Gili means small island in the local Sasak language, native to Lombok so all the small islands off the coast of Lombok are called Gili though the Gili Islands generally refers to the islands off the northwest coast of Lombok.
The 3 islands, with accommodation are Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. All 3 islands are perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving, water sports and just relaxing. There are no cars or motorbikes on the island. The islands now have a few ATM machines which accept Mastercard, Visa and Cirrus.
The people on the Gili Islands are pretty relaxed. There are still some guys roaming the beach selling pearl necklaces, coral jewelry and all sorts though these guys are mostly harmless and don't hassle you like in other parts of Indonesia
The locals have nick names for the 3 Gili Islands which will give you an idea of what to expect from each of the islands:
Gili Trawangan - Gili Party
Gili Meno - Gili Honeymoon
Gili Air - Gili Lazy
Gili Trawangan has lots of beach bars, restaurants and live music so place to have a good time.
Gili Meno is quiet with picturesque white sandy beaches, perfect for relaxing, often you will get a stretch of beach all to yourself.
Gili Air is the quietest of the islands so great for sitting back and relaxing. There is still plenty of restaurants and bars on Gili Air, nice relaxed bars down overlooking the beach.
In terms of activities on the islands there is not much difference. The biggest difference between the islands is the nightlife. Gili Trawangan has alot of bars and late night restaurants as does Gili Air though on a smaller scale. The most peaceful of the islands is Gili Meno with no night life to speak of so no loud music or drunken yobbos waking you up with their yelling and singing on their way back to their bungalows.
Scuba diving and snorkeling Gili Islands
Each of the Gili Islands have great dive and snorkeling locations. They all have PADI dive centres for dive trips and PADI dive course. What a great place to learn how to dive!
It is very easy to organise a snorkel or dive trip once you have arrived on the Gili Islands. There are signs everywhere advertising and pointing you to the offices to book a trip. A snorkel trip around the islands will cost around 75,000Rp per person.
You can hire a boat and driver to you take you around the islands for around 400,000Rp for half a day.
Other islands off Lombok
There are a number of other islands off the coast of Lombok which have accommodation and good for snorkeling and scuba diving away from all the crowds that flock to the main Gili Islands. These include Gili Gede which is located of the south west coast of Lombok.
Wildlife on the Gili Islands
Apart from the aquatice wildlife around the Gili Islands, the small islands do not have a lot of animals. Most food is brought over from Lombok so there are a few cows, goats and chickens.
Natural wildlife include the Gili Island Komodo Dragon which is a close relative to the Komodo Dragons of Komodo Island and Flores. Not as big as their cousins the Gili Island Komodo Dragan can still grow up to 2m long.
It is rare to see a Gili Komodo during the day as they are most active feeding and drinking early morning and late afternoon. The best chance to see one is at the Gili Meno Bird Park. They keep a baby Gili Komodo dragon in an enclosure until it gets to big and returns it to the wild.
You may occasionally see a small millipede close to the beach or around your bungalow though they are mostly harmless though can give you a nasty sting.
Getting to the Gili Islands
The main point to get to the Gili Islands is Bangsal, 25km north of Senggigi in Lombok. There are 3 public ferries each day going to the Gili Islands for 7500Rp per person. The public ferries leave at 9am, 2pm and 5pm. The ferry takes about 30 minutes.
There is also a shuttle ferry which leaves Bangsal Habour in Lombok at 12 noon and costs 15,000Rp per person.
There are no metered taxis in Bangsal Harbour so you'll need to bargain to hire a car. Cost is around 150,000Rp to get from Bangsal Harbour to Senggigi/Mataram.
You can also get boats from Teluk Koda Harbour.
There are also increasing number of boats from Bali going directly to Gili Trawangan. Gili Fast Boats can arrange pick up from your hotel in Bali, taken to the ferry port and then taken by ferry to any of the islands. The ferry trip takes around 2 hours. Price is US$75 one way. www.gili-fastboat.com
Eka Jaya Fast Boats leave Bali at Padang Bai and go directly to Gili Trawangan for 660,000Rp (US$66) or return fair for 1,200,000Rp (US$120) crossing time is around 1 hour. They also can pick you up from various locations in Bali including Kuta, Seminyak, Sanur, Jimbaran, Nusa Dua, Denpasar and Ubud. www.ekajayafastboat.com
There are shuttle boats traveling between the 3 Gili islands so it's very easy to go do a day trip to one of the other islands. The boat schedule is: