Gili Air Tips: really cool outdoor things to do on Gili Air + my tips for your visit
On my trip to Indonesia I visited Bali, Lombok and Gili Air. This last island is one of the Gili Islands and is located right in front of the Lombok coast line. It’s a popular place to visit among young people and the white sand beaches that you cannot find in Bali, can be found here. There are three islands: Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. The first one is also the biggest one and also nicknames Gili T. This is the party island where most people head out to and since I’m anything but a party person, it may be obvious this was not an option for me. Gili Meno is the most quiet one out of the three and has limited facilities. That’s why I choose to go to Gili Air, not too quiet and not too busy, from what I’d heard. This island is loved by those who seek quiet and amazing diving / snorkeling. Even though I didn’t go much on Gili Air, I still thought it would be nice to share my Gili Air tips and some really cool outdoor things to do on Gili Air.
1. Hike around the island
For me, the perfect morning walk was to hike around Gili Air. I personally found it too warm to run (and in all honesty did not bring my running shoes) but saw quite a few people do that. However I opted for the hike around the island. I started from my accommodation, Pandan Bungalow at the northwest side of the island. I walked clockwise and it usually took me 1.5 hours to do an entire circle around the island. I combined walking on the beach with walking on the trail that circles the island, as it’s not possible to walk on the beach only. Simply because there is not a beach everywhere. I walked on flipflops making it a wee bit harder and because of the heat this was the perfect exercise for me in the early morning.
2. Rent a bike
There is no motorized transportation on Gili Air, everything is done with horse carriages. However I felt really sorry for the horses and decided not to use that means of transportation. And so I rented a bike. Cycling is a great way to get around on Gili Air and I rented a bike for 50.000 RHP for 24 hours. The trails across the island are easy, the coastal trail has quite a bit of sandy options and there for I had to walk several times. I rented my bike with Matahari right next to Pandan Bungalow and it came with a basket, a bell and a lock.
3. Go snorkeling
During my stay in Gili Air I felt extremely lazy. However I still decided to do something active every day in order not to get too lazy and get fat because of all the Bintangs and food. And so I decided to go snorkeling on my last day. I’m not a big water fan and I didn’t expect too much of it. However I figured I couldn’t leave Gili Air without having snorkeled so I booked a seat on a public boat for a five hour snorkeling excursion for 100.000 RHP. My expectations weren’t too high and that turned out to be just right, as I was fitted onto a boat with at least 50 other tourists. It was a so-called glass boat but there wasn’t a whole lot to see through the glass. During the first snorkel trip we had to follow the guide, looking for turtles. However the pace was way too high for my taste and my snorkel didn’t fit well. After 20 minutes out on the open I was exhausted already and decided to get back on board. After this we stopped in various other places around the Gili Islands. Lunch was on Gili Meno. My tip would be to also carry a waterproof bag as the low tide set in during the day and you will have to wade through the water for a while. I luckily didn’t fall but another girl did and she got everything soaked. Camera, phone etc. Snorkeling is one of the most popular things to do on Gili Air and looking back at it, I wish I’d just rented a snorkel set and go out myself rather than joining an excursion. And by the way: don’t ever try to swim from one island to the next. It’s extremely dangerous and much further than it looks.
4. Swinging on Gili Air
There are various nice swings on Gili Air and you may have seen them on my Instagram. Most swings can be found on the western and northern part of this island. There are plenty of swings, something mentioning ‘Gili Air’, sometimes there are two next to each other, sometimes it’s right in the water. Some are attached to a tree and some look a little tricky because they are old. The best shot is of course swinging in the water and so I’d recommend checking the water levels when it’s the best time. In my case this was half way during the day, the water was high low enough to wade to the swings without getting all wet but high enough to make it look good rather than at low tide when it was just a swing on the beach. Swinging really is one of the best things to do on Gili Air.
