Introducing Gili Islands
For decades, travellers have made the hop from Bali for a dip in the turquoise-tinted, bathtub-warm waters of the irresistible Gili Islands and stayed longer than anticipated. Perhaps it’s the deepwater coral reefs teeming with sharks, rays and reasonably friendly turtles? Maybe it’s the serenity that comes with no motorised traffic? Or it could be the beachfront bungalows, white sand, and friendly locals. Each of these pearls, located just off the north-western tip of Lombok, has its own unique character, but they have one thing in common. They are all hard to leave.
Gili Air is the closest to the mainland, with plenty of stylish bungalows dotted among the palms. Mellow Gili Meno, the middle island, makes for a wonderful chilled-out retreat.
Gili Trawangan (population 800), the furthest out, has been tagged as the ‘party island’. And with three weekly parties and a groovy collection of beach bars, you can get loose here.
Blu da Mare
An authentic and intimate (few tables, limited seatings available) Italian-owned trattoria where the lady of the house bakes the bread, makes her own pasta and grills meat, fish and seafood to perfection. Speaking of seafood, her hubbie and co-owner (who, oh by the way, used to race yachts) spears fresh catch daily, which is carved into melt-in-your-mouth Carpaccio.
Situated a short distance from Bali but visited by only a fraction of the tourist throngs, Lombok stands apart. From animist temples and bamboo forests to beautiful coral reefs and beaches, you'll experience the best of the region in only eight days.
Best places to stay in Gili Islands
Thanks to this glass aquarium hatchery, several hundred green and hawksbill turtle hatchlings are released into local waters annually. It's especially necessary now as unchecked development has all but wiped out natural hatcheries on the island. Donations appreciated.
Rumah Makan Kikinovi
Run by a formidable ibu , this is Indonesian pick-and-mix cuisine at its tastiest. It's very inexpensive − a big feed is around 15,000Rp. Dishes usually come out fresh at 11.30am, just before the divemaster lunch crush.
H2O Yoga, a wonderful yoga and meditation retreat centre is brand new to Air and set back 500m from the beach on a well-signed path into the village. Top quality classes are held in a lovely circular beruga. There's massage available, and a few bungalows with more on the way.
Tir na Nog
Known simply as 'The Irish', this barnlike place has a sports-bar interior with big screens ideal for international football matches and tasty pub grub (mains 35,000Rp to 80,000Rp). Its shoreside bar is the probably the busiest meeting spot in the island. Jovial mayhem reigns on Wednesday nights when the DJ takes over.