Gili Islands – Surviving The Storm
Our journey to the incredible Gili Islands in Indonesia, from Bali, didn’t get off the best of starts. We decided we would go via slow boat when booking the transport through a travel agent in Ubud, due to the lower price of 200,000RP ($14.70). The slow boat was cheaper than the fast boat and we were told we’d be there in around 8 hours on a boat direct from Bali to Gili Trawangan. How naive we were to believe that.
Overall, the journey consisted of a 1-hour minibus from Ubud to Padangbai. We then caught the boat from Padangbai, learning that this was not a direct boat in the process, which was extremely irritating. The very slow boat from Padangbai took 8 hours in total to reach its destination of Lembar, Lombok. Once we reached Lembar, further inconvenience arose (hardly surprising), as we were told we had missed the last boat to the Gili Islands and we would have the spend the night in Senggigi. Senggigi wasn’t the worst place in the world, but I would have much rather been on the beach on Gili T relaxing. We then finally arrived on Gili T a day later than scheduled at around 12 pm the next day.
My advice would be to forget about saving the extra 100-150,000 RP ($7.35-11) and just go with the non-hassle fast boat option, which only takes 1 hour instead of 1 day!
Surviving The Storm
It all started while we were sat down, relaxing and having some food in a restaurant alongside the beach. There we were sat down waiting for our food without a care in the world when all of a sudden the light sea breeze turned into gale force wind! Never in my life have I seen wind switch as suddenly as it did here.
While we were attempting to move out from under the flimsy structure of the outside section of the restaurant which was coming apart around us, one of the staff was stood by the beach watching it all, muttering the words to some other tourists ‘here it is, the storm that comes every year, this will last for days!’
We’re very thankful we were on dry land and not on a boat trip at the time of the storm. The boats in the water were going up and down continuously, while the wind would send the waves crashing against the wooden, not so steady looking structure of the boats. It must have been a very frightening experience to have been on one of these boats. I very much doubt the majority of the boats had enough life jackets for everyone on board. Luckily, none of the boats with people on at sea capsized from what I saw.
Well, contrary to the restaurant workers mutters, the storm didn’t last for days and the wind calmed down after about a couple of hours.
The beach was covered with bits of boats which had come apart during the storm and blown onto the beach. Inland there was more damage as trees had fallen down into buildings. A tree had also fallen into the power line. I use power line as a singular word, due to the reason that there is one power line which runs circular around the island, which powers everything on Gili T. Due to the tree breaking this line, this inevitably meant that the island was out of power for the foreseeable future and the hotels and restaurants were running on individual generators.
We were caught in a cashless situation once before on our travels when we arrived in El Nido in the Philippines. You might have thought we would learn from this and we would carry bits of emergency cash with us. Well, of course, we did not learn from our mistakes and once again we were in a near cashless situation.
Due to the islands main power being out until the power lines were fixed, this meant that the cash machines – you guessed it – had no power either. Unfortunately for us, this meant we had the equivalent of $2 to last us until the main power was up and running again. A diet of water and instant noodles saw us through for the next couple of days until we’d had enough and we were about to get a boat to the mainland. On our way to the boat, as if some kind of miracle, the ATM had power!! There were no more instant noodles for a while after that debacle.
Gili Islands – What Are They?
The Gili islands are made up of three islands; Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. Each island offers a different vibe and experience to each other, so there really is something to suit most.
Gili Trawangan is the main island and where most people find themselves staying at first and where you will find the majority of activities and nightlife out of the three islands.
Gili Meno is the very laid back and least developed of the three islands, you won’t find much night life here.
Gili Air is the in between of the three. There is development, but not as much as Gili T. Along with the nightlife, there are some bars, but it’s nowhere near as lively as Gili T, but there’s more to do than Gili Meno.
Snorkelling Off The Gili Islands
Tour – I am not usually a fan of the group organised tours. They do have their advantages i.e. Much cheaper to do than hiring a boat yourself, but personally, the majority of the time I have a much better time when I can look around myself and do my own thing. However, the snorkelling tour we did around the Gili Islands was fantastic, well worth the money!
We booked the tour through our guesthouse on Gili Air, but there are many places around the islands where tours can be booked. The price for the tour was 100,000 RP ($7.36) each.
The tour ran from 9:30am-2:30 pm, stopping off around Gili Air and Meno for snorkelling and we stopped at Gili Meno for around an hour for lunch.
By Ourselves –
Above I mentioned that if you want to do snorkelling by yourself rather than a tour, hiring a private boat can be pricey unless there are a fair few of you. Luckily, there is a perfect spot for spotting turtles approximately 10 metres of the coast of Gili T.
Grab yourself a snorkel, mask and fins (I’d say fins are definitely worth getting as the current can be quite strong), these aren’t difficult to hire. There are plenty of stalls by around the island where a snorkel, mask and fins can be hired for around 40,000 RP ($3).
After you’ve got the snorkel, mask and fins, you’re all set. Make your way along the beach to the north-east of the island and swim out around 10-15 metres off the coast, to just before the sea floor drops dramatically. I’m not saying you’re guaranteed to see turtles while you’re out there, but there’s certainly a good chance. We saw 3 turtles in around 2 hours while we were out snorkelling.
The Gili Islands were certainly one of my favourite destinations during my travels around South East Asia. I much preferred these beautiful triplet of islands to Kuta, Bali. I would say the Gili Islands were definitely more of a backpacker destination, rather than a holiday destination like Kuta. In hindsight, I would have spent much more time on these islands and a lot less time in Kuta. Although there are still a lot of amazing places in Bali which are well worth exploring. If you’re looking for amazing beaches, good nightlife and the chance of seeing turtles, get yourself to the Gili Islands.