Gili Air is Home - This American Girl

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.


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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



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.



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.



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


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.



$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.



$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



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.



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.



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 H2O

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

H2O 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.



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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