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Gili Air is Home

Gili Air

 

The beach on Gili Air

may be lined

 

Gili Air

 

with tourist catered restaurants

and resorts

 

Gili Air

 

the wifi may stream

with the speed of a sloth

 

Gili Air

 

flies may swarm your smoothie

or land on your face

 

Gili Air

 

you may find more trash

when beachcombing than shells

 

Gili Air

 

you may cut your delicate feet

on the coral covered sand

 

Gili Air

 

or step on a sea urchin

in the ocean instead

 

Gili Air

 

yet no where but Gili Air

will feel like home

so fast.

 

Gili Air

 

People wave and shout hello

as you ride your bicycle by

 

Gili Air

 

no cars no scooters no stress

only big genuine smiles.

 

Gili Air

 

Lizards bathe in swamp pools

nothing poisonous here to be found

 

Gili Air

 

cows graze in your front yard

giant geckos in your room sing loud.

 

Gili Air

 

Joyful children swim in the ocean

or row out to sea in a boat

 

Gili Air

 

tourists snorkel with turtles

divers descend to a world more remote.

 

Gili Air

 

You can sip a coconut poolside

in a chic beachfront bar

 

Gili Air

 

or eat in local warungs

 

Gili Air

 

gado gado, urap urap, olah olah

a few dollars will get you far.

 

Gili Air

 

If you lose your shoes no problem

most of us walk barefoot

 

Gili Air

 

with no snobbery or expectation

feel free to look how you want.

 

Gili Air

 

The voice from the Mosque rings out

devoted locals called to prayer

 

Gili Air

 

meanwhile the clubs bump

electro, dance and trance.

 

Gili Air

 

At sunset beach bums flock

to the West side for stunning views

 

Gili Air

 

live music at Safari

reggae, roots, and rock.

 

Gili Air

 

On Gili Air I never found catharsis

in the jungle or on an empty beach

 

Gili Air

 

but the island became my neighborhood

strangers quickly turned into friends

 

Gili Air

 

I developed a routine

I never wanted my time there to end.

 

Gili Air

 

I gave myself permission

to take a vacation

 

Gili Air

 

from adventure

and just enjoy myself instead.

 

Gili Air

 

Then unexpectedly

not alone

but in the comfort of the people I now loved

 

Gili Air

 

I found what I needed

I found myself again.

 

Gili Air

 

When I left Gili Air

 

Gili Air

 

for the unknown in Lombok

after three easy weeks

 

Gili Air

 

I was not afraid of becoming lost

 

Gili Air

 

because the best thing

about finding a home

 

Gili Air

 

is knowing

I can always, always go back.

 

 

Gili Air

 

How to Get to Gili Air

 

The three Gili Islands (Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air) are accessible only by boat from either Lombok or Bali. Gili Air is closest to Lombok.

 

From Lombok

Public boats run from the harbor in Bangsal, Lombok to Gili Air and take 20-30 minutes depending on weather. If the sea is too rough boats may not operate at all. You will need to take a shuttle or taxi to Bangsal, which is about an hour from the capitol of Mataram. If you are coming from Senggigi you can arrange private boat transfer for about $7 through an agency in Senggigi.

 

From Bali

Travel agencies throughout Bali book fast boats that take about two hours from Padang Bai in Bali to each of the Gili Islands. They may quote exorbitant rates, but negotiate to pay between 200,000-300,000 rupiah each way which is about $15-25 and include transfer from many places in Bali to the harbor in Padang Bai. The trip can be rough and sickening if the weather is bad. Ticketing agents may sway you to book round trip saying that booking is more expensive in the Gilis. That is simply not true and sometimes the fast boats stop operating altogether due to weather. Keep your options open and don’t book the return ticket.

The alternative is to take a slow ferry for about five hours from Padang Bai to Lembar, Lombok, then a taxi the 60km to Bangsal harbor to catch the public boat to Gili Air.

