Leave the quokka selfies at home.
Bali’s next-door neighbour, Gili Trawangan doesn’t need that selfie lure, but like Rottnest, it counts the three B’s – beach, bikes and blue hues as its attractions. (A Bintang can always be the cheeky fourth!)
Gili Trawangan is a unique gateway into Bali’s past; only 20-minute boat ride from one of Indonesia’s ‘New Bali’s’ Lombok – now a direct flight from Perth with AirAsia. Gili Trawangan is the ultimate definition of a chilled-out island paradise – home to relaxed vibes, coconut trees abound, coastal swings, beachside bars all 360 degrees around. Oh, and having sublime reef and marine life within a few freestyle kicks out to sea is an added bonus!
Many people hop over to the island as part of a three-island hopping day tour (including smaller sister islands, Gili Air and Gili Meno). If time is on your side, it would be a rookie error not to call the island home for at least a night or two from spending time in Lombok. Its laidback charms are what makes this place a mecca for backpackers and those willing to travel the distance for a low-key island getaway.
Life on Gili Trawangan is in the slow lane – that’s if there was a road. The noises of horns, beeps and bustling traffic are something foreign to Gili Trawangan. Instead, the sounds of bicycle bells, jingling horse-drawn carts and trots make up for peak hour on the island which is void of all large motor vehicles. As the Uber of the island, the carts act as a novelty way to get around the main roads, with the horses decked in traditional Indonesian horse bell-sewn jewellery. For the naysayers, the carts are also used to porter suitcases to accommodation.
Naturally, the busiest parts of the island are the coastal areas, with its beige sandy coastline aligned with beach bars. From small, colourful wooden shacks to beanbags scattered across the coast, each bar takes advantage of its locale with sunrises, sunsets and views of mountainous Lombok and its sibling Gili’s all within sight. The main harbour acts as a thoroughfare of lively restaurants, bars and dive shops along a paved brick road.
As travelling from coast to coast is a short affair, it is hard not to the urge to explore more of it – just only metres below it. The Gili Islands are one of Indonesia’s most famed world-class diving spots. There is a surplus of scuba schools to assist your descent into its lively, colourful reefs. Even if diving is not your cup of tea, there is plenty to see from snorkelling its crystal clear seas. If opting to do it alone (minus boat), snorkel gear is for hire from many places around the island with the sightings of bright fish just metres from the coast.
Arguably, the best freedom found on Gili Trawangan is exploring the island by bike. Bikes can be rented out from all over the island. It is once you hop on two-wheels, the incredible rush of wanting to discover the backpacker Shangri-La for yourself overwhelms you. (We are not in Rottnest anymore!) The not so typical cycle traverses from the coast, into palm-laden coconut tree jungle, through small villages and farms and back to its civilization of restaurants, bars and accommodation. Its cycle is a quiet one, as the pathways are often narrow with many intersecting dirt tracks. It really does make you feel alone on the island, but its hardly worth pulling out the GPS as the coast is never that far away.
The island may make you work up a sweat under the belting sun, but it’s worth it. One dip in its blue waters and all is forgiven in the adventure island for beginners.
Book your flights to Lombok with AirAsia.
Image Source: Julia D’Orazio
Julia travelled as a guest of Visit Indonesia Tourism and AirAsia.