Gili Air

Gili Air is the most easterly of the three Gili Islands off Lombok.

Gili Air looking back to Mount Rinjani on Lombok

Understand

Of the three Gilis, this is the island closest to Lombok. Traditionally, Gili Air was seen as the domain of families and couples wanting a quiet, off-the-beaten-path escape, while the rowdier hoardes had their fun on Gili Trawangan. With Trawangan now upscaling so obviously, more and more backpackers seem to be choosing Gili Air as their primary option. This island has more of a rural, established feeling than the other two, and it is no surprise that many of the local Gili Islanders seem to prefer living on Gili Air, and that it has the highest permanent population of about 1,800.

Orientation

Most of the accommodation and other tourism facilities are on the south and east coasts, facing Lombok. The boat landing is in the centre of the south coast. A coastal path leads you around the perimeter of the island, and a leisurely stroll all the way around will take about 90 min. For such a small island, the maze of paths that criss-cross the island can get surprisingly confusing, but these always lead back to the coast path eventually.

Get in

Map of Gili Air

By Boat

See Gili Island main page for more info.

The sea is calmest in the morning and all transport stops running in the late-afternoon, well before dark. During periods of southerly winds and in July and August especially, the swell can be a bit hairy and you are very likely to get wet on the crossing. It is advisable to place laptops, cameras and handphones in waterproof bags for the crossing. You will need to wade through shallow sea when disembarking, so wear either appropriate footwear, or none at all.

From Bali

Not All fast boat operators stop at Gili Air. Here are some of the ones that do:

Amed Sea Express offers a twice daily high-speed schedule to Gili Air from Amed on the East coast of Bali. Boats depart Amed at 10AM and 3:30PM with arrivals on Gili Air at 11:30AM and 5PM. Prices are Rp 600.000 (one-way) and Rp 1,100.000 (return) and tickets can be booked online.

Scoot Cruises departs from Sanur in South Bali and stops in Lembongan, Lombok and Gili Air. Gili Getaway (formerly Island getaway) go directly to Gili Tawangan but offer a transfer service to Gili Air as soon as you arrive.

Kuda Hitam and Gili Gili fastboats both also stop at Gili Air. Note however that Kuda Hitam originates in the north-east of Bali (Amed), which is only appropriate for travellers staying in that area. Gili Gili departs from both Serangan (South Bali) and Padang Bai (Southeast).

To check live seat availability on a variety of trusted carriers (including many of the above) and book boat tickets online, use the well established Gilibookings website.

From Lombok

Public boats depart from Bangsal between 8AM-5PM but often no later than 4PM and are fewer in number than go to Gili Trawangan. The voyage takes about 30 min and the official price is Rp 8,000. Sometimes these services only depart when there are enough people, normally a minimum of 15 is enough. If numbers are insufficient you may have to endure a wait at Bangsal. The official maximum is 20 people but sometimes the boat is overloaded by the time it is ready to depart. The best time to be sure of a crossing to Gili Air is 2PM-3:30PM in the afternoon however this can vary, especially with weather or passenger loads.

Buy your tickets direct from the official Koperasi Angkutan Laut Karya Bahari office. In Bangsal this is located inside the main building near the door at the eastern corner. The Koperasi operate the Public Boat, the Shuttle boat, the Island Hopping boat and also offer (official) Charter boats.

There is a ticket office on Gili Air to buy your ticket back to Bangsal, it is located adjacent to the arrival and departure point.

Public boat (ferry)

  • Bangsal to Gili Air 1 way is Rp 8,000
  • Gili Air to Bangsal 1 way is Rp 8,000

Shuttle boat

  • Bangsal to Gili Air departs at 5PM, the official price is Rp 26,000.
  • Gili Air to Bangsal departs at 8:15AM, the official price is Rp 26,000.
    (This is more expensive than the standard Public boat cost officially fixed at Rp 8,000).

Charter boat

  • Bangsal to Gili Air 1 way is Rp 155,000, return Rp 290,000
  • Gili Air to Bangsal no published price
  • Gili Air to Senggigi 1 way is Rp 480,000, return Rp 690,000

Perama has a small office on Gili Air next door to Villa Karang, and they offer daily transfers from Senggigi at 9AM for Rp 90,000. These should not be relied on outside of the peak tourist season though. Perama is unlikely to take you to Gili Air if you are the only passenger.

Departing from Bangsal to either of the three Gili islands is rarely pleasant due to the very persistent touts who infest the place, just try to ignore them and do not listen to their generally fanciful tales that involve you paying them money to solve an imaginary transportation problem. They often provide a chorus of gloomy predictions regarding the alleged unavailability of services, then if successful they just place unknowing passengers upon the normal scheduled service or a private charter at an often seriously inflated prices.