 

 

Gili Air

 

How to Get Around Gili Air

 

Walk

You can walk the perimeter of the entire island in about an hour and a half. I recommend doing this at least once to find your favorite beach. Walking is pleasurable, but if you want to get quickly from one end of the island to the other, it’s best to have a bicycle.

 

Bicycle

You can find bicycle rentals throughout the island and at most hotels for 30,000 rupiah ($2.50). Bear in mind some roads are very sandy and difficult to peddle down, but inside the village there are paved roads to cut across.

 

Horse

I felt conflicted about this as I am very anti horse and carriage rides, however the only other form of transportation on the island is by horse. When you come off the harbor with a lot of luggage it might seem like a godsend. The price is 60,000 rupiah flat rate ride but really, unless you absolutely feel you must use it, get some exercise and use your body instead. You’ll get in shape and save money.

 

 

Gili Air

 

Where to Sleep on Gili Air

 

Bungalows abound on Gili Air. Your best bet is to walk around, find a place you like, and negotiate a price. The cheapest places are in the village, but if you don’t mind a cold shower you can find budget bungalows on the beach. These are a few of my personal favorites. During the low season it’s easy to negotiate for much lower rates if you plan to stay for more than a few nights.

Segar Villages

400,000 rupiah for a bungalow that sleeps up to 3

I stayed here for all three weeks on Gili Air and it became my home. It’s away from the busyness on the East side, but a short walk away from many of the popular bars and restaurants, on a quiet beach. The property is big with grass fields that cows graze in and it’s common to see the monitor lizards here. Rooms have wifi (that hardly ever works), cold water showers, and includes a big breakfast of coffee or fresh fruit smoothie, fruit salad, and fruit crepes or eggs. The staff is so, so nice and helpful at all hours. If you decide to stay at Seger, tell Satu I sent you!

 

Gili Air Santay

250,000+  for bungalows, 500,000+ for the villa 

Right next door to Segar Villages is Gili Air Santay owned by a now dear friend Andy. If you’re with a group or a family consider renting the villa which is brand new and spotless. The room rates include breakfast at their restaurant directly on the beach, my favorite restaurant on the whole island.

 

Villa Casa Mio

$100+ for bungalows

Casa Mio sits on the quiet sunset side of Gili Air on a beautiful beach overlooking Lombok. Rooms are luxury with wifi, A/C, and hot water. Several bars and restaurants are next door including my favorite bar to listen to live music, Safari. The hotel has its own restaurant with Indonesian, Western, and Italian food.

 

Lucky’s Cottages

Lucky’s draws a fun, young traveller’s crowd and is also on the gorgeous, laid back sunset side. I haven’t seen the rooms personally, but a friend who was traveling solo managed to negotiate a bungalow here for 100,000 rupiah which is a total steal. I assume showers are cold and there is no wifi.

 

 

Gili Air

 

Where to Eat on Gili Air

 

Gili Air Santay

$1-7  for breakfast, lunch, and dinner

This restaurant became my home away from home. In addition to the wonderful owner Andy, and the entire staff, I made friends then soon family with many patrons of this restaurant. I loved the food here so much that I had to force myself to go try other places. The price for value beats any other restaurant on the island. Some of my favorites are the fried tempeh appetizer with sweet chili sauce, the Indonesian curry with homemade coconut milk, and anything off the fish grill.

 

Local Warungs

$1-$2

Inside the village and scattered around the beach are local warungs, the cheapest places to eat on the island, serving typical Indonesian food. Gado Gado is steamed veggies with boiled egg and peanut sauce, Urap Urap is steamed veggies with grated coconut, Nasi Goreng or Mie Goreng are fried rice or fried noodles with egg and vegetables, and Olah Olah is a coconut stew with veggies and your meat of choice.

 

Chill Out Bar

$3-5 for lunch and dinner

In the busiest part of the beach many restaurants serve up BBQ and kebabs at lunch and dinner. For the price, the setting and the food, Chill Out Bar is my favorite. I ordered a huge veggie kebab cooked on the grill with a big greek salad and potatoes. The pizza here also looks amazing which is thin and also cooked on the grill.