5. Enjoy the sunset
The sunsets in Gili Air are legendary. I stayed on Gili Air for four nights and experienced two nice sunsets. Both of them weren’t amazingly spectacular because of the clouds, however they still were stunning nonetheless. Check in your weather app what time the sun sets and make sure to be on the beach at least half an hour before that. Once the sun is gone, it gets dark really fast. Gili Air has a sunrise and a sunset side. If you want to experience the sunset, make sure to stay on the west coast of the island.
How to get to Gili Air
You can travel to Gili Air from Bali or Lombok. From Bali you can take a boat to the Gili’s from Padangbai. I chose the fast boat and paid 300.000 RHP. The company was Skiranda, the oldest ferry company operating on this route. Even though the sea was calm I didn’t really enjoy the crossing: they fit in as many people as they can on the boat and there’s limited fresh air. They told us the sailing would take some 1.5 hours but eventually it was almost twice as much. We first went to the other Gili islands before making it to Gili Air. If you are looking for more fresh air I heard that the slow ferry (public boat) is a better option, however I picked up stories from girls who still got very sick on that sailing. If, like me, you have a weak stomach, make sure to get some seasickness pills beforehand. The sailing from Gili Air to Bangsal in Lombok was much shorter, just about ten minutes. I paid 100.000 RHP for a public boat and it included a transfer to my hotel in Senggigi.
Practical information about Gili Air and Gili Air Tips
Life on Gili Air is relaxed yet I found it busier than expected. Looking back on my visit, I should probably have chosen Gili Meno. The weather is good year round, however make sure to realize that it’s rainy season from end of October until March (more or less, the climate is changing here, too!). The boat to Gili Air arrives on the pier in the south of Gili Air and from here it’s about a 20 minute walk to the northwest of the island. At least when not carrying your luggage which will make you go a bit slower. Around the pier you will find most accommodations and booking offices. I was glad however I didn’t stay here because it was too crowded. I stayed at the western part of the island at Pandan Bungalow which was quite affordable and one of the few accommodations offering wifi in the room, rather than just at the reception.
There are bars and restaurants all over Gili Air. They mostly have more or less the same menu: fruit shakes, local Indonesian food and western food such as burgers, sandwiches and pizza’s. The prices were quite similar everywhere and usually I paid RHP 100.000 for a meal and a drink.
You will find a few ATM’s on Gili Air, however make sure to bring enough cash as I heard that they are sometimes not working at all for a while. There’s not a real supermarket, but you can find small shops with water, soda’s, snacks and beer all over. It’s also good to know there’s a few medical clinics as well as a small pharmacy. I needed it for some Ibuprofen but it was quite expensive, I paid 100.000 RHP (7 dollars) for 10 tablets, so only use it in case you really need it, the main land is much cheaper!
When you arrive by boat it’s wise to figure out where your accommodation is. I did not and the locals sent me the wrong direction all the time. I suspect this had to do with me rejecting their horse carriage service and so I ended up walking for 45 minutes before reaching my accommodation, rather than 20 minutes.
If you’d like to head out to the beach, make sure to check how far your accommodation is located from the beach. Beaches are not everywhere and sometimes there’s just a small boulevard, a harbor or even a landfill. If you choose to stay on the west coast, you will be fine!
These are my Gili Air tips and favorite outdoor things to do on Gili Air. In case you need any further information, feel free to get in touch for more Gili Air tips. Just leave a comment below or send me a message on any of my social media channels.
Planning your Bali trip:
– Check out the best airfares to Denpasar airport via Skyscanner
– Find the best hotel deals on Gili Air here
– Order your copy of Lonely Planet Bali & Lombok or Lonely Planet Indonesia to start planning your next adventure straight away.
Want to read more? You may also enjoy the following posts:
– Things to do on Lombok and the Gili Islands – a blog by Macca from An Adventurous World
– The best hotels in Ubud, Bali
– Climbing Mount Rinjani: from hell to heaven and back again
– The Bali Swing in Ubud: a playground for adults
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Thanks for sharing!