12 fun things to do in Gili Trawangan and 1 don’t.
First of all, where is Gili Trawangan?
Well, it’s a small island in SE Asia. More specifically, it is located nest to the island of Lombok in Indonesia. Time to get the map out. Sorry, we mean time to put Gili Trawangan into your favourite search engine and click maps!
How will I get to Gili Trawangan?
The only way is by boat! You will probably have landed at Denpasar International on the island of Bali. From there you can get various fast boats from two ports – Serangan (about 30 minutes from the airport) and Padang Bai (about 1 hour to 1.5 hours depending on the traffic).
We tried Giligetaway.com for a fast boat transfer in 2023 and were impressed with the service. They will pick you up and drop you off at your hotel on the return journey, even if it’s a different hotel in Bali. The boat leaves at 9am and takes about 2.5 hours. The check in is swift, you are offered sickness tablets and your bags are taken on board, no need to carry them yourselves. You are given two boarding lanyards and your luggage receipts and tickets. Your feet don’t get wet as you board! If you take a smaller boat you may have to wade in barefoot.
You can sit inside under cover from the harsh sun or if you want to get your sun damage in early, there are seats on the roof! A film plays for the crossing but you cannot hear it. No drinks are offered, but the staff are friendly and there are life jackets for everyone! It’s a bit hot on board even with the windows open.
You could also fly to Lombok and then get a car and boat to Gili Trawangan which takes about 30 minutes in the car and 30 minutes by boat. The larger and more comfortable boats depart from Bali, not Lombok.
Gili Trawangan and Lombok suffered a devastating earthquake in 2018. We have not been back since. Five years later and we are keen to see how things have changed post earthquake and post global pandemic, remember a little thing called Covid-19 which disrupted travel for 2 years?
Most of the beach front resorts have been re-built and there are only a few spots which have rubble to be cleared or are in a half built state. When you walk back a few streets the damage is more severe and people have been slower to rebuild.
Important to note – Indonesia now requires most visitors to buy a Visa on Arrival. Not a requirement before. Visas cost half a million IDR (Indonesian Rupiah) and are valid for 60 days. Our airline did not tell us this in advance otherwise we would have bought it online to avoid the queues immediately after landing. The next important thing to note is you need to fill in an online customs declaration which will get scanned after your passport has been stamped. This means it is essential you have a smart phone and internet. In case you can’t connect to the airport free wi-fi, buy a local SIM on landing. There are people selling them before the Visa on Arrival point. They’re good value and last for 30 days. We buy with Telkomsel the fastest and most reliable. We paid 40000 IDR for 25GB.
On first appearances as we land at the tiny port of Gili Trawangan, things don’t look too bad. Most of the harbour side resorts, cafes and shops are still standing. There seems to be a new pavement which runs for about 1.5kms so you don’t get run over by the horse and carts and cyclists. There are now e bikes to rent which can sit 2 adults for about 2500000 (25 AUD) a day. There are no cars on Gili Trawangan, the only fumes you inhale are from boat engines, barbecues and shisha pipes!
warning – The first 3 fun things to do in Gili Trawangan will get you wet!
Go turtle spotting
Our favourite activity and particularly rewarding here in Gili T. Head north from the port about 600 metres so you are in the north east part of the island.
From here take a dip into the clear waters. You will almost certainly see turtles every time you go out! Our record so far is 8 in one hour. We’re pretty sure it wasn’t the same turtle playing tricks on us and we even saw 3 together at one spot. One or two turtles make it to the knee deep water, but, if you swim to the ledge (where the boats are anchored) you will be rewarded with bigger turtles at least 1 metre long!
If you can’t make it into the sea, Gili T has its own little hatchery (free of charge) to look at these cutest of reptiles. In 2023, this hatchery no longer exists. Beware of the coral getting in to the water. Fortunately the water is very clear, so you can see where you’re going.
Swim and snorkel
in the incredible warm and clear waters – Swimming is good at high tide, otherwise you’ll be wading out over lots of coral to cool down. Watch the salt dry on your skin and give incredible volume to your hair when dry! Hiring snorkeling equipment is easy, but if you’re a bit squeamish about germs and where the mouthpiece has been, bring your own! Snorkeling is a must for both experienced and first timers. It’s rewarding and high on our list of fun things to do in Gili Trawangan. The reef has improved greatly since our last visit and in some spots is quite colourful. Whilst not on par with our favourite Malaysian island destination for snorkelling, the amount of colourful fish is worth taking the GoPro out for.
to amazing underwater features and the other Gili islands – Day trips from Gili T take you to unique underwater statue sites and giant slides. You also get a pretty good view of the amazing waves, crashing against the rocks as you speed past. Practise your free diving and get your GoPro charged because you don’t want to miss these unique sculptures. This definitely rates highly as one of the fun things to do in Gili Trawangan.
on comfortable foam loungers and over sized bean bags – all you have to do is buy a drink at the many establishments on the beach and you’re welcome to stay as long as you like. Relax, after all it’s a holiday isn’t it and if you don’t deserve it then who does?