The situation arising from the activities of pestering touts combined with confusing and inadequate formal services at Bangsal is the source of many disappointments and complaints.

From Gili Trawangan and Gili Meno

To move from one island to another the formal procedure is to take the Public boat (ferry) to Bangsal and then a further similar ferry to the required island departing from Bangsal. To return the reverse is required. This can be confusing and co-ordinating the timing with the connecting boat departing from Bangsal may be either difficult or elusive. There is also a limited official inter-island Island Hopping service provided.

Ferry operators may sometimes enter into informal arrangements with passengers to journey inter-island. In this situation a passenger boards a boat that is meant to go directly to Bangsal from one of the three Gili islands but instead it detours and sets down on the beach at another island whilst en-route. The prices are a movable feast but people will normally pay a price of around Rp 25,000. Inter-island access on the public boats in this manner is dependent upon timing, weather, loading, payment and the inclination of the crew to facilitate an inter-island journey and such arrangements are not officially sanctioned. The standard procedure is to travel to Bangsal and make a separate trip to the different island or to use the very limited official service. The price for a single journey Public Boat ferry journey from Gili Trawangan is Rp 10,000 and Gili Meno to Bangsal is Rp 9,000. The price for the subsequent Public boat to Gili Air from Bangsal is Rp 10,000, this assuming the required connection was made at Bangsal.

Official tariffs and schedules

The tariff for all Koperasi Angkutan Laut Karya Bahari services was last set by decree of the Regency of West Lombok in May 2008. This koperasi now falls under the new jurisdiction of the Regency of North Lombok.
Departure and arrival times may vary due to operational conditions and other random factors such as loading times and delays arising from waiting for sufficient numbers of passengers prior to departure. Overloading may occur and caution should be exercised if considering boarding or travelling on an overloaded boat. If there are too many people requiring transport they may be left behind and a substitute service may or may not be available. Try to limit your dealings to official koperasi personnel only and avoid entering into any discussions or negotiations with local touts and facilitators. Only a few of them will be of any assistance at all and most will endeavour to confuse the traveller so that they accept an inflated price for the provision of an existing service. Do not buy tickets from anyone other than an official ticket seller.
Official Koperasi services include:

  • Public boat
  • Shuttle boat
  • Island Hopping boat
  • Charter boat (Koperasi)

Island Hopping boat

  • Gili Air to Gili Trawangan in the morning is an indirect service. Take the Island Hopping boat leaving Gili Air for Gili Meno at 8:30AM. The same boat then departs Gili Meno for Gili Trawangan at 8:50AM.
    The official Gili A to Gili T Island Hopping price is Rp 23,000. Hopefully you will only pay once. The alternative is to go to Bangsal and look for the boat to Gili T but may be best avoided due to the issues at Bangsal.
  • Gili Air to Gili Trawangan departs at 3PM and the official price is Rp 23,000
  • Gili Trawangan to Gili Air departs at 4PM and the official price is Rp 23,000
  • Gili Air to Gilli Meno departs at 8:30AM and the official price is Rp 20,000
  • Gili Meno to Gilli Air departs at 4:20PM and the official price is Rp 20,000

Charter boat

  • Gili Meno to Gili Air 1 way is Rp 170,000, return Rp 320,000
  • Gili Air to Gili Meno 1 way is Rp 170,000, return Rp 290,000
  • Gili Trawangan to Gili Air 1 way is Rp 195,000, return Rp 350,000
  • Gili Air to Gili Trawangan 1 way is Rp 195,000, return Rp 350,000
  • Gili Air to Senggigi to 1 way is Rp 480,000, return Rp 690,000

Informal private charters are also available. Prices are subject to negotiation, take your time over the process.

Get around

Walking is the best option as you can wander around the whole of Gili Air in about 90 minutes.

Bicycles are widely available for rent for Rp 30,000-50,000 per day. Some hotels might give you one as part of your accommodation package.

There are fewer horse carts (cidomos) here than on Gili Trawangan, but they are still not hard to find. If you are planning an early morning departure and have heavy bags, it is wise to ask your hotel the day before to book a cidomo for you. Short trips will cost about Rp 30,000 per person.

See and Do

Dive shops

There are 5 dive operators with offices on Gili Air. Most of them are independently run outposts of Gili Trawangan based shops. All dive shops offer a full menu of PADI or SSI dive courses and fun dives.

If you intend to learn to dive or advance existing qualifications and wish to avoid all the temptations of partying whilst doing so, then Gili Air is the ideal base.

