Gili Air is the closest island to Lombok and is considered to be the “medium” island; medium in size and a mix of the quietness of Gili Meno and the party of Gili Trawangan.
Around the island
We hired bikes to cycle around the island – here on Gili Air they are called push bikes, because that is what we had to do with it for most of the way around – push it, as the thin tyres couldn’t get any purchase in the deep sand on parts of the island.
(Tip - Some bike hire shops do have bikes with fat tyres for riding through the sand).
Animals roam free all around the island, it’s as though it’s one large farmyard. From plump roosters and chickens dashing all over the roads to cows, goats and cats; healthy, happy cats are literally everywhere! If you love visiting cat cafes, then come to Gili Air; it’s a cat island! No dogs are allowed on any of the Gili islands.
There is plenty to do in the evening but the island still manages to maintain that chilled vibe. You can start by watching the sunset on the West coast (not a bad place to begin your evening!). The most popular spot is Mowries bar and restaurant where you can sit on the beach in a comfortable bean bag sipping a cold Bintang but, unlike most of the East coast, no happy hour on cocktails and the food menu isn’t that extensive.
Our wedding anniversary
We chose Gili Air to celebrate our wedding anniversary and we saved some activities purely for this day. As a sun worshipper, of course my morning had to start on the beach so as I lay basking in the hot sun in front of a beach bar, Sy sat reading his e-book on a double bamboo lounger with comfy cushions.
For dinner, I knew cocktails would be involved and along the east coast, plenty of bars have a happy hour. For those of you that know me, you know how much I love a 2-4-1 so we head to Zipp Bar which also had live music playing and we sipped mojitos as the sunset.
Looking after the island
Some dive operations on Gili Air love the island so much they want to do their best to keep it clean and beautiful. Visitors are encouraged to join in to help. Dive operations like 7Seas and Oceans 5 run free clean up dives every week as part of The Ocean Clean Up and Oceans5 also run weekly beach cleans. If you want to do your bit for the environment to preserve this beautiful place, get involved!
To ride a cart or not to – this is the question
If you are an animal lover, this is a tough one. In a situation where old methods are adapting to cope with the fast growing pace of tourism, I believe a bit of “eye-balling research” needs to be done before you ride a Cidomo. When we stepped off the boat, the attraction to use the local transportation to take us and our heavy luggage to our accommodation was attractive, but we chose not to, we needed to do more observation first. We discovered there are two different types of horses on the island; the ones used for transporting tourists are well groomed, well fed, “dressed” with pretty tassels and have carts with roofs. Then there are the worker horses which have open carts and horses aren’t “dressed”. On one sad and shocking occasion, we saw a young boy riding a worker horse loaded with goods and the horse was stumbling to get up a slight stony incline; to “encourage” him, the youngster beat the horse with a stick quite a few times. I wanted to grab that stick and do the same to him to see how he would respond! Thankfully I only witnessed this once during the week we were there, but it did affect me and afterwards… I made sure I looked at every single horse that passed me by. I looked at their weight, how the cart and reins were attached and if it was the horse or the cart that was bearing the weight; if they were “in between jobs” whether or not they were standing in the shade and if the cart was being supported to give the horse relief. I am pleased to say that due to the positioning of the cart, it does take the weight and the horse is merely the motor. Most of the locals also have 2 horses so they are rotated often and they are not working constantly. The horses are the locals’ main source of income and it’s in their best interest to look after them and I personally did feel that they weren’t mistreated. I felt happier after my research and in truth, I don’t believe this island should change (just as well, because it never will and that’s part of its charm), but as long as people keep a conscious eye on the animal treatment, the island will hopefully be able to cope with the future increase in tourists.
The Gili Islands are a 30 minute fast-boat ride away from Lombok and 2 hours by speedboat from Bali (Padang Bai or Sanur). If you wanted to island hop between Gili Air, Meno & Trawangan, it will take you around 20 minutes to travel between each one using the local “Island Hopper” boat.
If (like me) you are concerned that the “local Hopper Boat” will be rickety, small and over-crowded … don’t be. They are a good size, sturdy and tickets can be purchased easily and with confidence from a desk at the harbour.
Where to stay
There are prices to suit all budgets from luxurious resort and spas to hostels and homestays. We stayed at the simple yet beautiful 3 Angels Homestay which had a balcony, aircon and a gorgeous, spacious outside bathroom and was a 10 minute walk from the harbour and restaurants. We booked through www.booking.com.
Travel Facts & tips
- The local currency is Indonesian Rupiah £1 GBP = 16,000 IDR
- Their official language is Bahasa Indonesia which is similar to Malaysian and throughout Indonesia in general
- If you can use just a couple of Indonesian words, this will give you big smile in return, even if you simply use “Pagi” (morning) and “Terima Kasih” (thank you), it will be hugely appreciated.
- A 30 day visa is given at the time of arrival in Indonesia (not for all countries, check with your embassy).
- There are three ATM’s on the island so you don’t have to bring wads of cash.
- Free Wi-Fi is available in the larger hotels, some homestays and a couple of restaurants.
- In addition to the beachfront restaurants, small, family run restaurants known as warungs are dotted all around and are a cheap and tasty way of eating locally.
- Bring a small torch for the evening as there are parts of the island that do not have lights, especially if you want to watch the sunset on the west coast and walk to the east coast for dinner.
- All toilets for the restaurants are “public” so carry a small packet of tissues and antibacterial handwash in your bag as they don’t always have toilet paper or hand washing facilities.
- Electricity supplies can be interrupted at times on the island which is not a problem at all, just something to be aware of.
Have you been to Gili Air? What were your thoughts? If you haven’t been, will you think about it now? Let us know in the comments below, we would love to know what you think!
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