About Gili Air
Although Gili Air is the closest of the 3 Gilis to Lombok mainland it is the most overlooked of the three islands in terms of development. However, that is all set to change as the market here is geared very much towards the budget traveller and tropical island explorer. A lot of visitors actually prefer the grass roots atmosphere of Gili Air and the feeling of really being part of a close knit local community.
The circumference of the island of Gili Air is traversable by foot in around two and a half hours but be sure to pack some supplies as you’re heading well off the beaten track. As with Gili Meno, the pace of life is slow and endearing to those who really want to escape the hustle and bustle of the outside world.
More accommodations, cafés, and bars are slowly starting to spring up to complement the four dive centres on the main beach strip along the east side. There are internet facilities at the Ozzy Shop (who also rent bicycles) and in a tiny wartel (phone shop) behind Villa Karang but the connection is far from reliable.
For its size, Gili Air actually has a wide range of accommodation to suit every taste and budget either on the beach or set back in the coconut groves. Be advised to change enough cash for your entire stay as the nearest moneychanger and ATM is on Gili Trawangan.
Island hopper boats are the preferred mode of transport to Gili Air from Gili Trawangan, neighbouring Gili Meno and mainland Lombok. Gili Air is a thirty minute ride from Gili Trawangan with boats leaving from Trawangan harbour at 9.30am and 4.00pm (IDR 25,000) and stopping at Gili Meno first before continuing onto Gili Air at approximately 9.45am and 4.15pm (IDR 23,000).
Boats from the Lombok mainland leave from Bangsal at irregular intervals when the outriggers are full with a maximum carriage of twenty people. Rather than waiting for the boats to fill it’s possible to purchase the remaining tickets (IDR 8,000 each) and effectively speed up your departure; the option for a full charter boat is IDR 200,000 fixed price.
Avoid the Bangsal touts and head to the Koperassi Karya Bahari building to purchase tickets where prices are fixed. Much the same as Gili Trawangan and Gili Meno, Air has picturesque white sand beaches but unfortunately is prone to the effects of long shore drift with the northern shoreline suffering the worst of the erosion.
The swimming is shallow along the east coast with the sand giving way to a coral reef table and is perfectly safe provided you don’t adventure into the channel beyond the
shelf. Snorkelling gear is available from the local operators and dive centres will point you in the right direction for some marine adventure. There are three dive centres currently operating on Gili Air that all have training pools, restaurant facilities, and most provide accommodation onsite.
The dive centre boats whisk visitors out to the two most popular spots at Haan’s Reef and Gili Air Wall. Haan’s boasts some specialist muck diving just off the east coast of Gili Air and is largely frequented by photographers seeking to capture a glimpse of stranger creatures like Flying gunard, frogfish, and many varieties of pipefish. Gili Air
Wall (as the name suggests) to the west is a twenty-four metre vertical drop with plenty of lionfish, Leaf scorpionfish, and the occasional seahorse spotting.
Manta Dive is the new sister operation to the already hugely successful Gili Trawangan dive setup. The centre has five Sasak style air-conditioned huts with hot water and funky outside bathrooms with communal swimming pool. PADI and SSI courses from beginner to instructor level are conducted onsite and also cater to the fun diver with a variety of packages to suit all abilities and demands.
Gili Air doesn’t have the full on party vibe of bigger brother Gili Trawangan but still have enough entertainment to keep the average reveller smiling. In high season (May through to December) expect to stumble across the occasional psychedelic fluro ‘Goa style’ beach party with raging techno beats that sometimes don’t let up for the best part of two full days!
Very popular with the older Bali expatriates, the events are a throw back to the acid house revolution of yesteryear and are no less tame than their late 1980’s counterparts. For those of a less excitable persuasion, there’s plenty of social drinking fun! Chill Out Bar is pretty similar to Corner Bar but further up the beach towards Zipp’s. More beachfront beverages in unpretentious surroundings, closes early around 11pm.
Corner Bar is the closest to the harbour and is little more than the name suggests, a set of barugas and tables and chairs on the beach. Legend Bar has the weekend Wednesday party night during the high season months with lots of reggae and house music vibes and is also the location for the infamous Full and Black Moon beach parties. Star (next to Blue Marlin Dive) is a popular post dive drinking spot for the expatriate dive community and visiting scuba heads where imported spirits are available.
Zipp’s (next to Manta Dive) serves food and drinks for the Manta Dive operation and is a popular meeting spot for late afternoon beers. Imported spirits available. There’s a reasonable amount of restaurants on Gili Air offering good value varieties of Indonesian, Western, and European food. Mostly located along the main strip of beach on the east coast, each café and restaurant shares the same stunning view across to Mount Rinjani in the distance. Frangipani Garden Restaurant is situated at Coconut Cottages about half way up the beach strip and is set back in the coconut plantations serving appetizing local and Western cuisines. The Sasak inspired ‘Rice Table’ needs to be ordered at least one day in advance and is a perfect feast for small and medium size groups.
Gili Air Santay is renowned for their Thai dishes although it’s only one example of their wide selection of cuisines from around the world. Mirage Coffee Bar and Bakery is the place to head to for a full English breakfast. Although situated on the quieter far northen side of the island the trip is well worth the effort for tasty homemade sandwiches and Mezze plates and is an ideal spot for a sunset tipple.
Scallywags recently opened on Gili Air and now has sister restaurants on Trawangan and Nusa Lembongan. Possibly the best beach front location and food on the island, certailny a definite must try on your Gili Air holiday.
Activities most come for the diving or Surf and to experience the friendly Sasak hospitality in a very alluring setting beach and coconut plantation setting.
What Gili Air is less known for is the fickle but sometimes quality surf. The right hand break to the south west known as ‘Playgili’ is far from a playground as the wave jacks up for a speed run over the jagged coral heads and rocks providing solid barrelling sections and cutback opportunities galore. This is only suggested for advanced surfers only as the nearest medical clinic is a good hour away from the island.