Gili Trawangan – a great alternative to touristy Bali

The small Gili archipelago consists of three breathtaking islands, fringed with white sand and the turquoise waters of the Indonesian sea. Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan make the perfect alternative to the more touristy Bali.

Digital Nomads will love Gili Trawangan for its beach café culture, numerous scuba sites and partying until dawn.

Things to see and do

Motorized transport is banned on all the Islands, with horse-drawn carts, push bikes and a good old pair of legs providing the only means of getting about. As the Islands are only a few kilometers across at their widest points this is certainly no hardship and makes for a comfortably relaxed and laid-back environment.

Hopping between the Islands on a Koperasi ferry is easy and cheap although they are relatively infrequent so check the schedules before you set out. If there is a group of you it is often cost effective to charter one to take you across privately. The distances between the islands are deceptive and the currents fierce so don’t be tempted to try crossing under your own steam as you are sure to come a cropper.

Diving is one of the main draws on the Islands and there are several dive operators on Gili Trawangan offering PADI courses and a range of trips to exciting dive sites for all abilities. There is enough marine life here to satisfy experienced divers including black and white tip sharks, turtles, moray eels, and eagle rays to name just a few, while novices will rapidly find their water legs diving the many shallow walls, slopes and plateau just off shore.  The Gilis’ exposed position makes them perfect for trying your hand at drift diving.

If you prefer something a bit less energetic, the Islands are the perfect place just to hang out, relax on the beach and watch the world go by or write a book. Chartering a boat and skipper for a day with a group of friends is a great way of getting a change of scene and visiting the other Islands in this little archipelago. Pack your snorkeling kit, take a good book and relax on deck, stopping off for a walk around the Birk Park on Gili Meno before heading to Gili Air for lunch.

Food features strongly in Island life and the quality is generally excellent. Barbecued fish is a firm favorite and pizzas baked in the many wood-fired ovens are delicious. Gili Trawangan has become much more sophisticated in recent years and offers plenty of high quality Western-style food in addition to the delicious Indonesian fare but wherever you are you are sure to find something that suits your budget and taste.

Gili Trawangan has been well-known as a party island since the 1980s and although the scene has become a little more upmarket in recent years.

Good to know

Given the limited size of the Islands accommodation is in relatively short supply and consequently prices tend to be a little higher than on rivals Bali or Lombok. Advance booking is recommended especially in high season. The Islands still cater well to backpackers with plenty of budget-style accommodation as well as more comfortable upmarket options on Gili Trawangan. It is usually possible to negotiate good prices for longer stays and do clarify whether the prices you are quoted include taxes and breakfast.

Internet options are pretty widespread but speeds match the Islands’ pace of life – slow and relaxed. Head for the restaurants and bars on the beach at Gili Trawangan for free Wi-Fi in a sublime setting. USB modems and SIMs on the Telko networks work relatively well here and sometimes provide a 3G connection so consider buying one on the mainland before you travel to the Islands.