Gili Trawangan (map) is the largest of the three famous Gili Islands, located in the northwest of Lombok. About 1.800 people live here and it only takes between one and one and a half hours to cycle around the whole island. You can therefore see that eventhough Gili Trawangan is the largest of the three islands, it is still quite small.
The fast boat (Kuda Hitam Express, 225.000. IDR per person) from Amed needs a bit more than an hour and is pretty easy going if you are seaworthy. When we arrived at the small harbour of Gili Trawangan we were astonished by the different shades of blue of the sea and the, so perfectly looking, beaches. There are no cars or scooters on this islands, only bikes and horse carriages, but as the main road is always pretty crowded it can still be stressful.
We stayed at the Airbnb ‘Mama J’s Corner’, they only rent two small, traditional houses that are set back off the main road – so it is pretty quiet, except for the prayers of the muezzin. But as it is a muslim island, it of course belongs to their religion and you just have to get used to it and have to take earplugs with you. We loved this Airbnb and the owners. You could talk to them about anything and we additionally had the best pancakes in whole Indonesia! They were so great that we ordered them twice for breakfast.
We experienced Gili Trawangan, Lombok to be totally different to Bali. Maybe because of the different religion and culture or because of the different way of handling their tourism. Many Australians and people from all over the world come to Gili Trawangan to party, play drinking games and just get wasted. We knew this before and after seeing the ‘party area’, which is the southern part of the main road, we decided to avoid this part in the future. We love to party ourselves, but these ‘clubs’ and pubs didn’t really appeal to us. It is all a bit cheap. Many people who work on the island come from Java or Lombok and we had the feeling that they had adapted themselves to the touristic lifestyle. They liked to drink, always wanted to sell something, could be pretty pushy and weren´t as friendly as all the other people we had met so far. Also, be careful when you book any tours or transport with so called tourist informations. We learned that you can buy any tickets for ships for the best price at the public harbour, which is a white building and is located where most of the boats land and take off.Of course this is only our personal viewpoint and it didn´t include everyone, but it was our overall impression. This ‘party area’ and the people there just reminded us to much of Kuta, Bali.
As we wanted to avoid the ‘party area’, we rented a bike for the day (30.000) at a place 5 minutes away from our Airbnb at the left side of ‘Mango Surf Shop’. It takes about one and a half hours to cycle around the island and you will be rewarded with beautiful beaches, stylish cafés and crystal clear water. You will also see a totally different side of Gili Trawangan. Our highlight was definitely the ‘Café Vintage’, which lies on the west side of the island. With its white and yellow vintage design and its super good food we can call it the most beautiful café we have been to in the world. No matter if you just come here for a cold drink during the day, or if you want to enjoy the sunset, have dinner and watch the bonfire, it is always cozy and the people are awesome. The owners are from Sweden and Jamaica and you will see that this is a great combination!
If you keep riding your bike north you will see the ‘Window bar’ on the left side, which is also a popular place to see the sunset, have a few drinks and listen to electronic music. When we had nearly cycled around the whole island, we stopped somewhere north of the harbour and went for a swim. If you start snorkeling a bit upwards and let yourself drift south with the current between 4 and 5pm. you have the best chances of seeing sea turtles. Just across the harbour there is a modern, little, vegetarian café called ‘The Banyan Tree’. You can chose a drink from their huge selection and have a small snack on their balcony which overlooks the busy street and harbour.
One evening, we were looking for different food than Indonesian for a change. Friends recommended the ‘Pizzeria Regina’ which lies parallel to the main street close to the night market. It was very busy and we loved the fresh Pizza which came directly from the woodstove. Definitely give it a go if you like Italian food!
In case you want to book a snorkeling tour, be careful with the cheap offers as they often take 80 or more people on a boat which is way too much. They are only 120.000 per person, but you will feel like you are stuck in a traffic jam, right in the middle of the ocean. Make sure you know which boat you are going to get and with how many people. Friends of ours chartered a boat with a few people and payed between 800.000 and 1.000.000 IDR for the whole boat, which is a good price.
We decided to visit Gili Meno for a day and it wasn’t that easy to find a ticket for a good price. Every tourist information has their own prices and sells you whatever they want to. But as we already mentioned, it’s the best idea to buy all tickets at the public harbour. The ticket to Gili Meno costs 70.000 IDR return with the normal ferry and it takes about 20 minutes. Some other operators will try to charge you more than three times this price. It’s important to know that the ferry leaves Gili Trawangan at 9:30 and Gili Meno at 15:20. There are no other public ferries. In case you want to stay longer, you need to take a fast boat. We loved Gili Meno, as there are only a few tourists. The atmosphere is very relaxed and you will see the most beautiful sandy beaches in the south-west of the island. There are also some small shops where you can get a coconut and take it to the beach. There is also the possibility to stay on Gili Meno, which might be a good idea for people who want to relax and be nearly on their own.
Gili Trawangan has the reputation of a pure party island – but this is only correct for a certain part of this beautiful island. You can find both ways on Gili Trawangan: The party life and the laidback island lifestyle. Gili Meno offers some of the most stunning beaches in the world and is, in comparison to Gili Trawangan, a more relaxed place. Looking back, we loved the beautiful nature of Gili Trawangan and Gili Meno and found some wonderful places and individual cafés. If you are visiting Gili Trawangan and Gili Meno just for the party, you will miss out on two diverse and exciting island that have more to offer than just parties.