10 Must Do’s on Gili Air, Indonesia – A week in Paradise

_dsc5852Gili 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.

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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. 


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.

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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.  


5. Stargazing_dsc4732-001

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!dsc_0728


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

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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

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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.

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10 Must Do’s on Gili Air, Indonesia

Photos and narrative by Mike Still & Ronda Christensen

Ronda Christensen

64 thoughts on “10 Must Do’s on Gili Air, Indonesia – A week in Paradise

  1. Such a beautiful part of the world and it really looks as though you made the most of your time there. I kind of raised my eyebrow when you suggested swimming during low tide but the water looks so inviting. What was particularly striking however, was the stargazing… Incredible. Makes me a little sorry to be stuck in starless China… 🙁

    1. Gareth, I feel you on starless China. I’m based out of Seoul and we are lucky to catch even 1 or 2 stars with all the pollution 🙁

  2. what an incredible place this seems to be!! 🙂 I have never heard of Gili Air before but it looks like a perfect gateway for relaxing. I never swing in the sea so one more reason why to visit this place while in SEA. Thank you Mike for sharing this paradise with us.

  3. 9/10 for me hahaha!
    I’d try for sure everything except partying the night away: it’s not my cup of tea plus, considering how a laid back experience it would be being there, practicing yoga, diving and floating on the sea water, it would look like sacrilegious to me! 😀

  4. Nice place in Indonesia to enjoy your time, especially for the night life. I have been there and I think it’s crowded of foreign people that are destroying (maybe we did it already) this lovely island.
    You list is perfect of things to do there, anyway I would add the #11: Take the boat on the harbour and make a day trip around the island (or maybe get to the other 2 islands too)
    Enjoy, thanks for sharing it

    http://www.utravelshare.com

    1. Your #11 suggestion is perfect! I got to see a lot of the island when I went to my dive site and its so cool.

      Its sad that many tourists destroy the island but we found most of Gili Air to be quite eco friendly.

  5. I have been seeing so many pictures from the Gili Islands recently therefore I am so happy I read your post.
    How long do you recommend staying here?
    Is it easy to island hop to the other Gili Islands?
    How fast and expensive was it to get from Ubud, Bali to Gili Air?

    I am looking forward to reading your post about the eateries you dined at while staying here 🙂

    1. Christina,

      I hope this answers your questions!

      1) I would spend at least 3 days on the island.
      2) Its very easy to go between the islands. When I went diving we took a boat past Gili T and it was only about 30 minutes away. You can see all of the Gilis from the beach
      3) I think we spent about $40 per person for a van that picked us up at our hotel and included a ferry ticket to the Gilis. You can definitely do it cheaper with public transportation to the harbor but we were a bit lazy. I think it was about 1 and a half hours to drive and then a similar ferry time but they stop on Lombok before the Gili Islands. Between all the stops and waiting to board it took about 5 or 6 hours from Ubud to Gili.

  6. I never heard of Gili islands before but I’ve written this down into my must visit list. From the mountains to the sea to the starry night it looks like heaven on earth! Plus the swings in the water, I’ve never seen that before, got to go try them!

  7. Love the pics and the suggestions. The swimming at low tide seems a bit iffy but given how great the water looks, might give it a try as well 🙂 Thanks for sharing this wonderful list. Should be helpful when we hit Indonesia, hopefully sometime next year

    1. If you don’t like the low tide then check it out during high tide 🙂 We liked how you could float just above the sand during the low tides.

  8. Gili air sounds like pure heaven. And so many activities too. I would love swimming in the low tide and watch the magical sunset by the swings. Stargazing is another enthralling activity.

    1. So true! That’s why I’ve never worked in a cubicle haha. My classroom is always fun after a vacation. I love sharing my adventures with my students as I plan for the next one.

  9. This is basically my dream vacation! I’ve heard all about the beauty of Bali but I never realized how awesome the stargazing was. The swings over the water look so cool! But you made me the most excited about the food there 🙂 thanks for sharing!

  10. That swing really looks amazing! Unfortunately we could not go to the Gili islands during our trip to Indonesia. It will be a reason to head back there and enjoy all these great things 🙂

  11. I have heard & read wonderful things about this place and your piece has confirmed that. I would like to go scuba diving there. Interesting that you preferred swimming at low tide! Most people prefer it at high tide. And I’d totally be up for the yoga class too!

  12. Gili air looks fab a bit like Gili trawangan with the horse buggy rides, low times , swings and all. I loooved Gili T. Have you been to both though and how would you compare it to air – apart from the difference you mentioned about the party scene.

    1. I didn’t go to Gili T but spoke to a bunch of ppl who did and it seems like its very similar but Gili Air is more relaxed. Some nights we would hear Gili T’s music off in the distance as we were leaving the beach.

    1. We didn’t use a remote! The tripod is a must though. Crank your ISO up as high as it goes (4000 or something crazy like that), leave the shutter open for 20-30 seconds and see if you can find a delayed shutter setting. That way your finger pushing the button won’t interfere.

  13. I’ve never heard of the Gili Islands until reading this, but at first glance it looks pretty perfect. Like a literal depiction of paradise! I would love to be able to stargaze with a clear sky like that. I haven’t had a good night away from a city in a long time to just look up.

  14. Lying around in the shallow pools is so awesome. This sounds like a perfect way to relax. Tel us something about the food there.

    1. The food was delicious and cheap! You could get western food but it wasn’t as good as the local stuff. My gf and I preferred the curries but ate some western stuff too. Its very vegan/vegetarian friendly also.

  15. What a gorgeous destination! I would love to go to Indonesia! Those swing pictures are my favorite. I have never seen the horses and buggy in any posts about Indonesia before. What a charming addition to the travel scene. 😉

    1. I’m glad you like it! Its a small island indeed and you can certainly just relax the whole time but there’s also great activities to enjoy!

  16. Those swings look like such a cool place to hang out at sunset. Can you actually use them for an extended period of time or are they there for people to take that “perfect Instagram picture”?

    1. There is a line at sunset with a donation box for local schools. But if you go during the day there often isn’t a line. We got lucky a few times and were able to hang out on them and at other times we just had to take a quick photo and let the next person go.

  17. Those swings look like so much fun, also ripe for cute photos! This seems like such a gorgeous area. I have some friends in Indonesia and I think they’ve mentioned Gili before. I’ll have to send this to them to see if this was what they were talking about! Wonderful photos 🙂

  18. Another great post on Indonesia..I have read so many this week, all about different beautiful places. I take this as an indication that I shouldn’t delay my indonesia tour anymore

  19. I’ve never heard of Gili Air before. I enjoyed reading about all of the activities you did there. This sounds like a truly active trip with snorkeling, yoga, biking, and swimming. I always look for ways to make my own trips adventurous too.

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