Random News

What to do in Gili Trawangan Island

Probably the most popular island to visit in Indonesia, here is a list of what to do in Gili Trawangan Island, which is located just after Bali and Lombok Island towards the east. Popularly known as the Gili Islands, this unique cluster of three islands have gone through it all, from the days of some serious backpacker partying in the nineties to a tourist friendly island since going through a massive makeover in 2005.  

The three islands located next to each other are Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno where the Tranwangan is the largest of the three. Gili Air is pronounces as Ai-Yea and not air as most foreigners would call it. The beauty about the Gili Islands is that there is no motorized vehicles allowed on any of the islands therefore, it is such a charm to see horse carriages and bicycles being used as the main mode of transport. 

There is no airport available here therefore the only way to get here is via boat of ferry from Lombok or Bali which is a one or two hour ferry ride. As for accommodations, you can find luxury resorts, boutique hotels, budget hostels, backpacker guest house and even homestays, catering to all kinds of travelers. 

As for food, you must know that there is no pork available through the Gili Islands making it halal or pork free, however you can find almost all kinds of wines, spirits and beers catering to the international travelers that seek the perfect island getaway. As for what to do in Gili Trawangan, here is a list of what I experienced during my trip here in July 2016. 

What to do in Gili Trawangan Island
Choices of bicycles available at the Gili Islands
1. Rent a bicycle and cycle around the island
This is probably the best option to move around as it takes no more than 40 minutes to make one round the entire Gili Trawangan Island. Bicycles are available for rental from most hotels and resorts or from the shops along the main beach road. Prices are anywhere from Rp. 60,000 for the whole day or Rp.25,000 to Rp. 30,000 for a couple of hours. Some of the bicycles for rent include the classic city bicycle with a basket in the front or the 4x4 off road monster tire mountain bikes. 

2. Island Hopping from Gili Trawangan to Air to Meno
Visiting the neighboring islands is a must-do activity as you can see the smaller islands and the laid back life there. As Trawangan is the most inhibited island, you will find things easier on the other two islands but nevertheless, a well worth trip to explore if you love islands. What I noticed was that many travelers hop from one island to another to eat, drink and explore.

Datu Swings at Ombak Sunset Hotel
3. The Swing in the Sea at Gili Trawangan
The most popular tourist stop is the world famous 'Swing in the Sea' which is originally at Ombak Sunset Hotel on Gili Trawangan Island.

There are a total of four swings at the original spot but due to popularity, another resort followed suit and built their own set of swings in the sea, so if you want the original, it is at Ombak sunset while the other one is at Pandawa Beach. At the Datu Swings, you need to line up in an orderly fashion to wait your turn to get that legendary photo of the Gili Trawangan Swing in the Sea. This is probably the most shared photo in social media, especially with the younger travelers. 

4. Diving at the Gili Islands
Hands down this is truly a scuba divers paradise with over 20 dive resorts and operators on all the islands. The scuba diving price on Gili Trawangan ranges from around USD$28 per dive and a slight discount when you take a package.

There are dive centers with foreign speaking dive guides while all of them speak English. As for dive sites around the Gili Islands, there are 20 dive sites for you to choose from and unfortunately for me, there was not enough time to do a check dive in Gili, but I am sure I will be back to try some diving at the Gili Islands.

A turtle spotted while snorkeling at Gili Air
5. Snorkeling at Gili Islands
Anyone who comes here is bound to try snorkeling at the Gili Islands and you can do it from the beach or take the many snorkeling trips being offered by the operators on the island.

Usually there is a island hopping package where it takes you from one island to another island, and they will make a stop at one of the beautiful reefs for guests to snorkel.

Through my personal snorkeling experience, I noticed a very rich marine life which is beautiful and occasionally, the curious turtle may just pass you by. You should also make sure that you do not wander too far as sometimes currents can be strong and you may need to swim against the current back to your boat. 

6. Hike up the Gili Trawangan View Point
If you are into hiking and trekking, look no further as there is a view point at the highest point of Gili Trawangan where you can see the sister islands and the beautiful overall view of the Gili Islands. The view point is about 30 minutes trek up from most parts of the island and if you are a photographer, this would be the perfect place to catch sunrise and sunset.
Wide selection of local food at the Gili Trawangan Night Market
7. Eat at the Gili Night Market
A very popular spot is the Gili Night Market which is hard to miss as it is located on the only main road around the island. Here, you will see loads of tourist and travelers ordering all kinds of local foods like mixed rice dishes, cooked or grilled seafood and a variety of local deserts. Go early to get a good spot and the night market is open from around 5pm till 11pm, nightly too. If you want to try Indonesian food, island style, this is the place. Nearby there are convenient stores and coffee shops.

