Gili Air is the perfect paradise to head to after a short stay on Ubud, Bali. Relaxing on this tropical island was a highly anticipated part of our trip to Indonesia and we loved it so much that we extended our stay. Check out these highlights from our trip.
1. Swimming in the low tide.
Gili Air is surrounded by beaches where you can forget all your worries. We spent the majority of our time relaxing here and enjoyed watching the tides change over the course of the week. An interesting part about this island is how flat the seemingly endless beaches are. In the distance, a coral reef breaks the waves creating a large calm area to relax in. When the tide is at its lowest, you’ll find a few crystal clear puddles large enough to submerge yourself in. Swimming at high tide is also good but we preferred low tide.
We stayed on the southwest side of the island which was excellent for sunset but walking on the coral was tough, so ensure you bring good water shoes.
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2. Biking around the island
Automobiles and motorized traffic are prohibited on all of the Gili islands which makes renting a bike the perfect way to get around. It took us about two hours with stops to complete the entire circuit. Along the way, you’ll see beautiful beaches everywhere. There’s a trail that encircles the outer part of the island, be aware that a few stretches are covered in sand requiring you to walk your bike. We laughed ourselves off our bikes during our attempt to peddle through. There were also several great restaurants and cheaper accommodations in the center of the island that having bikes makes easier to access.
Renting a bike will cost you 40,000IDR/day or less.
What to do on the Gili Islands
3. SCUBA Diving or Snorkeling
Whether you are an experienced diver or a beginner, Gili Air is a wonderful place to dive. In fact, if you dive anywhere on Bali you’re likely to head to a dive site right by the Gili Islands. The massive coral reefs are teeming with life and while nothing is guaranteed on a dive, chances are high that you’ll dive with turtles and other exotic sea creatures. The best site I went to was Shark Point where I watched a sea turtle eat breakfast in the reef as smaller fish swarmed for his leftovers. As you go deeper, sharks are likely to hide in alcoves beneath the reef. I caught the tail end of a small one as he swam into the darkness but others divers on my boat saw larger ones around the dive site.
Dives cost about 490,000IDR each and include all equipment. If you aren’t a diver you can still enjoy the sea life with a snorkel!
4. Yoga @ H2O Yoga
Like many other islands, Gili Air is a place that offers serenity and a chance to disconnect from mundane life and reconnect with yourself. The island has two major studios that offer yoga classes. “H20 Yoga” became our favorite with their focus entirely on yoga and the spirituality the practice entails. The studio is situated in the center of the island encompassed by a tropical forest.
Upon entering, the staff were incredibly kind and welcoming and the space provided the “zen” we had aspired to find with nothing but the sound of the birds surrounding us. To our surprise, they had a cafe (which sold green juices and gluten free banana bread), bungalows to rent and a pool in addition to their classes. The class was held in a large gazebo made specifically for yoga and comfortably fit 10 of us but could easily fit 20 more. We attended five classes total and were sad to say goodbye after the last one. If you’re interested in checking out the other studio, “Mandala Blue”, it’s located on the northeast side of the island, directly on the beach.
H20 offers two classes each day with a meditation class twice per week. Retreats and workshops are frequently offered as well but refer to their schedule. Classes cost 100,000IDR each or we purchased a 4-class bundle for 350,000IDR. The bundle can be shared with as many people as you want.
Gili Air is quite remote allowing stargazers the prime opportunity to see a beautiful night sky. We saw shooting stars and a clear outline of the Milky Way every single night. The clouds usually parted from 10:00pm-12:00am each night, but even after midnight there were still plenty of stars to behold. If you enjoy night photography, you’re guaranteed to capture the perfect photo, so don’t forget your tripod and a remote for star-trails.
Best Places to visit on Gili Air
6. Partying the night away
While Gili Trawangan is the main party island, Gili Air still offers plenty of nighttime entertainment. Most restaurants and hotels have a bar that will stay open as late as there are customers but shut down around 11pm or midnight when empty. The resorts share the party nights so check with a local while you’re there for a precise schedule or just walk along the beach and listen for the music. Just about anywhere you go is sure to be psychedelic with great music and drinks. If you really want an all night party you should head to Gili T but if you’re up for something a little tamer, then head to Gili Air!
7. Enjoying the sweet delicacies.
Okay, so maybe we are foodies who love to eat. But then again who doesn’t? Gili Air has a wide range of restaurants to pick from with local delicacies, Indonesian staples and great western food too. If you’re all about organic or have a special diet don’t fret because Gili Air offers a solution for every culinary desire. Stay tuned for a more in depth look at our favorite eateries but if you’re heading there in the meantime we recommend Easy Warung’s Gegepek curry found exclusively on Gili Air, Pachamama for amazingly fresh organic meals and the local corn man for a light snack!
8. Sunset on the swings
When the sun gets low a wonderful orange hue spreads across the sky. Sunsets are everywhere but sunset in paradise is even better! When you head to the southwest corner of Gili Air you’ll find a beautiful set of swings and a hammock to play in. If its close to sunset there will likely be a line of travelers waiting to snap a photo. Its well worth the wait, but I recommend bringing some small change to drop in the donation box for the Gili Air schools.
Gili Air Indonesia
9. Taking the horse and buggy
Motorized vehicles are not allowed on Gili Air which makes the most care-free way of moving around the island a horse-drawn buggy. The bumpy ride will take you anywhere on the island for about 100,000IDR. It is the perfect option to take advantage of with your heavy bags when you arrive or for a romantic evening during your stay. There are usually carriages waiting at the port or you can hail one as they trudge along the dirt road.
10. Live Music on the beach
With restaurants lining the shore its easy to find some live music just about any time any day. Locals and tourists jam out together singing popular covers. It’s the perfect way to relax after dinner or sit and stargaze with live background music. If you’re up for more of a party get up and dance but either way you’re sure to love the live music on Gili Air.
Photos and narrative by Mike Still & Ronda Christensen