Tips for visiting Gili Trawangan:
- Getting on and off the island is a big mess. Expect it to take at least an hour longer than what they tell you. Also expect to make stops on certain islands, even if they tell you it’s a direct boat. If you haven’t yet learned the meaning of Jam Karet, you now will (it means ‘rubber time’, as in time is a flexible, unpredictable commodity).
- A lot more quiet than Ubud and the towns I visited in Bali. I was told in high season it becomes very busy and there’s more partying on this island than when I was there.
- There are no cars/scooters on this island. You can get the small carts pulled by horses if you need a ride your hotel (if you have a lot of luggage) or walk everywhere (yay!).
- Gili Trawangan is a Muslim island- be prepared to be woken up around 5 am every morning to prayers being blasted out in speakers, and hear them multiple times throughout the day.
- It’s a very small island and if you like to run/bike/walk, the loop is about 7 kilometers and offers beautiful views, especially at sunset!
- If you are interested in getting your scuba diving certification, this is the place to do it! The water is so clear, the perfect temperature, there’s an abundance of coral, turtles and fish! I strongly recommend Trawangan Dive resort: the rooms are fantastic, the breakfast buffet has everything you want, the teachers awesome and the facilities clean and up to date. My friend also had a good experience with Gili divers which is only a few steps away. I was told there are 25 dive schools on this small island so plenty of options!
- Depending on which area of the island you are staying, the quality of the beaches varies. Where I was staying it was the perfect color with not too much coral but I did hear other tourists complain about how uncomfortable it was to get into the water at their hotel. I loved how close the cool refreshing water was no matter where you were on the island (if you read my other posts about Bali/Nusa Lembongan & Ceningan you will understand!)
- You can find a hotel suited for all holiday needs: romantic more secluded resorts, hostels, party hotels, diving resorts, home stays, etc!
- I had a yoga class at Gili yoga garden and I can’t say it was an excellent class but I only took one so it’s hard to judge.
- There’s a lot of live music on Gili Trawangan and if you like Reggae check out Sama Sama reggae bar (but don’t eat there, the portions are ridiculously small and they ended up only having a few options available on their menu). The Irish pub also had great live music on Saint-Patrick’s day (of course!).
- Restaurants I tried and loved: The Banyan tree, Fat cats, Scallywags for their BBQ specials, Jali kitchen for a romantic Asian-fusion experience, Gili kitchen for a more local cheap experience. Kayu Café, Thai kitchen & La Dolce Vita were also recommended by friends.
- If you’ve never had a mangosteen, you should try it! So delicious!
- Still on my to-do list :
- Explore the inside of the island as well as the more hidden restaurants that weren’t on the main street.
- Stay and enjoy the two adjoining, quieter islands, Gili Meno and Gili Air.
Impressions of Gili Trawangan:
This was my favorite part of my Bali/Indonesia trip. I think what made it so special is because it wasn’t too crowded (although I hear it becomes very busy in high season), you can walk everywhere easily, there was no noise pollution from cars, scooters or buses and you could jump in the water at any time!
I would easily have stayed at least another week! Most of my 4 days there were taken up by my PADI Scuba Diving Open Water certification and I would have liked to have more time exploring the island, Gili Meno and Gili Air, as well as dive more sites!
My new dive partner/friend and I ran the circumference of the island every night at sunset and it was fantastic! One night we got completely drenched by thunderstorms but kept going (not the best idea- I broke my earbuds because of the amount of rain that got on them!). I also met up with a friend from my exchange program in Finland while I was on Gili T. One night he and I enjoyed a low-key dinner in a quiet restaurant, the next a mediocre meal (the only one in my entire stay in Indonesia) accompanied by great reggae music and the last night we had a feast followed by a St Patrick’s day celebration at the only Irish bar on the island (and the singer was super good)!
Between the breakfast buffet at the hotel, the lunch breaks at the Banyan tree or Fat cats and dinners in a few other restaurants, I can say I was pleasantly impressed by the quality of the food for such a small island.
My only complaint would be the prayers being blasted out at every hour of the day, but that’s just part of traveling and being immersed in new cultures and environments!
Scuba Diving experience in Gili Trawangan:
It’s hard to explain how I felt on my first dive. It was a mix of calmness, detachment from the rest of the world, awe for the beauty of the new environment and thrilling feeling of ‘breathing’ under water!
Don’t worry, at Trawangan Dive they don’t just throw you in the water and let you figure it out by yourself. I spent my first morning watching videos and reading the instruction manual. We also had a few lessons in the shallow pool, to teach us how to breathe, swim/adjust our buoyancy, etc. By that afternoon, I was already diving at 12 meters! It was fantastic, I felt like an astronaut underwater ! I’ve always enjoyed snorkeling and I spent most of my childhood in a pool so I was very comfortable in this environment. I was a little bit worried about my ears before diving, because I always got this sharp pain when I was snorkeling… but 1 or 2 stops to equalize (blow into your nose while you block it) and all my fears disappeared and I was very comfortable!
We learned new skills the following day (like taking off your mask and putting it back on, sharing air with your dive buddy, etc) and went for another deeper dive on day 2. By day 3 we were diving down to 18 meters and checking different species of fish, coral, shipwrecks and turtles. We were also taught how to use a dive computer and a compass under water. After 3 days and 3 dives, swimming with thousands of fish, coral, fish wrecks and turtles… I became an Open water PADI diver! Looking back, I realize that 3 days is still a very ‘short’ training but my instructor made me feel very confident and safe.
I decided to do my first adventure deep dive the following morning before I left the island. We dove to 28.9 meters, explored a shipwreck, saw sharks, a stingray and swam with schools of fish! It was absolutely incredible. I remember looking up and seeing the bubbles of air making their way slowly up to the surface of the water, and just feeling so calm and serene. I’m still not sure if it’s because you are hugged by this beautiful blue colored water, or because you are floating around without gravity, or because you are immersed in this peaceful environment where fish see you as (probably) big dolphins just chilling with them… all I can say I am so happy my sister talked me into doing my certification here! I’m definitely hooked (pun intended).