Snorkelling

Any of the dive shops will also be able to organise snorkelling trips for you, including hire of gear. Alternatively, there are some good spots where you can snorkel from the beach. Try almost anywhere along the east coast where the fringing reef is fairly healthy and close offshore. Be careful walking in the shallow waters though as there are a lot of very spiny sea urchins in amongst the sea-grass. Equipment can be hired from almost any cafe or shack close to the beach for about Rp 30,000, or your hotel will be able to help you.

Surfing

Gili Air hardly registers a blip on the global surf scene, which is somewhat surprising. There is a poorly known, barreling right hander off the south coast called Playgili. This is by no means a straightforward wave, breaks over some very sharp coral and is best left to experienced, skilled surfers. It does not always roll, but when it does this is a good wave. Best first stop for any surfer is Ozzy's Surf Shop, where the local crew will be keen to rent you a board and chat about the conditions.

Walk

The circular walk around Gili Air is very pleasant indeed. The highlight for many would be the awe-inspiring views of massive Mount Rinjani towering over Lombok.

Buy

There is an ATM outlet of CIMB Niaga bank on the island. It is located 5 min east of the ferry arrival area. There are 2 terminals inside, the one which dispenses Rp 100,000 notes allows up to Rp 3 million per transaction from any Visa/MC (no extra charges). Blue Marlin Dive Centre provides a credit card cash advance for a commission of 7%. There are other ATMs on Gili Trawangan.

The best bet for changing money is Oseana shop located in the Harbour. Oseana shop will change a lot of different currencies. Ideally, make sure you bring enough cash with you that is already converted to Rupiah.

There are a few shops selling basic necessities close to the boat landing and on the eastern coast. In the same area there are also a couple of vendors with a reasonable collection of Lombok handicrafts for sale.

In the centre of the island (in the village, on main north-south road of the island), there's a bigger shop (they have lots of smelly dried fish), selling, besides other things, some cheap foods (try donuts for Rp 1,000 if you are not afraid). Slightly cheaper than beach shops, but some sellers try to compensate for that when see foreigners, so the same 1.5 lt bottle of water could easily cost Rp 5,000 one day and Rp 4,000 the next one depending upon where you purchase it.

Eat

Cafe View, Gili Air

Starting at the jetty and working your way north on the east side of the island up to Hotel Gili Air, there are lots of decent places to eat. Since there is no fresh water on the island, purified shipped water is the norm, which does not mean that salads are 100% safe, but the food is generally not problematic. Many restaurants propose delicious grilled fish, freshly caught from the ocean. Choose the fish from their display stand and discuss the price. Local cooking style normally tends to overcook the fish, so it is a good idea to specify your cooking taste.

For budget travellers, there are several warungs in the village, just go inland from the harbor. Nasi campur spesial (with chicken) is Rp 10,000, as well as soto ayam. There's also a place selling bakso and (sometimes) martabak a bit further inland, almost in the middle of island. Rp 10,000 for bakso, opens in the late afternoon.

Drink

Gili Air usually has one party a week rotating at different bars during the peak season only. Locals and restaurant owners will usually mention them to you, and sometimes flyers are posted around. The party scene on Gili Air is much more low-key, and not nearly as rowdy as the wild all-nighters on Gili Trawangan.

Sleep

Budget

For those who want really cheap accommodation (Rp 50,000-100,000), the good option is to walk by the road going inland from the harbor/boat ticket office to the village. There are several homestay-type accommodation options there. In low season, the price can often be bargained down.

Gili Air budget hotels tend to bear a striking resemblance to one another and most are on the east side of the island. There is not a wide range in quality or appeal, although a few stand out.

Mid-range

Splurge

The Casa Mio Siesta Beach Restaurant has sea views and natural style decoration. International and Indonesian food. Breakfast, fresh ground coffee. Beachside seafood BBQ, fresh made curry. Internet is also available for dining guests. The cafe has a 2Mbps internet connection, speed may vary though due to local conditions. From US$75-99.

Connect

The island has mobile telephone coverage by the major Indonesian networks (Telkomsel, XL, Indosat, Axis, poor coverage by 3), and there are a couple of public telephone offices.

The internet has improved a little on Gili Air in recent years, but is still usually painfully slow and very expensive at around Rp 24,000-30,000/hr). Mobile internet (especially with introduction of unlimited plans since 2009 in Indonesia) is a much better option, if you have your own laptop or a smartphone. GPRS/EDGE access seems to be quite slow on Gili Air, however, depending upon the operator used it may help to go to the eastern or western beach to try for a better connection.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, March 04, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.