I feel like we are becoming predictable when we talk about islands. They’re always ‘paradise’. What can I say, we pick good islands to visit…
Gili Air was another one of those islands.
The second most popular of the 3 Gili Islands after Gili Trawangan, Air is developed but very quiet. Perfect for a few days of relaxation with friends.
Getting there had been worrying me slightly. There are so, so many horror stories about crossings from Bali – the open water between Bali and Lombok can get incredibly choppy. Reviews online claim they felt lucky to be alive at the end of some crossings.
We’d booked with one of the more expensive fast boat options, in the hope it would be safer. And we needn’t have ever worried – it was fine. The boat was far from full, the staff were super friendly and safety conscious, and best of all conditions were very calm.
When we dropped 90% of the people on the boat off at Gili T, most of whom were getting drunk at 9am, we knew we’d made the right choice going to Air. The 8 of us were virtually the only people left on the boat. We climbed up to the top deck for the 10 minute journey to Air and watched the white sand and blue sea come into view.
Gili Air is a small island, and you could walk around it in a couple of hours – we managed to walk 80% of it at least. In the south it is heavily developed, much more than I expected, probably too much in all honesty. Beachfront restaurants, minimarts and dive resorts jostle for space. But then venture a little further east or west, or even inland, and it often suddenly stops, and it really does feel like a desert island.
Although the seafront restaurants are nice, and great for BBQ or fish, in our opinion the small warungs inland are a better choice for food – most are really clean and friendly, and surprisingly cheap considering everything needs to be shipped to the island.
Activity wise on Gili Air, your choices are sunbathe, snorkel, dive or cycle (around the island). Most of our friends did a dive lesson but we made do with snorkelling and lots of sunbathing and relaxing.
The beaches are narrow but it wasn’t hard to find a free stretch of sand to relax on. I think we visited during a low or shoulder season so the whole island was quite quiet, but even in high season there should be enough space.
If I had a criticism of Gili Air it would be that the sea isn’t great for swimming – mainly because it is either very shallow or full of coral (great for snorkelling). The shallows are a great place to lie and cool off, after all who wants to do any exercise like swimming in paradise?
There isn’t a lot more to say other than we loved Gili Air and wished we had stayed for a hell of a lot longer. We will be back one day..
Apologies for the quality and relatively few photos – my main camera decided to break when we got to Gili and our GoPro failed us miserably. Should have used the iPhone!
We used Gili Getaway for the boat crossing and paid $109.56/£69.20 each for a return ticket. I’d highly recommend them, but there are far cheaper options. If we were to do it again, we’d probably take the slow public ferry across to Lombok, then get a small ferry from there to Gili – this would cost a fraction of what we paid but of course take a lot longer.
Facilities wise Gili Air has almost everything, groceries of course cost more than the mainland but everything is fairly cheap. There are 2 ATM’s so there is no worry about running out of cash.
Not a lot of partying happens on Air but if you fancy a drink the alcohol prices are on par with the rest of Indonesia (eg not exactly dirt cheap). Magic Mushroom shakes are widely advertised due to them being legal (or at least the subject of a legal grey area) if that’s your thing, we didn’t try them though.
We stayed at Tyrrell Cottages which is a stones throw from the boat landing, but set back from the busy area. I can’t recommend it enough. For 250,000IDR (£12.90) per night we had a small but clean and modern room. Only fan cooled but it wasn’t too hot. The best thing was this amazing hammock outside: