Gili Air is a small island in Indonesia, close to Lombok and even closer to paradise. I first came here at the beginning of my trip and just had to come back a year later to settle in for a while longer. What really makes the place special?
It’s paradise, first of all. But it also has the practicality of somewhere you can really put down some roots. This little island is almost totally free from motorized vehicles (there seem to be about five mopeds on the whole island, all of which are driven by children!), so it’s a wonderful spot to rest, take a break from the noise and pollution of mainland, and just work on your health and wellbeing.
Gili Air Accommodation
Finding somewhere to live in Gili Air isn’t tricky, regardless of what your budget is.
For the backpacker, a Gili Air hostel will do you just fine. There are many great hostels on the island, but I’d highly recommend checking out Gila Gila. Super fun place, and one night will barely cost you the price of a pizza!
If you want a bit more luxury you can go for a Gili Air hotel, of which there are many. You can find a huge selection on Agoda. One of the most popular Gili Air resorts is Hotel Villa Bagus – beautiful, luxurious, and not too hard on the wallet. If you’re after a bit of R&R, go for it!
For the long term guest, houses in the local village are rented out to tourists and expats for around $180 per month, and include a fully-furnished home complete with bathroom, kitchen and all utilities included. Similar priced houses can be found in various locations around the island. Cheaper options are available, depending on the time of year.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll get a ‘vibe’ from different places. After staying in a few different homestays that were nice but unfulfilling, I found a little home for myself in the form of a bamboo hut with all the right vibes. Sure, I have no kitchen, but my outdoor shower more than makes up for that, even when I’m sharing it with a family of geckos.
Most people who visit the island stay for short periods of time, normally only up to a week. If that’s you, a Gili Air hotel or hostel will do you just fine. If you choose to stay longer, try and find one place to settle rather than sampling lots of different places, as you’ll often end up with a friendly little discount as a ‘thank you’ for being so loyal. Of course, prices depend on what season you come in, so if you’re planning to visit during high season, it might be safest to book a homestay in advance just to be on the safe side.
There are several Facebook groups in place to share information on long-term housing, buying and selling goods on the island, as well as offering general advice to tourists, travellers, and those of us who just can’t leave.
Gili Air Food
You’re in for a treat here. Although Gili Air is the smallest of the trio of paradise spots around Lombok (‘party island’ Gili Trawangan and honeymooner Meno make up the other two thirds), I love the food here the most.
There are plenty of warungs dotted around the island – small, often family-ran cafes and restaurants that offer local food at very low prices. There’s often no Wi-Fi or aircon in these kinds of places, which makes a nice break sometimes. There are heaps of beach-front restaurants boasting an array of Western and local food, with a strong emphasis on fresh seafood, unsurprisingly. These normally have Wi-Fi, don’t worry.
For me, as a vegan, it is heaven. While there is no dedicated ‘vegan café’, this island has really caught on to what started as a hipster trend of being plant-based. Lots of the Western-style restaurants here have vegan options clearly stated on their menus (think falafel, smoothie bowls and hummus) while many local dishes are made with coconut oil and tofu or tempe. This makes it pretty easy to go for dinner with friends without stressing about having to order everything ‘on the side’.
Gili Air Activities
While I’m yet to venture deeper than chin-level into the ocean, I’ve been made well aware that Gili Air diving is world famous. I’m still overcoming my fear of getting my face wet and being underwater, but for any water-babies out there, this is your dream spot. There are endless dive shops dotted around the island, and the reef here is said to be incredible. This is a great place to come and get your PADI, or to spot turtles on a fun dive designed and created by you. The Gili Air diving community is super welcoming!
The famous Gili Air snorkeling is also super popular here, and a much cheaper way to see some wildlife. The beaches here are beautiful and clean, and the reef is respected and has plenty to offer. There are lovely places to swim and sunbathe all around the island, and lots of hotels and hostels have swimming pools that you can often dip into when it all gets a bit too much.
You may be wondering what exactly I get up to if I’m not spending my days in the water. Well, this island is the perfect place to do nothing, which I take full advantage of. Most of my days involve barefoot-wandering, writing, eating and, of course, taking lots of naps. I practice daily yoga, too, and there are plenty of lovely places to do so. You can also try your hand at stand-up paddleboard yoga, but you’d be braver than I if you were to try it…
If you fancy taking a day trip and cranking up the pace from ‘doing nothing’ to ‘doing nothing on another island’, you can hop over to Gili Meno and relax on breath-taking beaches while watching newlyweds orchestrating unofficial photoshoots. Gili Trawangan is a fun little spot to head for a day or two, but it is a big change – lots of late-night bars, crowded food markets and young people on holiday make up half the island, but you can escape to the quieter side for those white-sand beaches.
Alternatively, take a public boat over to Lombok and explore by moped. Senggigi is a nice, lively town to stay in for a few days and is very tourist-friendly. Every corner in Gili Air has someone selling tours to Mount Rinjani, the stunning volcano over in Lombok. If you fancy some adventure, book yourself in and head over with a guide and a group of friendly fellow trekkers.
If you’re looking for an escape, Gili Air might just be the perfect place for you. Bring an open mind and leave your shoes at home!