The Gili Islands (Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air) are located between Bali and Lombok in the vast Indonesian archipelago. In the Sasak language, “Gili” means small island, and there are thirty “gilis” around the island of Lombok.
The climate in the Gilis is tropical, with an average air temperature of 28 °C and a water temperature ranging from 26 °C to 29 °C throughout the year. The rainy season runs from November to April and the dry season from May to October. Despite the tropical climate, due to its proximity to the equator, the Gilis are relatively dry compared to other islands of the Indonesian archipelago. Indeed, the presence of two nearby volcanoes, Mount Rinjani in Lombok and Mount Agung in Bali, generates a dryer micro-climate. The population of these islands is Muslim, as is the case in most of Indonesia, and the official language is Bahasa Indonesia, in addition to local dialects including Sasak Gili Air.
Why I liked Gili Air and drew a map
Personally, Gili Air is my paradise. When I came to Bali for the first time while I was living in Japan, I made a stop here by chance. I was attracted to the name “Gili” and I imagined three islands with people who are happy and laughing all day long. In French, my mother tongue, we play by tickling someone and saying “guili-guili!” and in Japanese “gili gili” means “almost”, “last minutes”. I almost missed the boat to the Gilis the first time I went there, and I almost decided to settle there the last time I visited the island. In any case, when I’m there, what is certain is that the inhabitants of the island are always very kind. I go to Gili Air for diving and snorkeling, and to enjoy the turquoise water where green turtles can be sometimes seen. This very small island can be toured by foot in just one hour, which is ideal since there are no cars or motorcycles. The only sounds are those of motor boats heading back and forth between Lombok and the other Gili Islands to supply drinking water.
Last time I went to Gili Air, I had the chance to see a rare phenomenon: a double rainbow. I was on the beach, relaxing after a dive, when it started to rain. Actually a storm seemed to be coming from Lombok, the island in front of Gili Air. I suddenly noticed some colors in the sky, red, yellow, blue, growing rapidly from one side to another of the island. It was a perfect rainbow, a full circle. I had never seen one like this in my life! This rainbow seemed unreal, like the one you draw as a child with color pencils. I ran all over the beach under the rain to check if it was real, if it was not a kind of optical phenomenon. It was huge as a mountain, and the colors were so pure I could see all of them distinctly. Suddenly the rain stopped and the sun emerged from the clouds. And then, for a few seconds, something even more incredible happened: another rainbow appeared on top of the first one. This time, my boyfriend recorded it on camera, as you can watch it on YouTube.
I drew this illustrated map of Gili Air for you to share my love for this small island. It is hand-made, I used colored pencils to draw the earth and nail polish for the sea. I tried to reproduce as closely as possible the atmosphere and the different locations around the island.
How to go to Gili Air from Bali
There are several ports to come to Gili Air from Bali: Benoa, Sanur, Padang Bai and Amed. There are several transport companies that organize travel including Marina Skrikandi, Wahana, Sea cruises marlin and many others. To go to the Gilis, there are two options, by speedboat or by slow boat which is the cheaper option. Buy your ticket on the spot the day before your departure at a stall in the streets of Bali. The fare varies depending on the tourist season and ranges between 400,000 Rp and 1,000,000 Rp for a return ticket. A shuttle bus will pick you up at your hotel at 6:30 in the morning to take you to the port. The journey takes between 1hr and 1h30. You will always be guided to go to the pier and find the right boat, where you can buy water and food from street vendors. From there, you will take the speedboat which will make a stop at each of the 3 Gilis and Lombok. During the crossing, don’t fall asleep because sometimes dolphins can be seen out of the window!
The boat usually arrives at Gili Air in the morning around 11:00. Once at the small harbour, jump out of the boat on to the beach with its turquoise water! Some cidomos, which are local horse carts, will be expecting travelers to take to the various hotels and bungalows of the island. It costs 50,000 Rp. If you don’t have too much luggage, it is better to go walking. If you choose this option, go to the right to the more “central” area of the island, where you will find the Chill Out Bar (5 minute walk). If you have not booked a hotel, you can ask different restaurants and beach bars for advice. People in Gili Air are very friendly and will surely guess where you are visiting from and greet you in your language…
What to do in Gili Air
Once you’ve found your accommodation, you may jump straight into the turquoise sea, which is rich in coral and colorful fish. You can rent a mask, fins and snorkels from small shops along the road, a set costing on average 25,000 Rp. The best places to see fish are shown on the map that I drew. In the afternoon, after eating a good meal on the beach, why not go around the island by foot or horse cart? In the evening, do not miss out on the grilled fish restaurants by the sea and the sunset at 6:30.
Activities in Gili Air are not lacking: there are many diving centers with different specialties (I recommend free diving at Gili Air Divers), yoga in H2O, kite surfing or just lazing on the beach in front of the Chill Out, having a Scooperific Italian ice cream…
To leave Gili Air, confirm your return ticket with the company the morning of the departure with the port. While waiting for your boat, have a look at the Ocean 5 Dive Resort: on the left you will find a pool with rescued sea turtles. It is said that making a small donation will guarantee your return one day on the island … When the fast boat arrives, try to sit inside the boat even if it is already full (it will be emptied at the next stop, Gili Trawangan, anyway) and do not try to stay on the roof to ” top up your tan” or admire the dolphins than you missed the first time. You may get sunburned or completely soaked and have a terrible ride to your next destination.
For more information about the Gili islands, I would like to recommend checking these websites.
Beautiful website about gilis.
Gili Life Magazine
Available in English and French.
To book your boat from Bali to Gili islands.