8. Watch a Movie by the Beach
A popular attraction is the movie by the beach at Gili Trawangan where guests pay around Rp.50,000 or 60,000 to watch a movie inclusive of a juice. Comfy bean bags are provided on the beach and limited to a number, so you need to come early to get your spot.

From the beach road, you will not be able to see anything, so no freebies here. A time table of movies ant show times are displayed on a board while they show international movies here on a big screen. Great for those wanting to just chill and relax.
Movie on the beach at Gili Trawangan
9. Try a Cooking Class on Gili Trawangan 
Yes, there is a cooking school on Gili Trawangan called Sweet and Spicy Cooking School where you can learn how to cook. Open to around six or eight students at a time, this fun cooking class is conducted by a local chef and is quite entertaining as those passing by will have the opportunity to witness your cooking skills. For those interested in learning how to cook, this would be the perfect experience for you to attend a traditional cooking class on Gili Trawangan. 

10.  Get a Sun Tan on the Beach
As the island is literally surrounded by beaches, you can simply pick your own spot to sun tan, if you want privacy or not, the choice is up to you. Some places are private, so you need to take note while most of the beaches are public. Deck chairs are also on rental or belonging to a resort, so please check first. Don't forget that SPF30 if you are planning to get a sun tan and the best time to do it is before 11.00 am.
Sun tanning at the many beaches on the Gili Islands
11. Enjoy a cocktail at the beach bars on Gili Trawangan
Bars at Gili Trawangan
As you arrive on the islands, you will notice loads of beach bars, restaurants and cafes which are situated directly on the beach areas. Some of them private owned and most of them are hotel operated.

It is here that you can enjoy a cocktail by the bar or even on the beachside and absorb the natural island beauty. For Muslim travelers, they serve Mocktails, juices and other non-alcoholic drinks too. Take note of the happy hour times they offer as sometimes, you can find a good deal at some of the bars at Gili Trawangan.

12. Go for a Spa at Gili Trawangan
Nothing beats having a traditional spa on an island and here at the Gili Islands, there are spas located almost everywhere. Prices vary from one another while you should book early for your spa session as it tends to get crowded during peak hours, especially at the hotel and resort spas here. 

There are a few more things that one can do at Gili Trawangan but the above are some of the main things you should not miss. If you love water sports, there are a number of operators who offer various types of water sports. As for money, there are ATM machines located all over the island so getting cash is not a problem while convenient and pharmacies are also available along the main beach road, in case you come down with the flu.
Beach road along Gili Islands
The Best Time to Visit Gili Trawangan

You must take note that the best time to visit Gili Trawangan Island is in July, August, September as this is the super peak period and also December for the year end season, therefore it is advised to book way ahead for your hotel room or you will be turned away as it gets really packed and if you plan to just try a walk-in, most hotels there will hang signs outside stating 'No Rooms' or 'Hotel Full'. 

The low season at Gili Islands is from February, March and April. The other months are the rainy months where you can expect showers in and out and for divers, November to April is the worst possible time to go diving at Gili Trawangan. Again, with the recent influx of tourism here, sometimes during the low months, rooms can be fully booked too, so best to always book your Gili Trawangan Hotel ahead of your trip.
Gili Islands Map, click to enlarge. Map from Lombok Media
Perhaps you are interested in exploring somewhere new other than Bali and the Gili Islands are the next best thing in trend. Right now (as of July 2016) there are a lot of European tourist who are flocking here to avoid the over commercialized Bali while some Asians are also coming here due to the wow factor of the islands and in time, this place will be the talk of town where loads of tourist will be packing this place up, therefore I recommend you visit the Gili Islands before it gets super commercial and busy. 

If you have questions or suggestions on what to do in Gili Trawangan Island, please do leave them in the comment form below. For those who want to find out about the many places I visit around Indonesia, you can also follow Malaysia Asia on Instagram as I frequently travel around Southeast Asia exploring islands and other places of interest. This trip was organised by Indonesia Tourism on behalf of the Ministry of Tourism Indonesia to promote the #TripofWonders campaign for 2016. 

No comments