Catch breathtaking sunsets
The island is split into two sides – sunrise and sun set. No prizes for which side has the best views for the more lazy of us, who can’t wake up for Mother Nature’s daily 5.00 a.m show! The most popular spot for sunset is actually the south of the island near Pink Coco about 1.25 kms from the port (most people ride a bike there). A couple of places serve drinks and food, plus offer chairs and cushions to watch the sunset.
You’re half way through our list of 12 fun things to do in gili trawangan and 1 don’t ………….keeep going!
Get on your bike
With daily rental starting from 100000 IDR it’s a much easier way to see the whole island than by foot. NO cars are allowed on Gili T. Sound like bliss? There are a few parts where you will have to wheel your bike across narrow paths and sand. Most of the island has decent enough path. Beware there are hardly any street lights at night. Bring your phone and think of ingenious ways to attach it for lighting your way after 7pm. Riding on two wheels is always a fun thing to do on holiday in our opinion!
For the super lazy there are now e bikes to hire. There are also horse and cart contraptions which we don’t like as a means of getting around. We had to use it once when we first visited Gili Trawangan as our room was over a kilometre away.
On our second visit we chose a resort a 5 minute walk away from the port, so we wouldn’t have to use the horse and cart again. The animals look very stressed and a bit thin in our humble opinions. Try to avoid using this type of transport if you can.
Laze at the outdoor cinemas
Nightly screenings of classic films at various locations. For food and a film try Pink Coco on the sunset side of the island. Get there before sunset and settle in on one of the comfy lounges. Films usually begin at 8pm and are free. You can also see movies closer to the port at a different venue although these are paid about 100000 IDR. The paid cinema is no longer available in 2023.
At Pink Coco there is fire dancing instead. Also a DJ has replaced the free cinema at Pink Coco. Such a shame because watching a film outside sipping on your drinks after a hard day’s beaching is / was so relaxing. BUT WAIT…………
However, two new hotels are now offering movie night. Hotel Lumi and Royal Regantris are now taking over from Pink Coco.
Both hotels are located on the sunset side of the island and offer accommodation too!
Channel your inner Bob Marley
The Reggae Bar is the place to hang if you’re serious about reggae. Even if you’re not, you’ll hear it! Great bass and powerful speakers ensure the rasta in you will be mellow amongst your fellow holidaymakers. Or, if relaxing is more your style, try a turkish shisha by the ocean.
Romantic dinners on the beach
Most restaurants and even cafes on Gili T have an outside section. Dine nightly on freshly caught seafood with the sound of the waves lapping gently on the shore. Be prepared to hiss at the many cats which try to get in on the fish action. Most venues also have live music, which can be an added bonus, depending on your mood!
The food in general in Gili Trawangan is pretty tasty. Western food is good value and we have to say the pizzas and pasta are good with a few of the Italian restaurants running on wood fired ovens. Reginas, Pasta Pojok and Francesco’s make their own fresh pasta too!
The nightly barbecues offering seafood are good value. Most of the fish is frozen and defrosted – you can tell by the eyes. It’s a little bit more difficult to tell if lobsters and giant prawns are frozen until you eat them. The more powdery the texture, the more likely it is to have been frozen. The coffee is good on Gili Trawangan because fresh milk is available. Most coffee places have professional barista machines.
Energise over long healthy breakfasts with a beach view of course
Smoothie bowls and great lattes are de rigeur on Gili T. Yes, even quinoa and chia seeds have shown their faces. Most cafes also offer delicious salads and vegetarian options. If you still crave more health kicks there are yoga classes operating in the northern end of the island from a raised studio with ocean views.
The Gili T Pub Crawl
Oh dear or oh yes?! The Gili T pub crawl happens every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. It starts at the Irish Pub. What a stereotype!!!! For 250k IDR you get a free T shirt and shots at various bars. The action kicks off at 9pm, but you can register between 7-9pm.
Learn how to cook your favourite dishes
If you’re no good in the kitchen and have come to love nasi goreng, why not learn how to make it? Gili T now has a cooking school!
Onto our last thing that is not fun to do. Downright dangerous even.
Don’t ever drink cocktails
on GIli T and in Indonesia in general. Stick to beer or wine as there is very little chance these have been tampered with. Better still, use this holiday to go tee total and de -tox! Even though Indonesia is a cheap country for tourists, the price of a cocktail is so cheap, it is too good to be true.
The reason is simple. The alcohol in your cocktail isn’t a blend of the famous brand bottles you see on display. The alcohol in your cocktail is a lethal local brew containing a toxic chemical called methanol. Disguised with syrups and juices, you won’t be able to tell your cocktail is potentially poisonous. You could go blind, or worst case scenario, you could die. (check for yourself, google methanol and Gili T)
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