 

Scallywag’s

$5-10 for lunch and dinner, $3-10 for drinks

Scallywag’s is easily the most famous restaurant on Gili Air. They have fast wifi, wheatgrass shots, and solid Western food. At dinner if you order something off the grill it comes with two trips to their salad bar. This was amazing as getting a big filling salad is nearly impossible on the island. However, the service at Scallywag’s can be borderline rude. Personally I had a bad experience there and heard similar feedback from others. Still, it’s worth hanging out there in the day as it overlooks a gorgeous beach, or coming in for dinner and taking advantage of the great salad bar.

 

Caballito del Mar

$5-10 for lunch and dinner, $3-10 for drinks

You may think you’ve been transported to Ibiza the moment you step foot in Caballito. The interior is posh with leather loungers, a swimming pool, and a sleek bar. However the service is unpretentious, accommodating, friendly, and professional. It was my favorite place to come in the morning to use some wifi and enjoy a young coconut. The gazpacho is delicious and healthy and I heard the burger was quite good.

 

Scooperific

$1.50 single, $2 double scoop

I had not planned eat ice cream five days in a row while on the Gilis. In fact I typically avoid dairy. However one bite of the yogurt flavored homemade gelato and I was sold. The texture is incredibly creamy and light and it comes in a crispy waffle cone. Heaven. I also tried the dark chocolate which I loved and heard glowing reviews of the white chocolate. Scooperific ice cream stands are scattered around the island but the main location is next to Chill Out Bar.

 

Le Cirque

$3-10 for lunch and dinner

Le Cirque may have the best Western food on the island. Homemade bread, elegant pastries, and a European fusion menu is a nice break from traditional Indonesian fare. I tried the apple, carrot, mint salad with sesame seeds and raisons which I loved, as well as the creamy pumpkin soup which comes close to being the best I’ve ever tasted. Friends recommended the homemade baguette and the chocolate mousse. The beachfront location is likewise wonderful.

 

 

Gili Air

 

Where to Drink on Gili Air

 

Legend

Wednesday nights Legend throws the biggest party on the island with a live band followed by dance music from a DJ. It lures a big crowd with crazy dancing on the beach. It’s good fun albeit a bit crazy.

 

Safari

Most nights of the week Safari has live music after sunset. The vibe is typically chill and a great way to meet locals and travelers. It’s my favorite place to come watch the sunset and I always meet cool people there. Tell Harry I say hi when you’re there.

 

Lucky’s

At sunset people crowd on the beach in front of Lucky’s for epic views and happy hour cocktails. They also throw dance parties occasionally with DJs on the beach.

 

 

Gili Air

 

What to Do on Gili Air

 

Yoga at H20

100,000 per class, cheaper if you buy a package

H20 offers yoga classes twice daily and meditation classes a few times a week. I came here at least once a day during my stay and it made a tremendous difference in my ability to recenter myself. Both instructors teach mindfulness in their classes, adding pranayama and meditation in with their asana. Classes are beginner level, yet I still was able to gleam plenty whether it was subtly improving my alignment or becoming more aware and present. They also offer week long retreats every month and occasional Yoga Teacher Trainings.

 

Dive with Manta Dive

Many people come to Gili Air for one reason: to dive. It’s one of the cheapest places on the planet to get dive training and I hear some of the dive sites are exceptional, better than famous Koh Tao. While I did not dive on Gili Air I heard from multiple sources that Manta Dive is the best dive outfitter on the island.

 

Snorkeling and Fishing

You can easily rent a snorkel and walk out from any beach and explore. It’s possible in some spots to see turtles. Many hotels and restaurants also offer snorkeling and fishing tours you can arrange.

 

Tour Other Islands

Public boats leave daily in the morning to Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan if you want to make your own day trip.

 

Relax

Hang at the beach. Swim at the pool. Walk around. Chat with your friends. Watch the sunset. Take it easy. This is island life.

