What to do on the Gili Islands, Lombok

My decision to go to Gili Tarwangan or Gili T as it’s often referred to as, was a last minute one, I booked my ticket through my guesthouse two days prior. I booked for Gili Tarwangan as is the biggest island, with more accommodation offers, and a great backpacker vibe. I therefore took it that it would have hostels galore and would be quite cheap. Wrong.

Staying (Accommodation on Gili T)

My private room in a homestay on Gili T. It was nice, apart from the cockroaches.

Accommodation on Gili T, ranges from the high end resorts, and honeymoon suites to homestays, budget hotels, and a few hostels. I had heard of the famous Gili Hostel. Gili T’s only hostel .. I looked it up, it was cheap 140,000 including breakfast, a pool, cheap food and drink and a great vibe. Hostel bookers informed me that there was room, but some of the reviews from people said they had booked, showed up, and it was over booked and they had to sleep on a mattress on the floor. So I called up to check, and there were no rooms. Another place called Gili backpackers was also booked. So I had to go down the homestay route. 300,000 a night for my own room and breakfast, I thought I’d spoil myself, though it wasn’t quite as luxury as I had hoped.
Gili, being a favourite for divers, often has accommodations with dive packages attached, including Dive Tarawgan. I am holding out for my sister to arrive in Thailand, and we’ll do it there together.
Tip: If you’re planning on visiting the Gili Islands, book accommodation as early as you can. Of course, you can risk it, and wait until you’re arrival. Plenty of locals shout ‘need a room?’ as soon as you step off the boat. Failing that, there is always sleeping on the beach!

Playing (activities on Gili T)

The first thing you’ll notice about the Gili Islands is that is much more relaxed than Bali. There are no cars, or scooters on the road, transport is by a bicycle or horse and cart (no, I’m not kidding!) the roads and sandy, a little dirty at times and sometimes smell of horse poo, but the locals are friendly, and you can’t help but feel much calmed lying on the sand looking out into the clear blue waters.

A horse and cart is the main way to get around Gili T, Lombok
A horse and cart is the main way to get around Gili T, Lombok

There are a number of things to do on Gili T. The following are some suggestions (but not totally limited to this list!)

Water sports – As soon as you to the Gili Islands, you’ll want to jump straight into the sea. It is warm, and super clear.

Diving – Many people come to Gili to dive, and there are a few really good dive schools around, where you can complete your PADI if you wish

Snorkelling – if you’re not into diving, try out snorkelling, you can hire a snorkelling set anywhere between 25,000 and 35,000. You can also purchase a set if you plan to use it often, which can work out cheaper. I went on a snorkelling trip around all three of the Islands, which cost 120,000 and included a 35,000 lunch. Not bad for 5 hours of fun in the water. I didn’t have an underwater camera with me, but wished I did, as I saw a giant sea turtle swim past me. It was like a real life finding memo moment. The coral and various other fish were plentiful. Such a good trip.

On the boat in Gill T for a snorkelling trip
On the boat in Gill T for a snorkelling trip

Paddle boarding – I first tried paddle boarding in Christchurch, and loved. As far as I know, there is only one place that does it on Gili T – A wee wooden shack outside Dive Tarwangan. 120,000 for an hours rental plus lesson, or you can just hire the board for the same price. I took the lesson, as there were numerous boats creating waves and I didn’t feel as confident, but I soon got the hang of it. If you’re a confident Paddle Boarder, you could Paddle Across to Gili Meno to explore. However, the current can be strong in some places, so be careful.

Paddle boarding on Gilli T, Lombok
Paddle boarding on Gilli T, Lombok

Land based activities

So aside from the amazing water based activities, there is plenty you can do on land –
• Hire a bike and cycle around the island. This is easy done in a day (40,000 per day of hjre), but don’t expect a safety helmet or lock. Though it’s pretty safe on the Gili Islands.

Bike hire on Gill T, Lombok
Bike hire on Gill T, Lombok

• Walking – you can easily walk around most of the island in a day also
• Downtime – various places offer massages, for under 100,000 per hour
• Eat and drink in the many cute restaurants and bars along the main road
• Head to sunset point, sip on a cocktail and watch the sun go down.
Gili T is approx 3-4 hours from Bali, depending on where you’re based.

If you’re already in Lombok, it’s a short ferry crossing. I got the fast boat from Bali, costing 450,000 return. Well worth the visit for some down time from busy Bali.

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