As we left Sasak Sade Village and headed towards the coastal road, passing by popular Senggigi beach, the scenery took on a dramatic tone. Long sweeping bays greeted us. Rocky cliffs, little villages and coconut plantations separated dark sandy beaches. If we turned our faces away from the coast towards inland, we would catch glimpses of Indonesia’s third tallest mountain, Mount Rinjani, an active volcanic mountain that draws many visitors to its caldera everyday.
If we had more time, we would have stopped overnight at each one of tranquil views we passed. We were chasing sunlight to reach our fast boat to the well-publicized Gili Islands in search of seafood, beautiful beaches and majestic sunsets.
People get all jelly on islands with clear turquoise waters, verdant nature, and fresh cocktails on demand. It’s no different on the Gili Islands. The little gilis of Trawangan, Meno and Air off the northwest of Lombok are no longer the hush-hush hippy cum backpacker party central it once was renowned for in the 80’s and 90’s. It’s has evolved into beautiful island getaways with plenty of modern comforts while retaining Lombok’s modest culture.
A 30 minutes speedboat ride from the dark sandy beach of Teluk Kodek(Kode) on the mainland delivers us on the turquoise shores of Trawangan where its bars, restaurants and retail outlets greeted us with thumping balearic house choons, and grilled seafood wafting in the air. On the beaches lay sun-worshippers soaking up the last bits of sun rays, updating their social media channels and stalking their favourite idols.
We checked in to Villa Ombak, one of the more established hotels, on the east side of Trawangan. The lawn and pool area were such an attraction to chillax at but we decided to get on the main pathway to explore since it was only a 2 night stay.
There are no petrol powered motorised vehicles on any of the Gili island. Your only mode of transport are your feet, bicycles, electric bikes, and cidomo, the horse drawn carriages. Carbon pollution is kept low on the gilis (if you are discounting the smoke billowing from the numerous grills)
Gili Trawangan is the largest, most well known and most developed of the 3 Gili Islands located northwest of Lombok. The other two being Gili Air and Gili Meno. While there are many gilis (islands) around the rest of Lombok, the aforementioned three are the most internationally recognized. Alcoholic drinks is not openly sold in Lombok but on these three islands, it is an exception which makes them a draw for many international travelers used to the tipple ritual.
There is something for everyone on Trawangan. There are clothing stores, convenience shops, hair salons, body grinding dance music bars, beer pong bars to quiet chill-out cafe bars on the beach or inland. We escaped the din and treated ourselves to a USD8 1 hour full body traditional massage.
If you’ve never been to Gili Trawangan, check out the video below for round the island view of what to expect. The sunsets are gorgeous here.
It seems Gili Meno houses many turtle sanctuaries so it wasn’t surprising to see turtles on our snorkeling trip. You could swim with the turtles the whole day if not for the strong currents here which could drag you off pretty far away without your knowledge. Even with flippers, swimming against currents is a real workout. Still, the pristine sea conditions around the gilis just makes you want to explore the underwater paradise forever.
Both Gili Meno and Gili Air offers more seclusion and peace over Trawangan so if you need more tranquil living space, choose either destination.
We had lunch on Gili Air and spent the afternoon exploring the little island. It definitely was a lot more peaceful than Trawangan.
To reduce travel time of having to boat back to Lombok then do an overland trip to the airport to meet a scheduled flight, we caught a specially chartered speed boat which kicked off at 5am from Trawangan East side to Serangan Harbour in Bali. This is apparently a cheaper option as well. Serangan is closer to Denpasar which meant a shorter distance to Ngurah Rai Airport. Alternative destination is Padangbai Harbour which is a shorter boat ride at 1.5 hours and is nearer to Ubud.
It was a harrowing 2.5 hour boat ride in the dark as the seas were choppy to say the least. Travel tip: If you are considering a special charter outside the regular scheduled times, do check the sea conditions or weather before committing. That is, unless you enjoy having your boat being slapped around by big waves – imagine Disney’s The Finest Hours – some of which might splash through the doorway to give the nearest seat a cold morning shower (several times) and not forgetting the extreme seasickness some might endure. Your luggage may well need a waterproof layer to prevent giving your fine linen a salt water rinse.
Surviving the morning waves, we were all glad to set foot on Bali, a transit place for our next destination, Banyuwangi to see Blue Flames and Baluran National Park.
This trip was sponsored by Tourism Indonesia. CCFoodTravel maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site as always.
All images shot by us are captured using Sony DSC-RX100IV except mentioned otherwise
Check out more images of the Gili Islands and Sasak Sade Village below