After spending a week in Bali, we decided to spend few days on Lombok and the Gili islands.
Lombok island is known for being wilder and less touristy than Bali. Gili means “small island” in Indonesian. The three Gili islands are known to be indeed very small and good for diving, snorkeling as well as famous for having beautiful beaches. They are located on the east part of Bali in the archipel of Nusa Tenggara. This area of Indonesia is known to be lush and green in the north and more arid in the south.
Lombok and the Gili islands are attracting more and more tourism every year for their beaches and water sports. But for those who have a hunger for adventure would head further east to Flores and Komodo island to see the jungles and wildlife such as the Komodo lizards.
Lombok is a big and beautiful island and has lots of activities for any appetite of adventure or total relaxation. It is an easy hop from Bali, not far from the Gili islands. We enjoyed a lot our time and here is why we would return there tomorrow:
1. Because many people decide to skip Lombok, there are not that many tourists on the island, specially during the low season. Lombok is special and different from other island. People are getting used to the tourism but stay very much into their own culture and habits. It is very easy to get lost and end up in a small village where nobody speaks English. We stayed in a guest house for 4 nights in Senggigi. From there we rented a motorbike and went exploring all the west south of the island up to Bangsal. This area is absolutely stunning with countless wild beaches with blue water with nobody on there. The views are also amazing as Lombok is a little bit mountainous and gives from the hills some great shots on the beaches, ocean and vegetation. Senggigi or Kuta are the most famous spots to stay in Lombok but many other little villages are also attracting and even cheaper.
2. Lombok also has the second highest volcano in Indonesia called “Gunung Rinjani”. Balinese called it the “seat of the Gods” and honor frequently the mountain spirit. The Rinjali volcano is 3’726 meters above sea level. It is possible to hike up to the summit and many travel agencies organize 2 to 4 days trips package. It is a quite of a challenging and slippery hike specially during the rainy season. A good equipment and physical condition is a must. It is advice to skip the cheap packages as the material might be old or the staff not sufficient. There is also a big environmental issue climbing the Rinjani. Tours are not so aware of ecofriendliness, recycling and collecting trashes. The road to the lake and the summit is getting sadly damage by trash and plastic bottles polluting the area. We have not done the trek as the rainy season is not convenient. But if we come back we will make sure to wisely the travel agency we would leave with.
2. Kuta! Kuta is the new place for surfing and is located in the south part of Lombok. This cute village is developing quickly into the new place to be among surfers more and more competitions are hosted here. A brand new international airport opened not far from it and resorts are planning on building properties there.
4. Lombok is also an amazing place for trekking. Not only having beautiful beaches and surf spots, it has also some rice fields, smaller mountains, a monkey forest as well as friendly local villagers. We rented a motorbike and not long after we were in the middle of the forest. The weather is way cooler and roads are a bit more winding. As we drove along, we could start seeing the monkeys everywhere. It is possible to stop at certain spots to take pictures. Although, we don’t encourage to feed the monkeys it develops dependence to food and unhealthy connexion with humans.
Lombok is a “coup de coeur” and will definitely go back there !
The Gili islands: Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno
After spending a few days exploring Lombok, we were only a 15 minute boat ride to the Gili islands, which are known for having incredible dive and snorkeling spots as well as a very chilled atmosphere with no car ! These are very special islands as people always somehow go back there. It is maybe because of its nice beach bungalow facing the white sand beaches, turquoise water and friendly locals.
The most famous of the islands is Gili Trawangan which is visited mostly by young people. It is defined as being the party island but it is for sure not the only asset of Gili Trawangan. The island has a nice little busy street with great coffee shops and restaurants. We love it. It can sounds weird but a good coffee place make us the happiest alive. Cafés latte and chocolate croissants make us feel good and home.
Otherwise we are not going to lie but our schedule on Gili T has been quite “relaxing”. The day would start by a yoga session followed by a good breakfast at our homestay. After a fresh shower, we would head to the beach, have a pineapple juice and chill there trying to catch some waves while surfing or fish while snorkeling. We did a dive one day and it was spectacular. The water was amazingly clear full of.. Turtles ! We saw many of them with lion fish, eels and clown fish.
Gili T is just a 10 minutes boat ride from Gili Meno. We have dived around Gili Meno but not visited it. It is the most quite and small island. The island is chosen by people wanting to be in tranquility along with the sea and palm trees. There are not much to do there but divers and snorkelers will for sure find contentment there.
Gili Air is a good mix of both mention islands. Quite but diversified at the same time in term of activities, cafés, bars and restaurants. We visited the island for a day and we can definitively say that Gili Air is less crowded, has more wild areas and quiet spots. It is a good place for diving and snorkeling as well.
After almost 10 days spent between these islands, we have had an amazing experience in term of snorkeling and sea life, beach, jungle, fresh fish and chilling on the beach 😉 We have now plenty of energy to go discover the cultural part of Bali. We will spend 3 days in Ubud which is the art and cultural city of Bali. We will also head to the center of Bali or more specifically into the mountains and rice fields to meet a group of local people living in a remot village willing to learn yoga. We will be there for 1 week teaching them yoga and discovering the real balinese lifestyle.
Accommodation: there is nothing better than homestays to experience the local life. Homestays are now well developed in Indonesia and we highly advice you to try them.
Lombok: Family Garden Homestay, basic room, fan, central of Senggigi, 190’000 IDR/ night with breakfast
Gili Trawangan: Mbah Mek Trawangan Homestay, nice room with TV, AC, 300’000 IDR/night with breakfast
Fast boats: They link Bali to Lombok and the Gili Islands. There are usually fast and safe but more expensive. Be aware that local boats (ferry) have unclear schedules and can be full easily making you wait for the next one. It is cheap but less safe.
ATM Machines: Lombok and the Gili Islands have ATM machines but not in profusion, make sure to have enough cash on you.
Diving and Snorkeling: Manta Dive is a great agency for diving. Located on the main street of Gili T, it offers fair prices, great staff and good material. Snorkeling equipment can be rented all over the 3 islands.
Ecology: Fresh water and electricity are not always constant on the islands. Be aware to have the electricity shutting down and use the water wisely. Avoid long and hot showers. With the amount of tourism and environmental challenges, coral reef and sea wildlife are endangered. Do not step on the coral while swimming, snorkeling or diving.
Weather and more: Rainstorms can occur all year but on average the dry season is form June to October and the rainy season from November to March. The climate is entirely tropical. People speak Indonesian and different dialects depending on the island. (ex: balinese in Bali) The currency is the Indoesian Rupiah. People are in majority Muslim and Hindu.