Ahhhhh Gili Air…a magical little island nestled between Lombok and Bali. Picture white sand beaches, sandy roads, epic sunsets, tranquility, delicious fresh seafood, and astonishing snorkeling and diving. It’s tough to describe just how marvelous it really is, but I’ll do my best!
There are three Gili islands, and we chose Gili Air because it is known to be much more chill than its neighboring party island, Gili Trawangan (which you should definitely go to if you want to party!).
Getting to Gili Air is a bit of a task, but totally worth the trek.
Option 1: Fly to Denpassar, Bali, then take a small, 50min flight to Lombok. Take a boat from Lombok to Gili Air.
Option 2: Fastboat (our choice): We flew into Denpassar, Bali, really late at night, so we stayed near the airport at the Hilton Garden Inn, which was fantastic. After arriving at the hotel, we booked tickets for the fastboat online, with a company that I would not recommend. I would suggest pre-booking your tickets ahead of time with a company that you research and know has good service. Ours was a last minute booking and wasn’t exactly great.
The next morning, we hired a driver for $21.00USD to drive us 1.5 hours to Padangbai Ferry Terminal. Our fastboat tickets were $50USD each from Padangbai to Gili Air (photo below is the unloading of our luggage off the fast boat, an experience all in itself).
If you have more time than money, there is a public ferry to the Gili’s that takes 4-5 hours for about $3USD (IDR 40,000).
Once you arrive at the island, you can hop in a horse carriage to your accommodation for $7USD (100,000IDR), or save the money and walk to your accommodation (the entire island of Gili Air is only 5km all the way around). That’s right, I said ‘HORSE CARRIAGE,’ because there are no motorized vehicles on any of the Gili Islands, which add to their character. Riding in these carriages is quite terrifying….imagine the movie Gladiator, without Russell Crow. Close your eyes, it’ll all be over soon!
Being an animal lover, I also felt totally terrible for these poor horses, but, my husband refused to carry 100lbs worth of suitcases across the island…SO, when in Rome…
Where To Stay
If budget permits and you want an AMAZING open water dive experience, then Manta Dive is the BEST place to stay and get your training. They offer packages that include the dive cert and accommodation for 4 nights, around $500USDpp. Of course, you can stay elsewhere and just take the course at Manta, but we chose to make it simple and stay at their bungalows instead. The rooms are modern, spacious, air conditioned, come with a safety box, have a partial open bathroom and the service is excellent. Overall, it was much more accommodating and nice than we could have imagined for a remote, rustic island. Breakfast is also included, which is a nice bonus and you get a 10% discount at the neighboring restaurant for being a Manta guest. http://www.manta-dive-giliair.com
We arrived a day early to Gili Air and had to stay one night at Sunrise Beach Resort, which is a 2 minute walk from Manta Dive, and is MUCH more cost effective at $45USD per night, although we did not have air condition in our room and the accommodation was much more rustic. The breakfast buffet (included in the room rate), was great and the wifi was the best on the island. http://www.sunrisegiliair.com
The Open Water Dive Course
There are two different types of courses available in order to become a certified, open water diver, PADI and SSI. We chose SSI, because the instructors have more freedom to teach you the skills you need help on. In PADI, the curriculum is much more strict and, if you haven’t mastered step A, you cannot move onto step B or C.
For example: I had no issues with many parts of the course, except clearing my facemask underwater. If we took PADI, I wouldn’t have been able to move on to the second open water dive, without first mastering that skill. With SSI, I was able to do the second open water dive and my instructor had the freedom to practice that specific skill with me so I could be comfortable and master it. Thus, SSI was the best fit for us because of the freedom in the curriculum.
The course takes 3 full days, from about 8:30am-4pm, breaking for lunch. Two mornings were spent in the pool and two afternoons were spent in the ocean diving. Manta Dive also has the deepest pool for training on the island, at 3 meters deep (10feet), which helps a LOT with training. The last and final day included a morning and afternoon dive, thus giving four total open water dives. You are required to take a written test, as well as watch 3-4 videos, which focus primarily on safety.
Our instructor, Kimmo, was ABSOLUTELY incredible! He was extremely knowledgeable, patient, kind and you could tell he really enjoyed his job. We had such an amazing experience with this course because of him.
If you’re hesitant about diving, put your fears aside and take the open water dive course. I can honestly say that I was super scared at some points in the deep ocean, but the more I gained experience, the more comfortable I felt. There’s a whole beautiful world under the sea! We saw beautiful sea turtles, clownfish (Nemo!) and many other colorful fish and wildlife! My only regret is not doing the certification sooner and diving in all the amazingly beautiful place Southeast Asia has to offer!
Getting in a good workout in Gili Air
I never dreamed in a million years that we’d be able to find a gym, with weights on the remote island of Gili Air, but we did! Although it’s quite rustic, a bit difficult to find, and the weights aren’t really what they say they are, Holiday Fit Gili Air totally sufficed for getting in some weight sessions. The gym has a bench, Smith Machine, free weights, a pull up bar and basic machines for upper/lower body. The price for one week is approx. $12USD and they even give you a cold/wet towel and water with each entry.
How to get there: The gym is located on the east side of the island. Follow the main road until you get to Gita Gili and there will be a small sign signaling you to go down a back road. Follow this road about 5 minutes and you’ll see Holiday Fit on your left.
Food, Drinks and Sunset Spots in Gili Air
The Gilis’ are known for their epic sunsets and the best spot on the island is Mowie’s, located on the southwest part of island (about a 15-20 minute walk from Manta). Here, you can sip wine, a cocktail or have a light dinner while mesmerizing in an EPIC Indonesian sunset. Be SURE to get there early (like 1.5 hours early), as seats fill up quick! http://www.mowiesgiliair.com
Sunrise Café, located in front of the resort, had a GREAT menu for lunch and dinner, with the tuna being the best!
For drinks, there’s an endless amount of bars, but our favorite was Chill Out Restaurant (they offer happy hour- buy one get one free!). They also have a huge menu, which includes cuisines from all over the world. http://www.chilloutbargiliair.com
It was an EPIC trip to remember and we can’t wait to go back!