8.5000° S, 119.8833° E
I am sitting in an open air Italian Restaurant overlooking the harbor in our Hotel Cit Ma Bon in Labuan Bajo listening to Taylor Swift as I write this post.
We flew in this morning, walked around town compared hotels, and then headed to the harbor to negotiate a chartered boat to go snorkeling and see Komodo Dragons.–But I’m getting ahead of myself because I’ve haven’t written about what we did last week!
Following our 2 nights in Kuta on Bali, we caught a flight to Lombok and headed out to the Gili Islands which are off the West coast of Lombok.
Our plan was to spend 2 days on Gili Trawangan which lonely planet has dubbed the “party island,” before heading to Gili Air which is known to be the middle ground between Gili T and Gili Meno (the smallest and quietest island of the 3.)
Getting out to the Gilis isn’t the easiest trek, but it’s definitely worth it.
Walking around Bali there are travel agents all over who will gladly book you a slow or fast boat to any of the Gili Islands. Not knowing this, I instead booked us a flight to Lombok.
Flights are cheaper (we booked ours for under $30 a person whereas the best speed boat price we found was $42) and quicker (the flight is only 15 min and a boat can take 3-5 hours.) You could also take the slow boat which is less expensive, but you pay in your time and sanity as I hear the slow boat is not smooth ride.
Unfortunately, once you land in Lombok your journey isn’t over. From the airport you need to take a 2 hour taxi ride (price is negotiable. We shared a cab with another couple and paid 250,000 total) to Bengsal or perhaps one of the other harbors you can find online to either catch the public boat (only 10,000rp, >$1 a person) or a charter boat (upwards of 500,000rp++ or $41)
Your best chance to catch the public boat is at 9:30AM. They have boats running later in the day, however, the time of departure varies and in order to get to the ticket office you need to have an honest Taxi driver that will actually drive you to the Bengsal Harbor.
Our taxi driver we later found out drove us to the harbor just south of Bengsal, Tuluk Nare. Luckily we had buddied up with another couple so we were able to split the cost of a private charter.
As you can see flying adds a lot more variables. I was kind of regretting my decision to fly, until I found out the speed boats weren’t running due to weather. (We have been in Indonesia during their rainy season both a curse and blessing as I’m not sure I could stand the heat if it was summer!)
Travelers Tip: Assuming you don’t come during rainy season, the best way to get from Bali to the Gili Islands is by one of the Fast Boats. If you don’t want to be on the open sea, book a ticket to Lombok and then take a Blue Bird Taxi. They are the most honest and they have fair (and fare) meters so you can avoid negotiating price.
One last thing to consider is the safety of the boats. The short trip we had from the harbor to the islands and back both on a public boat and private charter were sketchy. The public boat was worse than the charter. About 100m from shore I thought the boat might capsize! If you want some more tips to make your travel a little easier check out these sites. Site 1 Site 2 Site 3
The logistics of getting to the Gilis are definitely worth it though.
Gili Air was our favorite and I will post more about that later, but Gili Trawangan has it’s own benefits.
Travelers Tip: If you are coming during mid or low season, find a place once you get to the island. Walking off the ferry you will find a new deal every 10m.
We had booked our hostel ahead a time which is a good idea in peak season from Nov-New Years and July-Sept, but if you go during low season it’s probably a better idea to get there and negotiate a price.
We were a little disappointed with the hostel we booked and were happy to move to our own private bungalow for half the price when our time was up.
We stayed at Gili Backpackers the first night for 100,000rp a person or 200,000 total for our double bed private room with shared bath. Listed on hostelworld.com we booked this place for it’s promise of “fast WiFI” and hot/cold showers, neither of which turned out to be accurate.
When we moved, we headed to the Melati Cottages where we got our own private bungalow and bathroom. We still didn’t have hot water and the internet was slow, but at least we were paying fair price.
Gili T is known for being the party island and as we were still on a little detox we didn’t fully experience what it has to offer.
Instead of partying, we decided to spend our days running, doing yoga, and scuba diving!
One of the draws of the Gilis is that there are no cars or motor bikes on the islands, which if you’ve been anywhere else in Indonesia you can very much appreciate. If you don’t feel like walking you can grab a horse drawn carriage, but you can also walk around the entire island in less than 2 hours. (The island is about 4.5 miles in circumference.)
If you are looking to party, the best nights to hit Gili T are Mon, Wed, and Fri where you can find a huge island party at one of the bars where parties are known to last until 4am–Rumor has it substances that help keep you up until 4am are readily available at the bars.
If partying isn’t your thing there are plenty of other things to go on Gili T. While it is known for the late night parties, Gili T is also considered the best island for families as it has the most infrastructure.
Dive shops seem to make up half the industry on the island, however, don’t feel much pressure to shop around as the shops seem to all stick to the same set price for both scuba and snorkeling.
We got super lucky and the friends we met at the airport happened to have a son doing his Dive Master Training. Long story short, we ended up with a short 2 hour crash course in diving as well as an afternoon current dive with Green Sea Turtles!–Given that neither Tom nor I have officially been dive certified we really lucked out!
There is a small turtle sanctuary on the island guaranteeing a green turtle spotting. The sanctuary is a little sad as it’s just 3 large tanks with tiny, mini, and small sized turtles maturing before they get set out to sea, but definitely worth a look see!
Spas are a dime a dozen! You can get a mani/pedi and hour massage for 250,000rp.
Ice cream stands line the streets as well, just make sure you get your sweet tooth fix before 10pm because everything but the bars close early.
Gili T has an awesome yoga studio called Gili Yoga. They offer 2 classes a day at 7am and 5:30pm. The first class we took was in the evening and was a vinyasa flow. It was ok, but the morning class I took was amazing. The teacher was trained by Anna Forest and boy did my abs take a beating.
The best part of Gili Yoga though is the open air studio. I wish I could practice in the Gili Heat forever!
Another awesome feature of Gili T are the Seafood BBQ’s which can be found all along the main strip. You can get a lobster bigger than your head for 60,000rp 100g (which does add up quick), but you can also get huge Tuna Kabobs with veggies, rice, and all you can eat salad for 25,000rp or 2 for 35,000rp.
Dinner isn’t the only time to get a great meal, Scallywags has an amazing all you can eat Buffet Breakfast for 80,000rp a person.
Not only does the buffet offer traditional Indonesian breakfast choices such as sate ayam and mie goreng (fried noodles with fried egg), but they also have sausage, bacon, and the best omelettes I’ve had in a while!
If you get bored of any of the above activities, there is always the beach! 🙂
One long beach lines the entire island. There are parts which have a little trash, but otherwise Gili T is a beautiful island Paradise.
Gili T was pretty awesome, but Gili Air was even more amazing…but more about that later!
I need to rest up so I can stream the Superbowl at 7:30am tomorrow!