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Explore the Gili Islands Off Lombok, Indonesia

December 3rd, 2010 by

When it comes to sparkling blue waters and beaches perfect for an afternoon of surfing in Indonesia, Bali naturally comes to mind.  But the truth of the matter is that the Indonesian archipelago has so much more to offer holiday travellers.  The Gili Islands, for one, deserve strong consideration.

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The Gili Islands or what are collectively called the Gilis, are a popular tourist destination off the northwest coast of Lombok.  The name “Gili Islands” is somewhat redundant given that gili actually means “small island”.

The most popular method of arrival is via a direct plane ride to Bali and a boat ride to the Gilis. Visitors can embark from Padang Bai from either the eastern or the central part of Bali like Candidas or Ubud. In most instances, the trip from Padang Bai is much faster than other ports.  Since much of the travel time is dependent on weather conditions, it is really hard to gauge how long the journey will take. As a result, most consider the early hours of the day, when the sea is most calm, to be ideal. Tour operators also can pick up guests from resorts in Bali and bring them to the jetty.  A partner tour group will meet the travelers in Lombok and drop them off at the wharf where everyone rides a small boat to the Gilis.  The entire trip can take almost 12 hours.

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There are a total of three islands that make up the Gilis: Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno. All three project a serene atmosphere that is perfect for pristine holiday escape.  There are no cars or motorbikes on the Gilis and as a result, no traffic.  People get from one place to another on bicycles or cidomo, a small carriage drawn by a single horse.

Gili Air is closest to Lombok and has coral reefs rich in marine life that lure avid international snorkelers and scuba divers.

Gili Meno is a favourite because of its isolated white beaches and quiet surroundings. 

Gili Trawangan is the biggest of the three Gilis but still measures only 2 km x 3 km.  The island has more tourist facilities like bars/pubs, accommodations with a wide range of rates, shops and tour operators.  Unfortunately, the touristy image of Gili Trawangan makes most services and products more expensive than Air and Meno.

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Domestic and international visitors head to the Gilis for scenery and the endless natural gems that the islands have to offer. The three islands form a picture-postcard paradise, with powdery white sand, colourful coral reefs and sunsets guaranteed to take your breath away.

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Aside from just admiring the sheer beauty of the place, there are still a bunch of other activities to choose from on the Gili islands.  Visitors can rent some snorkeling equipment to see fantastic marine life.  Some opt to do a bit of kayaking or riding a glass bottom boat to admire the spectacular corals and different species of fish.

The most popular activity on the islands, however, is diving.  The Gilis are a bit of a mecca for the sport, in no small part because of the clarity of the Bali Sea and cornucopia of vivid marine life, from giant clams and turtles, to rays and sharks. Neophytes can sign up for a course with first-class instructors and get their feet wet with fun, manageable dives that still elicit oohs and ahs. Experts of course, can pick from innumerable sites up and down the coasts of the Gilis.

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The collective shoreline of the Gilis are also dotted with quaint cafés, casual restaurants and bars that serve up decent fare and drinks.  While a lot of menus lean heavily on western-style cuisine, the best bet is to entice a local fisherman to share the catch of the day. Indeed, some of the best restaurants in the Gilis and Lombok do just that.

All in all, if you want a tropical paradise with a singular brand of charm, make a point to holiday in the Gili Islands of Indonesia.

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