“The Secret Gili Islands” are how these other islands are referred, and I wanted to know more about them. Some are uninhabited and others are in their infancy with regards to tourism, however they are quickly becoming the newest destination for people seeking escape from the crowds. All I know is that I want to see some of the secret Gilis.
So I started with GIli Gede.
Gili Gede means “big island”, but at 4km long and 1.6km wide, it isn’t really that big. Tourism hasn’t quite reached Gili Gede but as the island’s only jetty is outside a boutique resort, I think it will only be a matter of time.
When we visited there was no mainland electricity to the island so only gas-powered generators were used. There was no infrastructure, no proper roads or motorised vehicles although we did see the odd motorbike. There are no supermarkets so it’s a two-hour round boat trip to Lembar on mainland Lombok for locals wishing to buy supplies, gas for their generators or fresh water as there is none on the island.
Dotted along the sand shores are small traditional boats which locals use for fishing and pearl farming, their only sources of income. As I am concerned about over-fishing and unsustainable practices, I was happy to see that hand-made weighted nets are used. Buckets of prepared salted fish stood in front of a pot of boiling water ready to be cooked so it appeared that any fish caught is eaten by the families.
The local boats are also used to navigate the waterways from one village to the next or from one island to another, they are the taxis of the waterways.
With no light pollution, the sky is clear and bright so we lay on our balcony and looked up. We stared at the moon, the stars and we swear we saw a comet or shooting star … perhaps it was an alien spaceship which suddenly disappeared … I don’t know, but we had drunk a couple of Bintangs and our imagination may have been in overdrive.
Finding a gorgeous restaurant
We discovered a wonderful restaurant and homestay called Tanjungan Bukit Lodge owned by a French gentleman and his Indonesian wife. To reach this restaurant from our homestay we had two options, one of which was to walk down the beach past the mangrove trees and through a small inlet that was ankle deep during the day/low tide. The second option was to walk a longer way around inland along a pathway made up of loose earth containing a lot of pot holes, we definitely had to watch our footing, especially in the dark, you wouldn’t want to trip and injure yourself here with no access to medical care.
Either option wasn’t a problem in daylight, but returning after dinner in the pitch-black night (thankfully we had the torch on our mobile phones) proved more difficult and resulted in the loss of Sy’s left flip flop! Walking the beach was the quickest but when the tide was high, it came up to my thighs and had a fast-flowing current, hence when crossing, Sy managed to lose his left flip-flop. He spent the next few days trying on various washed up left foots searching for a worthy replacement.
We visited Gili Gede on a budget and were grateful to have found Thamarind Gili Gede through booking.com. The accommodation is built on a meadow about 15 minutes walk from the Ko Ko Mo Resort where the jetty is located, but this meant clambering over rocky boulders which became slippy and precarious when wet. During high tide, it’s not possible to walk this route which does isolate various hotels so we are happy we chose to stay at Thamarind, otherwise we wouldn’t have found Tanjung Bukit restaurant!
Another reason we loved staying at Thamarind Resort was because of the 15 minute walk to Kokomo Resort where Sy wanted to have breakfast on his birthday, because there is the option for bacon! If you know Sy, you know how much he loves his bacon. We ended up eating here twice and it was delicious, plentiful and the relaxing view was second to none. It was definitely worth splashing out and filled us up way past lunchtime.
Take only photographs, leave only footprints!
We enjoyed our visit to Gili Gede with its rugged charm and friendly, welcoming locals. With the new jetty making it an easily accessible destination and plans to introduce electricity on the island, I can see that this secret Gili island won’t be a secret for too much longer
- There is no electricity on the island so generators are used.
- Roads are made up of sand tracks, concrete pathways and rubble. Some parts of the island cannot be reached at high tide on foot so you will need to use a local boat.
- No ATM’s on the island so bring plenty of cash, Cash is King. There are credit card machines but a 2% charge is added.
- There are a few restaurants on the island but not all are accessible from all accommodation.
- Water is brackish as there is no fresh water supply to the island.
- Dry season – May until November; wet season is December until April.
How to get to Gili Gede
Flights: There are international airports at Lombok and Bali. Your accommodation should be able to help you with a transfer from the airport to the harbour and a boat to Gili Gede, alternatively you can do this yourself.
By boat from Bali: Gili Getaway have fast boats from Bali (about 2.5 hours) and the Northern Gilis (about 1.5 hours)
By boat from Lombok: At the harbour, there are many companies you can use to take you to Gili Gede, the journey takes about 30 minutes.
Where to stay
Luxury: Kokomo Resort or Vista Villa
Tanjungan Bukit Lodge
Secret Island Resort (south)
Via Vaccare (northwest)
Yut Inn Flower Paradise Inn (east)
Budget: Thamarind Gili Gede or Pelangi Homestay
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