One week in the Gili Islands

10 days in the Gili Islands and Bali

Located a short speedboat ride off the coast of Lombok, the Gili Islands are three (very) small islands known for crystal clear water and their relaxed vibes. From largest to smallest they are: Gili Trawangan (the ‘party island’), Gili Air (more relaxed) and Gili Meno (rustic).

While many people travel to the islands by ferry from one of the several ports in Bali, we arrived in Lombok by plane from Australia. Since the international airport is a couple hours away, our accommodation arranged a driver for us to make the two hour drive along a very windy road to the ‘port’ where a pre-arranged speedboat would take us to the Gili Islands. All this for just over US$50. The port in Bangsal ended up being a a large shed-like, open aired building with no other amenities than a public (pay) toilet and a lot of touts trying to sell us space on a boat.

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The speedboat ride from Lombok’s mainland to Gili Trawangan

For a week long stay, we decided on Gili Trawangan as it had the most restaurant options. We were far from focused on partying (most nights we were in bed before the parties started!), but were there instead for one of my favourite hobbies – diving. Over the six days we did about 10 dives. Not a lot, but most days we dove twice during the day and one night we went for a night dive. There is also pretty decent snorkelling off the beach where we saw turtles most days.

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My lounging spot on one of the bungalow’s lounge chairs. There is excellent snorkelling about 20 metres off the beach where turtles were spotted most days

The diving schools are quite different in the Gilis compared to past diving companies I’ve used with throughout South-east Asia and Australia. There are no set number of dives you have to do, as you can sign up for the morning dive and/or the afternoon and evening dives. Unless you do a lot of dives, the price is set per dive at about US$30 including all equipment. Most days Jarrad was content with a diving in the morning (9am departure, with sailing time to the dive spots anywhere from 5 – 15 minutes) and I would go again for the afternoon dive at 2pm. We dove with two companies – Manta Dive and Gili Divers. We initially went with Manta Dive because I’d read a lot about them online and they had good reviews. But since our accommodation was on the northern part of the east side of the island, it was quite a long walk from our accommodation. To mix things up, we gave Gili Divers a try. They were smaller and we got  better vibe from them than Manta Dive, so we ended up doing most of our dives with Gili Divers.

Our days were spent eating breakfast, doing the morning dive, having a break at a ‘sand in your feet’ cafe / restaurant, another dive in the afternoon, then lounging on the beach in the late afternoon, with dinner and drinks at one of the many bars lining the beach.

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You don’t find water any clearer than this!

The dives were located around the three islands and all were very different. There are a collection of our photos in the slideshow below. All dives had excellent visibility and all days the weather was calm. The only exception was the night dive…

Jarrad was doing the night dive as an ‘experience’ dives as part of the Advanced certification so for the first time we weren’t diving together. My dive started out alright. There was just me, another diver and the dive master. Diving in the dark is very different to diving during the day since your view is limited to what is caught by the beam of your flashlight. The dive started out ok, but then all of a sudden, we were pulled into a current and started flying through the water. When I say flying, with the only things I could see being the small organisms in the water, it reminded me of Star Wars when the spaceships move at light speed! This wouldn’t normally be an issue, but we were just off the beach so we had to dodge ropes anchoring boats and large rock ‘bommies’. I spent all my time trying to slow down and not crash into anything. My dive master eventually got us to stop and found us a rope to hold onto so we could do our safety stop. All my flashlight picked up were the tiny sea snakes that were biting me through my wetsuit. It was the longest five minutes ever!

Once back on the boat, I saw that we were the first aboard. I also heard that a diver was missing. All I could think of was that it was Jarrad (he’s not a great diving buddy – he  tends to stray). It was a long 10 minutes until I heard that the diver was found and theat everyone in the group had made it back to the beach. We ended up travelling about 2km in about 10 minutes, which is pretty darn fast underwater in the dark! I was really freaked out by the experience, meanwhile Jarrad was saying how much fun it was and he wanted to go again. Go figure!

The following is a collection of my favourite pictures from the many dives we did. Since the camera was only supposed to go to 18m, on the deeper dives (30m), the camera remaind on the boat. Visibility on most days was 20 – 30m and the water was about 28 degrees.

Besides my near-death experience, the rest of the week was amazing. Great food, great beer, beautiful beaches, glorious views of Bali at sunset, boat rides and of course the diving was incredible.

The pictures below is our week in photos.

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Horse and cart walking by the road in front of our accommodation – Bale Sampan Bungalows
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The view from one of the many restaurants lining the beach.
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Post-diving refreshments
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Fishing boats docked in the evening
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On the dive boat waiting to get into the water
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The pool at Bale Sampan Bungalows. That’s the ocean and further on Gili Meno in the background.
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The beach and Gili Meno in the background, The islands are very close but swimming between them is forbidden due to strong currents.
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The only way to drink coconut water!
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Bliss!
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Egg ready for the Advanced Open Water certification’s ‘deep dive’
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Lots of fresh seafood on offer at the many restaurants. They all have their seafood on display at the front where you pick what you want.
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Monster prawn and his ‘girly’ coconut and rum drink
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There are a lot of cats on Gili Trawangan, many of which like to hover nearby while you eat hoping for you to drop your lunch. This one was particularly fond of my thongs
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Most of the restaurants are on the beach side, where shoes are optional 🙂
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The dive boat
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A hermit crab hiding in a larger shell
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Sunset at Gili T
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Sunset from Gili T looking westward to Bali and Mount Agung
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Fishermen at dusk

 

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The horse taxi. During our entire week we walked everywhere and finally splurged on getting a lift in a taxi to the boat dock with our luggage. The horses always looked ‘unhappy’ and after I returned from Gili T I read that they have a very short life span due to the brutal conditions they are forced to work in (little water, breaks and general care). On our second trip I refused to go in one of the taxis.
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Goodbye Gili T. Next stop – Bali.
We visited Lombok on a 10 day trip to the Gili Islands and Bali in May 2014. 

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