Gili T is the largest of the three Gili Islands with an estimated permanent population of about 800. Situated off the coast of Lombok, it’s reachable by a ten minute boat ride, or for those traveling from Bali, you can catch a two-hour boat from Padang Bai.
Trawangan was the first of the three islands to attract visitors in any numbers, and it was backpackers who led the way. In the 1990s the island developed a reputation as a wild party destination with cheap accommodation, no police. Whilst that is still partially the case, Trawangan has matured into a destination that has a far wider appeal. There’s a thriving dive industry, and since 2005 there’s been a boom in development. So finding a good cappuccino is no longer a problem, however the island still maintains a rustic charm as most of the buildings lining the beach front are still of the ‘shack variety’. And due to the lack of motor transport, the only way you’ll be getting around these islands is by foot, bike or horse and cart!
Having spent two weeks on the island eating, drinking, surfing, diving, cycling, sunbathing, partying and of course sleeping, we thought we’d write you a 5 minute guide to Gili T!
There’s a huge range of eating options on the island from local warungs to mid-range restaurants. Our favourite option for dinner has to be the night market. Expect to sample some of the most delicious street food found anywhere in the world, with fresh tuna skewers, chicken satay, or a whole red snapper cooked on the barbecue, you will be spoiled for choice. Make sure you test out some of the Nasi Campur too, which is basically a buffet of meats, vegetables, noodles and fried goods that you can pick and choose. Dinner will set you back around 50,000 IDR (£2.50) and the atmosphere is electric, with people from all over the world milling around,sharing stories and making new friends.
You only have to wonder along the main strip of Gili T to realise there are bars a plenty, all of which serve a selection of local and imported spirits. Look out for cocktail deals as you stroll past. It won’t take you long to realise that each night of the week belongs to a different bar, so come 11pm everyone looking to party will flock to a particular place. We particularly like Thursdays at Sama Sama reggae bar, the live band will be sure to pound out all your favourites from Damian Marley to The Specials, and of course, not forgetting all the classics from Bob!
There’s really only one surf spot on the island, which we were surprised to find. Gili T is a diving mecca and isn’t widely known for its surfing. However, we were blessed with good waves for our entire stay on the island. If you’re looking to hop on your board and check it out for yourself, head to the southern tip of the main strip to find the surf bar. The surf is right in front on the sun loungers so you’ll know if there’s anything worth paddling out for. It’s a short paddle over the reef but be warned it can get really shallow so we advise you pick up some reef shoes before you hit the island. Be sure to ask the surf bar when the next beach rave is, definitely a party worth hitting whilst you’re on the island!
You’d have to be a fool to miss the huge number of dive schools located on the main strip. Picking a dive school is all about personal preference so we advise you pop into a few and pick the one you get the best feeling about. For us, diving is all about having a good time and meeting new people, so make sure you like the crew running the dives before you hop on the boat with them. Most people of the Gili’s are pretty chilled and are all here for the same reason, sun, diving and partying, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find somewhere to suit you!
During our stay we went on two party boats, which were both very different. The first was the huge yacht, which holds 100+ people. It’s organised by a German guy called Tito, and sets sail on Saturday lunchtime and returns after sunset. Expect a huge sound system and some groovy party tunes. The highlight it when the boat moors near to Lombok and guests get to jump off the top deck into the blue, which is a much needed cool-off after a few hours of sunbathing and dancing on the deck. The cost is 300,000 IDR per person (£15), but drinks are quite expensive. We bought a bottle of Absolute Vodka for 1.2 million IDR (£60) between six of us and have two drinks each so we paid around 100,000 IDR (£5) for each drink.
The second party boat was a smaller, more rickety boat that holds up to 30 people, so it’s pretty easy to rent out if you’re in a large group and just rally a few extra troops to keep the cost down. As we were prepped with a large group already, it cost around 300,000 IDR each (£15), the tunes were more to our taste and the boats stops multiple times so you can jump in and cool off, check out some great snorkelling spots or grab a board and catch some waves. All the booze is on board and a spirit (double) and mixer costs just 30,000 IDR (£1.50). To book this boat just ask for Katie at Manta Dive or visit the South Sea Nomads Facebook Page.
We stayed a number of different accommodations during our time on Gili T. We started off in a brand new homestay called Good Karma, which we really enjoyed because we had all four huts rented out by our group so had the place to ourselves. The family running it were very hospitible and can help organise everything. It’s really comfortable as everything is brand new, so expect comfy matresses, fluffy pillows, soft sheets, a fridge, air con, decent enough shower. However the pool is tiny, more like a pond to be honest and as it was so new there was no wifi – hence we had to move after the weekend so we’d be back online to work during the week. A hut here costs 350,000 IDR (£17.50) and we would have stayed if the wifi had been fitted.
We also had the chance to review some luxury accommodation. If you have a large budget and are looking to splash out on something more upmarket we highly recommend the three bedroom Gili Pearl Villa. You can read our review HERE.
We also stayed at the Lumbung Cottages and although the grounds were quite nice with a large pool, we found the huts to be dark and dingy and they were pretty dirty when we arrived. The guys running it aren’t very friendly or helpful so we’d suggest you give this one a miss.
Our final recommendation for a mid-ranged option with everything you should need during your stay is Bagaz Cottages. Situated right next door to Lambung, just a few minutes walk from the main strip. These stone/concrete cottages circle two small pools, are incredibly clean, have hot water showers, a TV and DVD player in each room, free water and WiFi (although the connection is pretty slow). Without breakfast the cottages cost 300,000 IDR (£15) per night and with breakfast it’s 350,000 IDR (£17.50).
If like us you need a decent WiFi connection for working, blogging, facebooking or skyping head to Scallywags resort. Their beach-side restaurant offers the best WiFi on the island, and although it’s still quite slow for uploading videos and podcasts, for general use it’s pretty good. The food menu is diverse offering everything from tapas, baguettes, english breakfasts, seafood BBQ’s and more. They also make a mean cappuccino so you can fuel yourself all day long.
Do you have anymore travel tips for Gili T?