 

 

Gili Air

 

Things to Know About Gili Air

 

There are two ATMs on the island which sometimes run out of money or stop working. Some of the higher end establishments accept cards but for the most part places are cash only. You can always go over to Gili Trawangan and use the ATM there if you have problems.

 

When you first come off the harbor people will try to take you to stay somewhere. This can be tiring and inefficient. It’s better to just explore on your own, North or South, and negotiate a price.

 

Many people living on the island, especially in the village, are conservative Muslims so try to cover up when you’re off the beach.

 

The ocean can be full of sea urchins, especially in front of Seger Village, so when visibility is poor you may want to wear shoes in the water. I learned this the hard way. If you do step on a sea urchin, soak your wound in vinegar to try to dissolve the pieces still in your skin.

 

Most hotels have cold water showers consisting of saltwater mixed with freshwater. If this is a problem for you, make sure to ask the hotel what kind of water they have before booking.

 


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Comments

  1. alexandrahopeflood Says: January 27, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    Just lovely!! The perfect read on a bleak winter’s day. :)

  2. This has definitely gone on my bucket list. It was a dreary day here in Seattle also and it was nice to have a bright place to look forward to. Thank you, sunny Camille!

  3. Nice article. Thank you for the review and hope you will visit again soon. Meanwhile…Have a good trip !

  4. Being about to embark on a travelling adventure myself next June, I happily went through your blog and enjoyed reading your articles and also looking at your lovely pictures ! Can I ask you how you edit them? (as in what software do you use, photoshop, lightroom… ?) I won’t have an SLR when I travel unfortunately and I’m hoping to edit most of my pictures taken with my lil digital camera, if you have any tips :) Thank you and keep enjoying your travels !!

    • Camille Willemain Says: January 29, 2014 at 8:00 pm

      Thank you Lea, so kind of you to say! I just use iPhoto for editing my photos as I find it quick and easy. The blurring effect is built into my camera which is a canon powershot point and shoot.

  5. Tim Latta Says: January 29, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    Hi Camille I’m Tim. I stumbled on your website researching places in Colombia. In April, I’m preparing to do what you did. Quit my job to travel. Your website is very inspiring and I look forward to experiencing some of the same things. I particularly like what you are doing with your pictures. I am a very novice photographer and I was curious as to the Camera and Lens you are using if you don’t mind sharing. I’ll just need to learn the techniques to take such good photos. Hope you have safe travels.

    Tim

    • Camille Willemain Says: January 30, 2014 at 3:51 am

      Thank you Tim so glad you enjoyed the blog and the photos! I shoot with just a simple canon powershot point and shoot but it has an effect that creates the blur on the top and the bottom of the image like a tilt shift lens. Good luck on your travels, keep me updated :)

  6. Hi Camille
    Thanks for your kind words and we are glad you enjoyed the food.
    Some great pics there too

  7. Awesome post. I ended up staying on Gili Trawangan next door to Gili Air for almost a month last year — didn’t expect to stay there so long but I just loved it too much. Your post really captures why the Gilis are so great!

    • Camille Willemain Says: February 15, 2014 at 2:35 am

      Awesome thank you! I never made it to Gili T but I hear that it’s become so busy that Gili Air seems to be what Gili T was. Most backpackers I met on Gili Air advised me to skip it! Next time I plan to visit all three islands just so I can see for myself :)

  8. […] popular option, but in my opinion the worst. It only makes sense if you plan to stop over on the Gili Islands on your way to Kuta. Tour offices all over Bali offer door to door service from your hotel in Bali […]

  9. Hey would you mind stating which blog platform you’re working with?
    I’m going to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having a hard time making a decision between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.
    The reason I ask is because your design and style seems different then most blogs and I’m
    looking for something completely unique.
    P.S Apologies for getting off-topic but I had to ask!

    • Camille Willemain Says: May 27, 2014 at 8:43 pm

      Sure thing I use WordPress, however I designed the front end of my site myself. While Drupal has a lot more flexibility in the front end design than WordPress, I do not recommend it. It’s actually quite complex and not great for SEO unless you really know what you’re doing. I love WordPress, but heard good things recently from a designer about a site called Square Space.

