As part of my backpacking month in Indonesia I made the last minute decision to explore the Gili Islands to the east of Bali – mainly owing to a slight flat spell in the surf – but it’s something I’m heaps glad I did.
Having only a week to spare I opted to head to the most popular of the 3 islands – Gili T.
Gili T is the largest of the 3 Gili Islands and from the moment I first saw it I knew it had been a welcome addition to my itinerary in Indonesia.
As my fast boat from Bali (fast is a slight over statement as what should’ve been an all in 3 hour journey from Kuta to the port to Gili turned into a rather sweaty and stressful near 6 hour ordeal!) moored up on the island I was greeted with turquoise blue water lapping onto white sand beaches – from the off it looked like the perfect island paradise to recover from a chaotic few weeks in Bali!
Having visited quite a few islands across the globe (including the Galapagos, Phi Phi and the eastern Thai Islands) the vibe was welcoming and familiar.
It lacked the boozey party vibe of Thailand though which was a welcome pace, but instead had the air of a laid back, reggae playing dive island – with scuba diving being the main draw to this part of Indonesia.
As my bag was unceremoniously dumped onto the sand (no pier here!) and with no accommodation booked (which is very unlike me) I headed out to locate a suitable place to crash without smashing my budget clean out of the water.
It quickly became apparent that Gili T was going to work out more expensive than my time on Bali (Kuta is an insanely cheap place for a backpacker), which shouldn’t really have come as such a big surprise given the fact that island getaways always come with a price tag.
Even so Gili served up a good range of accommodation – from luxury resorts at 600k per person (£40) through to dorm rooms and home stays around the 220,000 mark for a twin room (£14).
In the end I found the rather nice Sunrise Bungalows just along the beach front – just a short walk from the main backpacker part of the island and surrounded by ocean front restaurants, shops and dive resorts.
With free wifi, breakfast and the optional 50k upgrade to switch the air con on you can’t really go too wrong!
…and yes we opted to smash that air con on in the stifling Indo heat!
Things To Do
I hadn’t really planned much to do on Gili T and went in pretty blind – with only a dive or two as the things I wanted to achieve, and to be honest like every islands paradise it comes complete with a whole host of things to keep you busy, yet retain a nice relaxing bit of downtime – and it wasn’t hard to keep that pace of life to a minimum!
From hiring stand up paddle boards, snorkeling the many reefs (which are a mere stone throw from the shore) through to spear fishing, cycling round the island and relaxing in the beach front bars you can pick your poison.
And with so many people offering magic mushrooms and weed you can make your islands experience as colourful or mellow as you choose – if you’re that way inclined!
**I’d also like to point out now how illegal drugs in Indonesia are – so be wary if that’s the direction you want to take your holiday!**
It was refreshing to find that Gili T hasn’t been turned into a crazy binge drinking backpacker mecca like it’s Thai cousins – don’t get me wrong there are plenty of bars and live music to keep you going but it just feels like a much more mellow place – which was a welcome change.
For me it was lazy days on the beach, ice cold Bintangs and lazy cycle rides around the stunning yet small coastline (you can do a full loop in under an hour!) of the island which passed the time.
The main draw of the island is the diving though – and with a whole heap of dive school and dive sites to choose from you’re pretty spoilt for choice. So whether you want to simply get a taster of scuba diving, fun dive or go all out and complete a dive course or dive master program this is the hub of Indonesian diving.
One of my dive instructor buddies from my time on Phi Phi turned out to be working at Big Bubble Dive so that’s who I opted to go with (and I’ll put up a post on my experience next week) but there’s plenty of choice when it comes to dive schools there.
Put It On Your To Do List!
Like every slice of remote tropical beauty I’ve explored Gili T had that instant WOW factor many backpackers are trying to find. The whole place is pretty postcard perfect.
For the travelling surfers out there it’s a welcome stopover between the surf islands of Bali and Lombok (although there is a reef break on the south that fires off occasionally) and for everyone else it’s a great place to relax, unwind and find some serious me time simply taking in the sites and slowing down the rather crazy pace of life on the road.
If you’re heading to Bali I highly recommend taking a good few days out of your schedule to hop on the boat and sample life on Gili T – and with a return transfer on being around £40 per person it’s hardly going to dent your funds that much.
Have you ever hit up Gili T or any of the islands? Anything you’d add to the to do list?