The small island Gili Trawangan (Gili T for short) is my favorite place to hangout in Indonesia. It has a laid back vibe during the day, epic parties at night, and snorkeling / scuba diving with turtles. It’s one of three tiny islands known as the “Gilis” East of Bali, near the island Lombok.
Neither cars nor motor bikes are allowed on the island… just horses, bicycles, and people walking. It’s about a 1.5 hour boat ride from the Padangbai harbor in Bali. Since Gili Trawangan is so remote, it’s more expensive than both Bali and Lombok, so budget accordingly.
Since Gili Trawangan is close to Lombok, a Muslim island, you can hear the mosque prayer sounding throughout the day, and more often on Friday, the holy day. Bring earplugs if you think it could wake you up when it sounds at ~4:00 in the morning. I got used to it after a few days. What’s hilarious to me is when you hear the mosque prayer and club music from a bar both playing at the same time, it makes a very unique house blend that no DJ could recreate 🙂
Snorkel with Sea Turtles
I love snorkeling in Gili T. You can snorkel directly from the beach and swim with the sea turtles or you can pay to get a boat and tour guide. If you want to save money and go by yourself – just walk on the east side of the island, up the main road heading north and you will see several vendors renting out snorkels, masks, and fins. You shouldn’t have to pay over $3 or $4 USD for an hour.
Rent the gear and swim out a ways and check out the coral and fish, and keep an eye out for the turtles. They like to hangout on the bottom looking for food. Sometimes they’ll come up for air. When they do, swim over to the turtle to get a good view. Touch the turtle if you want, just keep your hands away from its mouth as they have a strong bite. See if you can swim alongside the turtle for a while… they’re not very fast but when it swam down I ran out of breath and had to come back up.
On a clear evening, check out the sunset on the West side of the island. Ride your bike over there and grab a drink from a beach bar and enjoy the sunset from the beach. There are a few bars that have swings and hammocks in the water. During the day you could relax on it for a while but during the evening sunset you’ll have to wait in line to get your picture taken on the swing.
Gili Trawangan has a hill in the South Central part of the island with goats hanging out and a nice view at the top. It’s easy to find the trail: walk west where the night market is and you’ll see the hill and look for the foot path leading up to the top. The path is also visible on Google Maps, so pull out your phone if you need help finding it.
Walk up the hill and look for the goats eating trash – they’ll eat anything! Walk around to the left of the solar panels and you’ll arrive at the peak. It’s a nice view of the other Gili islands and Lombok, covered partially by the trees. Afterwards, you can either walk down the same way or continue following the path down the stairs to the West side of the island.
Kayak to the Nearby Island Gili Meno
If you’re feeling brave, see if you can kayak to the other nearby island, Gili Meno. On the day that I kayaked, the guys renting the kayaks said it was too windy and we wouldn’t finish. When we started kayaking out into the middle of the ocean, we made progress towards Gili Meno faster than we expected, so we decided to go all the way to to the island, and we made it! It only took us around 20 minutes to get there and another 20 minutes to get back. They shouldn’t have underestimated us 😃
When we got to Gili Meno, it was difficult to get out of the kayak and stand in the shallow area because there is so much dead coral to stand on. Bring your flip flops or water shoes on the kayak if you plan to get out on the Gili Meno side.
You can rent a single kayak for 100,000 IDR, a double for 150,000, and a double clear kayak from Aquaddiction for 200,000 IDR.
Gili T is a popular island for travelers with a slight shortage of accommodations, so prices are more expensive than Bali. A bed in a dorm room might cost around $15 USD / night. Here are some options I can recommend.
Gili Castle – The quintessential party hostel for young party goers. This place has a climbing wall near the deep end of the pool. During the climb if you happen to fall you’ll land in the deep end of the pool. If and when you do climb to the top, you can jump in the pool. I always did a cannonball to make a big splash… it’ll hurt your bum a little but it’s a lot of fun! If you don’t feel like staying in the party hostel, stop in for a drink at the pool bar that’s open to the public.
My Mates Place – A new hostel as of Spring 2016. Very nice, clean, modern hostel with comfortable pillow-top mattresses and a social atmosphere.
Good Vibes Bungalows – For the same price as a bed in a hostel dorm you can get your own room with a friend in this Canadian-owned bungalow. Plus, Good Vibes has an on-site bar with friendly staff to chat with.
There is a plethora of good food on Gili T including local and western food.
Roast House – The best roasted chicken I’ve had anywhere, with crispy skin and amazing flavor. The burgers also look amazing. The prices are very reasonable for what you get so I highly recommend trying this place.
Regina Pizzeria – The best pizza on Gili T. Pizza is stone-oven baked & Italian owned/managed.
Taco Corner – Excellent Tex Mex and good service.
Night Market – The Night Market is where you can get fresh seafood from the day’s catch. The prices are good and there are many stalls to choose from.
Warungs – The Indonesian cafes are everywhere and you can get good Mie/Nasi Goreng for around 20,000 IDR.
Gili Trawangan is the party island in Indonesia. Every day has a different bar that stays open until 3:00 AM, so check the schedule with your accommodation. Usually how it works is all bars stay open until 1:00 AM, except on Thursday because Friday is the holy day. After the bars close at 1 AM, everyone flocks to the one bar that stays open until 3 AM. I rarely stayed out this late, but if you’re a late night partier, that’s the routine. If you need help staying up late, try an Extra Joss & vodka shot. This stuff is like kool-aid flavored crack in a shot and everyone seems to be drinking them.
The Jiggy Boat Party is also a good time if you’re in the mood to let loose and party MTV Spring Break style. The drinks on the boat are a bit expensive, so make sure you budget for that.