunately only stayed on Gili Trawangan, aka Gili T., for three nights but boy were they three glorious nights of indulgent relaxation.
The Gili islands are an archipelago of three small islands off the north-west coast of Lombok and north-east of Bali in Indonesia. Gili T. is the largest of the three and then Gili Air and Gili Meno the smallest and most off the grid.
Gili T. is an eco friendly island and does not permit any motorised vehicles. The preferred mode of transport is walking, riding a bike and if you’re up for it, horse and cart.
After a rather arduous and long journey from Bali (read more about that here) we finally made it safely to Gili T. and endured a horse and cart ride through the pot-hole filled back laneways. The main road that goes around the whole island, save for about fifty meters, is pretty flat and grated (well as much as it can be when it is sand instead of asphalt) but then once you diverge from the main road it is like being on a ride at the carnival where you are thrown up and down and side to side but without a safety bar so hold on tight!
The scariest of these horse and cart rides was at night because not only could you not see the crater-like pot holes ahead, you couldn’t see anyone or anything else on the road as there were no street lights. The horses do wear bells so you can hear them coming but if you are racing around a corner on foot or bike there can be some close encounters. The cart has one small battery operated light that provides minimal guidance for the horse, I’m sure most of the time the horse is going on instinct and memory. Don’t get me wrong, I loved taking the horse and cart, it was like the adventure element of the trip ?.
A little tip, you do have to bargain for these horse and cart rides, as with many things in Indonesia. I think we paid a different price every time we took one but all within a small range. Make sure you bargain the price before getting in. They also like to try and increase the price at night, I guess like a taxi does in other countries. We found when our hotel called a horse and cart for us the price was more consistent.
Now you may not need to use a horse and cart ride if you stay near the harbour. We would strongly recommend against staying in this area even though it is where most of the bars and restaurants are. It is a small island so you are never far from anywhere but at the same time you can stay in the north or on the west coast and feel like you are escaping reality and away from all of the tourists.
After arriving at the harbour by boat and not being met by a hotel representative we organised our horse and cart ride to the hotel through the back streets where our driver took it upon himself to stop to get some lunch at who knows where, his house??? We were already feeling a little dubious about our accommodation due to a lack of replies to emails and this journey certainly didn’t help matters.
Once we arrived at Gili Eco Villas all of our worries evaporated into the warm ocean breeze. Without question they paid for the horse and cart rides and greeted us with chilled freshly squeezed juices. From the beginning the staff were genuinely helpful and incredibly friendly. They made sure we were comfortable and satisfied without being over the top. We cannot recommend enough that you stay at Gili Eco Villas (we were not paid to say that).
Gili Eco Villas is a little slice of paradise away from the main strip in the north of the island. The villas and furniture are made from recycled wood where possible. We had a two bedroom villa, each with their own private outdoor bathroom which we loved! There was something quite liberating about showering outside within the privacy of the walled bathroom. On the verandah was an outdoor living area where you could lie in a hammock or sit on a sofa and wile the hours away, as well as a small kitchenette that contained basic equipment if you wanted to self-cater.
Needless to say, we did not cook while on holidays, especially when in a place in Indonesia where the food is cheap and deliciously fresh. Two of the three nights we were on Gili T. we had dinner on the beach, once at Gili Eco Villas and once at a nearby restaurant called Karma Kayak, where many of the resorts set up tables and chairs on the stretch of sand in front of their property. Eating dinner to the sound of waves gently splashing on the shore at tables dimly lit by lights hanging from nearby trees while feeling the sand trickle through your toes is what dreams are made of.
On another night we went to the harbour area where we intended to go to the night food market. They were in full swing when we arrived and the smells of the barbecued food was mouth watering. Unfortunately the place was so crowded that there was absolutely nowhere to sit and eat and because we were with my parents we decided to go to one of the many restaurants in the area. No matter where we ate on Gili the food was fantastic! We took advantage of being able to eat plenty of fresh seafood, something we lack when in Munich, and tried some of the dishes as well.
As mentioned above, riding a bike is one of the methods of getting around the island. We rented our bikes from Gili Eco Villas. I would highly recommend renting a sand bike, the ones with the really thick wheels, because the main road around the island is basically sand and we saw a lot of people walking their bikes. It doesn’t take less than an hour to ride around the island but we made an excursion out of it and stopped along the way, taking pictures and stopping for lunch in the centre of town. There is beach most of the way along coast so it would be easy to lay down the beach towel and relax or go for a swim in the pristine waters. Be aware that some parts of the island are surrounded by coral so some water shoes may save you some pain while entering and exiting the water.
Gili T. is a small island so we spent a lot of time just plain old relaxing by the pool, on the beach, reading, eating and drinking. It’s a tough life I know.
One of the things David and I love to do is dive and snorkel. There is some good diving in this part of the world and it is reasonably priced. There are plenty of dive centres on Gili T. so it was hard to choose one over another. We ended up going with Lutwala Diving for a number of reaons: they were the closest to our resort; they are a PADI dive centre (whom we qualified with); and they had a good review in our guide book.
They turned out to be an excellent choice. They have a large number of dive instructors offering various dive courses and fun guided tours. We were lucky enough to have our instructor all to ourselves. He was incredibly knowledgable of the sea life, knew all of the names of even the most obscure looking creatures and knew where to find the most conspicuous of animals. We would highly recommend Lutwala Dive if you are in Gili T.
The last thing I want to say about Gili T. is that it is a photography heaven. Yet another advantage of staying at Gili Eco Villas, on the northern end of the island, is that it is the perfect spot to capture the beautiful sunrises and sunsets. As you can see from the photos, the island is surrounded by pristine white sandy beaches and clear blue waters. So if you are looking for a little escape from reality get yourself to Gili Trawangan and leave the technical gadgets at home and enjoy!
At the time of writing this, Lombok Airport had just opened so hopefully soon it will be even quicker to get to the Gili Islands now.
Visit our gallery here to see more of our photos from our short stay on Gili Trawangan.
Tell us about your little slice of heaven. Where is your favourite place to escape from the mundane life of work and responsibility? Let us know by leaving a comment above!
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