Our Travels: Gili Islands, Indonesia

It’s no secret that the writers and editors at World Words love to travel. At any given time, many of us are trotting around the globe, gathering inspiration for new stories and advice for fellow travellers. Ask us a travel question, and it’s likely one of us can answer it from authentic experience. Just take a look at the Our Travels blog archive for a taste of our team’s vast, on-the-ground experience, from exploring the Buddhist temples of Luang Prabang to hiking the mountain landscapes of Andorra to chilling out on the golden beaches of Mallorca – among others.

This month, it’s the turn of World Words travel writer Nicole to share a recent adventure. Escaping to Indonesia’s Gili Islands, she discovers it can be hard to relax with a book when there is so much fun to be had in paradise…

Nicole cycling through a restaurant strip along the coast of Trawangan (Gili T). She really likes cycling.

Why I went to the Gili Islands
While it’s certainly not a hardship to live and write in Bali, as I’d been doing for a couple of months, it was time to give my brain a break and launch into nothing but fun, relaxation and adventure. From the mainland, it’s less than a two-hour fast boat trip to the Gili Islands, and this car-free land of pure indulgence had been calling my name for years. It was time to heed the call. With my visiting brother and uncle in tow, we chanted for good weather in the rainy season and crossed the Lombok Strait beneath bright, sunny skies.

My highlight of the trip
As the largest of the three Gili Islands, and the one with the most pubs for my beer-loving Aussie relatives, we chose to stay on Trawangan, known affectionately as Gili T. To get around the island, visitors need to walk or cycle everywhere, as there’s no motorised transport (though if you’re feeling tired, there are horse-drawn carriages). I haven’t relinquished the thrill of riding a bike since I was a kid, so this was probably the thing I enjoyed most of all.

After breakfast each morning, overlooking water that’s almost impossibly perfect, we hopped on our trusty bikes and, without fail, gathered friends along the way. You can ride almost entirely around the coast, or cross inland through local villages and fields of palm trees. The stops along the way include snorkelling with turtles straight from the beach, eating nasi goreng from picturesque swings at beachfront restaurants, and popping in for a drink at the swim-up bars of swanky hotels. What more could you possibly desire?

What else I love about the Gili Islands
These idyllic islands bring secluded beaches for lazy days, just enough pubs, restaurants and shops for a buzzing atmosphere when you want it, and adventure in spades. Boat trips span peaceful Gili Air and Gili Meno, with excellent snorkelling and dive sites that live up to their names of Shark Point, Turtle Heaven and Deep Turbo.

Reef breaks usually offer easy waves for beginner surfers and occasional two-metre swells for pros in the wet season. Just before dusk, everyone emerges from beach huts, swimming pools, boats and shops for a striking sunset that slowly creeps behind Mount Agung in the distance. If you want to head back to the peace of serene retreats, you can. However, night owls find plenty of action within thumping beats along the boat harbour strip.

Beachfront restaurants throughout the Gili Islands offer seaside swings for scenic drinking and dining.

Why you should go
The barefoot appeal of the Gili Islands is soothing to the soul, as it invites relaxation in the way only island living can. Yet, in the mix, there’s also the cheeky sense that you can go right ahead and have that champagne for breakfast and dance till you drop in the moonlight, if the urge to do so strikes. Everyone is in a holiday mood and you can literally feel the freedom in the air. In terms of indulgent escapes, it’s rather hard to beat.

How you can visit
The easiest way to visit the Gili Islands is to fly into Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport. From there, organise private transport or catch a taxi to Padangbai, where you will find a large range of fast boats for the trip to the islands. It’s usually cheaper to find a boat from there (always bargain for the price) than it is to book online.

Looking for some examples of Indonesian travel content by writers like Nicole? Check out our projects page. And if you want to stay bang up to date with tourism news and travel titbits, you should follow us on Twitter.

– Article and photography by Nicole Leigh West.

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