ESCAPE TO THE GILIS
Getting away from the mainland hasn’t been so inviting, with three beautiful rustic islands just a small boat ride away.
While Lombok offers some of Indonesia’s most beautiful beaches, Selong Belanak beach taking the top 4th beach in Indonesia, the Gilis in the North offers an escape back in time and one worth experiencing. The Gili Islands consist of three islands, Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. They all have individual characteristics to cater for all traveller types but one common theme is their raw simplicity.
What separates the Gilis from mainland Lombok is the small island casualness, intimate local and expat communities and the absence of motorised transport. Lombok is home to impressive reefs and beaches but here in the Gilis each island offers spectacular snorkelling in the crystal clear waters and the reefs play home to all types of sea creatures. Famous for their turtle conservation and preservation of sea life, there is not a single dive where you won’t experience something that will amaze.
To get there from Selong Selo you head north around two and half hours to the Northwest point of the island. Once you have arrived at the Bangsal Harbour, just outside Sengiggi, you have the choice of boat rides: a private boat, fast boat or the public boat, which can take you to each island. The choice of ride varies in price and duration but all are enjoyable as the view over the Gillis and mainland Lombok is indescribable.
The main attribute for this destination is the absence of any motorised transport. This leaves you with walking, riding a bicycle or catching a horse and cart (locally called a cidomos). If you do decide to hire a bike, you can do this either per hour or per day but negotiating a price if half the fun. The cidomos are found primarily near all the busiest parts of each island and at the harbour entrances, whilst it is a unique experience just make sure you settle on a price before you jump on board for the journey. Every island can be circumnavigated by a beach stroll within 2.5 hours, so depending on the distance between the accommodation and your destination, walking is usually fine.
Snorkelling and diving is possibly the largest attraction to the area with many dive shops offering classes from basic to PADI tickets. Boat trips leave daily to the local reefs for the snorkelling and diving enthusiasts but for the relaxed leisure experience, you can hire snorkelling equipment per hour from all dive shops and majority of the local kiosks. If sunbathing and swimming is all your looking for, the water is just magical and the clean white sand that drenches the beaches is hard to pull yourself away from. Regardless of the island, the beaches have an abundance of sun loungers and beach side service so it is very easy to stay all day.
Although the area was originally positioned towards the young backpacking market, in the last few years it has become a destination for a types of travellers, from singles to families and on any budget. You can usually get a better deal if you go direct to the establishment and make sure you read the reviews online first. While the Gilis in general is an experience, each island offers its own unique attributes, so before you book it is best to decipher what qualities you are looking for.
Gili Trawangan (Gili T) is the largest of the islands and is approximately a 30-minute boat ride from the mainland. While it is the largest island, you can still take a beach stroll around the island in 2 hours. Gili T is famous for its nightlife so if you’re looking for a cocktail on the beach followed by some music and socialising with other travellers, then this island is for you. Everything is easily accessible but if you are within the 5 minute walk radius of the beach clubs – make sure your holiday was not aimed at early quiet nights. All the island features are still here but it is by far the most developed and social of the Gilis.
Gili Meno is the smallest of the islands and by far the least developed. Stretching only 2 km long and 1 km wide this quaint little island is perfect for escaping from reality. It does have limited amount of entertainment in comparison to the other islands but if you are looking for a relaxing session with a book on the beach, this place is ideal. There are local cafes, romantic accommodation and sunset dinners on the beach totalling an ideal honeymoon destination.
Gili Air is the favourite of many who have travelled extensively throughout the area. It has a grass roots feel with a close-knit community of locals and expats. Gili Air has many restaurants, beach cafes and bars where you can get Indonesian and International foods. While the nightlife is quieter to its bigger brother Gili T, Gili Air will still entertain till late. Recently it has become the home of music festivals in the low season and 2016 became the first year the island hosted its Air Festival bringing artists from around the world.
If there were a Selong Selo recommendation, it would be to make the journey north to these stunning islands at Lombok fingertips. Lay on the fine white sand beaches looking out at the picturesque turquoise ocean and soak up an unforgettable experience. It is worth it!