Gili air: Amazing snorkelling & turtles
When we first looked at Gili Islands we fell in love with the pictures straight away. In fact Ethan was so blown away by them that he started investigating dive centres. The waters looked amazing and a great place to have an introductory dive. There are three choices of islands. Ethan investigated these and decided that Gili air would suit us the most.
Gili trewangyn was considered a party island. Gili Meno was a romantic island for couples and Gili air was a family orientated with easy to reach snorkelling sites. We went with his very thorough research!
Note: I’ll be honest, as with Lombok I was a little concerned about earthquakes. There are no evacuation routes here, as it’s completely flat! I did however search out the biggest building on the island – just in case! (It’s the mosque by the way!). And as I said before the people here are so chilled, just going about their normal day. A big earthquake isn’t as common as you might think!
How to get to Bangsal harbour, Lombok
In order to reach the gili Islands, off the North West coast of lombok you need to catch a ferry. We headed to bangsal ferry port to board a local ferry.
There are no direct buses, so you need to get a taxi. Uber and Gojek are not welcome but we managed to find one. When we got in he asked us to cancel the booking and he’d still honour the fee. He was concerned about issues with taxi drivers.
It was all fine though.
Catching the local ferry to Gili Air
There is the option to catch a fast craft boat from lombok to the Gili Islands. The cost to Gili air is IDR 85,000pp. But for a local ferry it is only IDR 12,000 pp.
The fast crafts run on a schedule whereas the local ferries run when they are full (40) people. We only waited half an hour maximum both ways.
The fast craft is boarded from the docks, whereas the local ferry is boarded and disembarked from the beach.
Make sure you wear sandals and shorts as you need to climb in and out of water to get on/off the boat.
To catch the local ferry to Gili Air you need to walk to the right hand side as you arrive at the port. It’s over by the beach area is a small shack selling tickets to Gili Air only.
The boats to other islands are sold from different shacks. I am not sure if this is temporary as there was building work going on around here.
Returning from Gili Air, there is a small jetty with a ticket office. Purchase your ticket there and wait for your boat.
Where to stay on Gili Air
There is so much choice, from boutique hotels, hostels to family run homestays. We picked a homestay with about 6 double rooms and a relaxing garden area close to the east side, called Santigi Homestay.
It was run by a lovely and very friendly family who couldn’t do enough for us. It came with a breakfast menu to choose each morning as well as coffee or juice. Delicious!
Things to do on Gili Air
The main reason everyone goes to Gili is for the snorkelling and diving! The waters around this area are crystal clear and so beautiful. They are filled with marine life, especially Green and Oliver Ridley turtles! We saw a few turtles while we were out snorkeling.
We snorkelled everyday and loved being able to swim from the shore.
there are lots of options to get a tour around the islands but we were happy to stick around Gili air. If you go to Gili Meno it has a statue underwater which is popular with Instagrammers. Plus some people had said they’d seen stingrays while out on the boat tour!
This was something that Ethan wanted to do. But unfortunately Jasper was to young to do an introductory dive.
So Ethan and daddy headed out for a few hours with 3WD dive centre. And Ethan then went for a dive on his own the day after! 3WD are a great dive company, run by a lovely Frenchman. They were very informative, had a good atmosphere and very enthusiastic! Read about Ethan’s dive experience here.
You can also hire a bike here and cycling around the island. It’s not very big so won’t take you long. However, it may be challenging in places as the ‘roads’ are mostly sandy paths which are more difficult to negotiate!
There is an agreement across the island that fees are kept the same. Therefore to hire Snorkel masks and flippers is IDR 50,000 each set.
The snorkel shacks are lined up all around the island. Just pick one you like the look of and off you go. Alternatively, bring your own!
If you are planning a holiday here, then I highly recommend sea shoes as most days you will have to walk across the coral. Don’t worry, you’re not damaging anything, it’s dead coral as it’s out of the water for most of the afternoon!
In the afternoon there is only one beach which you can swim from which doesn’t stretch over reefs. This is on the south east coast, outside scallywags beach club.
Top tips for snorkelling on Gili Air
Morning is best for snorkelling. The tide goes out late morning and retreats very quickly. It’s a funny tide system so do check online if you can. If you leave it too late then you will not need flippers as it’s too shallow.
We spent a good deal of time snorkelling off the North East area, near hans reef. It’s a bit of a distance before you reach the drop off, but the area is very shallow. We saw several turtles in this area.
We then floated down the east coast (going with the current).
Another great area is directly opposite either Blue Marine or 3WD dive centre. Make sure you enter either side of here as the boats do tend to come in and out regularly to pick up divers. But it’s a well known area to spot turtles.
Where to eat on Gili Air
We enjoyed eating out in Gili Air, but mainly because we found a cracking place, and it was cheap too. If you want somewhere with decent portion size, tasty Indonesian food and lovely service then head to Firda Warung.
As we had celebrated Keith’s birthday on Flores we decided we would enjoy a pizza treat meal here. We stopped at Classico Italian and after a few sundowners enjoyed their tasty pizzas!! A bit more expensive than we are used to, but very nice crispy pizzas.
Mowies bar & restaurant – we didn’t eat here (small portions & high prices), but it’s the place to be for a sundowner. Lots of beanbags to chill out on. You can even get a reasonably priced wine here at happy hour (even if it is Chardonnay!). But you need to get here very early as the bean bags go quickly.
Chilis restaurant – we only stopped here for lunch as it was near our Snorkelling spot and near enough to Ethan’s dive centre. Prices were ok, food was nice and there were some nice seats or bean bags for sunbathing. The place had quite a chilled out vibe. A good stop if you are on the east coast.
Ruby’s cafe – this was highly recommended and is very popular so you need to get there before 7pm if you don’t want to queue. But we didn’t stop, having been spoilt at firda warung. The local Indonesian menu looked nice but at a higher price so we decided to give it a miss.
You will not go hungry on Gili Air – there are just so many choices for dinner!
We had a fabulous few days on Gili Air. It was made all the better that Ethan had the chance to dive for the first time & loved it!!
For me, the reef was a blessing and a hindrance. When the tide was in, it was a fantastic place to explore. The water was so blue and clear it was like swimming in a pool. But as soon as the tide was out you were restricted to where you could go. Sea shoes would be a ‘must bring’ item here to help get across the coral.
The island had a very chilled out vibe and as it was so small you could walk around it in about 2 hours. There were a handful of ‘roads’ but mostly you had to walk along sand paths which can be hard going at times (especially on a bike!).
In-between Snorkelling, diving, sunsets and eating we were able to fill our 4 days – which was more than enough time on the Gilis!