The Gili Islands – An Unexpected Paradise

The guy who brought us to the horrible room in Senggigi also knew a guy who worked at a dive shop down the street. I tried to get my scuba diving certification last year but didn’t succeed, although I do enjoy snorkeling and Amanda dives, so we set up a dive/snorkel trip for the next day at the Gili Islands. I paid US$20 and Amanda paid US$70, which included our snorkeling and diving equipment, transport from our hotel to the boat (about an hour) and snorkeling and diving at two different locations. It would’ve also included transportation back to Senggigi, but we decided to spend at least one night on Gili Trawangan instead. The dive shop also owned two bungalows, and we (well, Amanda really) negotiated a price of 100,000 Rupiah (about US$11) for the night.

Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

Snorkeling in the Gilis

We were on a small boat with two girls from Cologne, Germany who were in the middle of getting their PADI diving certification. When we stopped for the others to dive, I jumped in to snorkel. Even though I know they saw lots of amazing things at 20-25 meters, I thoroughly enjoyed all the turtles and colorful fish I could see from the surface. We stopped once near the coast of Gili Trawangan and once off the coast of Gili Meno. The water was the most amazing shade of blue and there were more types of fish than I could count. I could’ve floated around all day looking at the fish if it weren’t for the fact that breathing through a snorkel makes you thirsty.

The relaxed island atmosphere

The bungalow we had on Gili Trawangan was a little off of the main road, and as Amanda and I followed one of the dive shop employees to it, we kept looking at each other with huge grins on our faces. Five minutes on this island, and we knew we loved it. There are no cars on the Gilis, so the road is more of a dirt path for pedestrians, bikes, and horse-drawn carts. This made the whole place quiet and gave it such a relaxed, chilled out atmosphere.

The main road ran parallel to the beach and was lined with laid back cafes, tour shops and little convenience stores. Most of the cafes offered free wifi as long as you ordered a certain amount of food or drink (usually 50,000 Rupiah, which is about US$6). We quickly found our favorite because it had giant pillows set up outside at the edge of the beach. We sat on those pillows for hours at a time eating lunch, taking advantage of the internet connection, and staring at the ocean.

Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

After our first night there, Amanda found the guy who was in charge of the bungalows and asked to stay a second night. He choked at the price we negotiated with the dive shop and told us it was normally 200,000 Rupiah (US$22). Since that was still a fair price, and much cheaper than anything else we found, we accepted. We didn’t do much that day besides alternate between the café with the pillows and laying on the beach. We did try a few other restaurants, including one with an attractive 2 for 1 happy hour drink special, but the comfy pillows kept drawing us back.

Gili Air

Gili Trawangan was filled mostly with backpackers, though there were a few upscale resorts for the non-backpackers. As we heard repeatedly, it was the type of place many visited with the intention of spending two or three nights, and then didn’t leave for ten. We didn’t have that kind of time, but we did decide to take a boat (23,000 Rupiah, about US$3) to Gili Air, one of the smaller islands, for one night. It was even more deserted and just as gorgeous. I felt like we were on some undiscovered paradise with barely another person in sight.

We stayed at a charming bungalow at one end of the island for 250,000 (about US$28) that featured an outdoor bathroom with stone walls for privacy. It unfortunately also came with poo from what we could only guess was a lizard, but it seems to be an unavoidable part of lodging in tropical Indonesia.

Gili Air bungalow, Indonesia

Gili Air, Indonesia

Eventually we had to leave and took a crazy fast boat from the Gili Islands to Bali. But during our time on Gili Air, we walked a lap around the entire island of Gili Air in about two hours, including stops to sit in the water and count starfish – and we hardly saw any other people. We had lunch with an amazing view of a kite surfer on the ocean and ate one of our best dinners in Indonesia while watching the last bits of sunlight sink into the water. I think our three days in the Gilis finally melted away my remaining stress from moving to Germany, and I felt more relaxed than I had in months.

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