  10. Xia Zi Wei Says: May 30, 2014 at 3:01 am

    I love Gili! The dive sites are awesome and the island is just lovely. You should come to other part of Indonesia, like Derawan or Bunaken with even more amazing view, you can read about them here: http://www.jakpost.travel . Anyway nice article!

  11. i managed to stay in Gili Trawanan for less than 8 dollars a day. Sharing for the tightly budgeted backpackers,
    here’s
    how

    • Camille Willemain Says: June 22, 2014 at 11:09 am

      Nice. I was lucky enough to be traveling with friends and split the costs but I know that Gili Air can be pricey for solo travelers. How did you like Gili T? I hear it’s gotten too crazy over there so I spent my entire time in Gili Air.

  12. Ben Coleman Says: August 13, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    Hi Camille,

    Love your write up on Gili Air.. I agree, which is why I am setting up a small group of villas for nightly accommodation, planned to be open around Jan/Feb 15. I was hoping to use a couple of your photos in my marketing…

    can you let me know if that would be ok?

    Thanks and regards

    Ben
    Ke Rensia Villas – Gili Air

    • Camille Willemain Says: August 13, 2014 at 3:42 pm

      Hi Ben thanks so much glad you like it! Sure you can use some photos but please credit my site, thanks! Would love to check you guys out once you’re up and running :)

  13. We are set to go to Gili Air tomorrow and have been quoting $220 usd RT each person to be picked up from our hotel in Nusa Dua and then on the return dropped off in Ubud. Sounds like from your blog that’s crazy? Is there a better way to go? The blue water express said they are sold out. Thoughts? Much appreciated!

    • Camille Willemain Says: September 7, 2014 at 10:12 am

      Wow, that does sound crazy! All of my recommendations are in the bottom of this blog post. Have you looked into flying to Lombok and taking a local boat from there?

  14. Hey, thanks for this write up! I’m currently in Ubud, trying to decide which Gili to head for, and I think you just helped me make up my mind – Air it is!!

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  17. Very nice article. I like it very much. and this is really inspiring. I make a visit to the island of Gili last year. precisely in Gili Air. and Gili turned out really very exotic travel locations. even more beautiful than Bali. and the fascinating culture and traditions Gili is not inferior to Bali. and this is what makes me impressed with Gili. and I want to visit it again. interesting posts. thanks.

  18. Wonderful write up and amazing pictures.
    Best sunset of my life was on Gili Trawangan. No doubt i returned to Gili T after Rinjani trek, though not initially planned.
    You have a new fan:)

  19. Hey this blog is perfect I’m going to Gili Air for 5 nights tomorrow morning from Ubud Bali. Will check out Manta Dive whilst I’m there and staying at H20 :) Just hoping I can find decent wifi as working whilst I travel … x

  20. Pandu pamungkas Says: March 28, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    First time i read this article i thought it will be same as the others, but if you read till end, you will see the different. Good job, by the way next week me and my friend going to vacation between gili T or gili air,but since i read your great article, we decided to go to gili air, hope we can see you there. Ps i will tell your hello to harry yea

    • Camille Willemain Says: April 2, 2017 at 4:57 am

      Aw lovely! I won’t be there, I left 3 years ago, but please enjoy and yesssss tell Harry I say hi haha <3 Enjoy!!

  21. Hey! What a great read :) I’m planning on going to Indonesia (and specifically the Gili’s) this summer, what is your opinion on doing it solo? Is it easy to meet like-minded people?

    Thanks!

    • Camille Willemain Says: April 2, 2017 at 5:13 am

      Hey Poppy :) There isn’t as much of a traveler or hostel scene like many other countries I’ve traveled to, but if you go to yoga you can always find community. I recommend checking out H20 in the Gilis, and also I met lots of other travelers at the sunset beach bars. That said, I was traveling with friends during that part of my trip so I’m not sure how it is as a solo traveler. Great opportunity if you don’t meet people to enjoy quality time with yourself.