Gili actually means ‘island’ in Sasak, the local language of Lombok. There are dozens of ‘Gili’ in the area, but almost all visitors to the area know of only 3: Gili Air, Gili Meno, and Gili Trawangan – “the Gilis” as they are popularly known.
These three islands’ fortunes have risen and fell over the last 20 years or so, but it’s now boom-time for the islands. Overdevelopment threatens what makes them unique in the first place. But all is not lost.
Broadly speaking, Meno is the quietest, Trawangan is the party island, and Air is somwhere in between.
More recently Gili Meno has become the luxury option, although luxury developments are cropping up on all three islands. David Hasslehoff just bought a luxury villa on Meno!
Gili Air has developed beyond belief in the last 5 years, but still somehow maintains its quiet, relaxed island vibe, with one or two places putting on parties in the evening for those who aren’t tired from sunbathing all day. It’s busy these days, and it seems especially popular with couples.
Gili Trawangan continues to be the place to party, if that’s your thing. But again there are places to stay that are hidden away, and the island is big enough that you can still find your patch of paradise if you look for it.
All three gilis have a range of accommodation options from hostels to luxury villas. As there are now so many hotels, it’s worth shopping around. If you’re looking for the really cheap places, you may not even find them online and it might be worth arriving without a booking and searching on foot. Although this is a risky strategy during peak seasons.
The diving in the area is good, and with so many dive operators the prices are reasonable and it’s a good place to learn to dive.
Other activities – well they are sleepy islands so sunbaking, wandering, lounging, eating and enjoying the views are high of people’s priority list. The reefs just off the beach are worth a snorkel, and you’re almost guaranteed to see turtles if you snorkel near Gili Meno.
Our advice, get there soon. Visitors have already changed form predominantly backpackers to predominantly package tourists, and this does have an effect on the vibe. It’s still a wonderful place to visit, but for how long…..