Near Pemenang a road leads to Bangsal, the embarkation point for the three Gili Islands, which are just off the coast. The public bemo don't go all the way to the small town, but stop on a side road. There is a money changer and a cidomo is also available.
All three islands have white sand beaches, clear water for snorkeling and cheap accommodation in bungalows. Most hotels can be found on Gili Meno. You can rent a boat for a trip along all islands. Especially in the main season - June until the beginning of September - this is a good thing, because the available accommodation fills up rather quick. The beach is the only place to sleep then.
Gili Air: Most Crowded
Gili Air is closest from Bangsal and is the most densely populated island of the three. Most people live in the south, were the most bungalows are as well. The beach runs around the entire island. The best places for sunbathing and snorkeling are along both sides of thee shop with diving gear with the name Boronang. The shop rents gears and organizes excursions to Pak Nasutions favorite diving spot, 45 minutes to the north by boat. There is a hot source about 10 meters under the sea level which produces fresh water.
The water around Gili Air is crystal clear, but there is not much to see for snorkelers. The coral has been blown away with dynamite and there is not much fish as well; sometimes there are dangerous jelly-fish which force visitors out of the sea. The best place for snorkeling is the edge of the cliff which surrounds the island; the coral descends to about 14 to 20 meters.
Gili Meno: Hotels and Blue Coral
Gili Meni, the central island, is home to only a few hundred residents. The most quiet and least exploited island of the three, makes Gili Meno also the most attractive. Drinking water is brought in from Lombok. The sources of the island only bring in salt water which is hardly good enough to bath in. Just inland is a big salt lake, which is separated by small dams for salt mining, which takes place in the dry season (May until October). The dry times are sometimes marked by cholera on the island. The rest of the year there are malaria mosquitoes; don't forget tablets and a mosquito net.
The hotels and bungalows are located along the southeastern coast. They offer a nice view over Gili Air and Gunung Rinjani in the east. The best place for snorkling is the northeastern coast, near the Blue Coral Bungalow, which has it's name from the blue-colored corals just offshore. The reef offers a big variety of coral spiecies and small, colorful fish.
Gili Trawangan: Snorkling Paradise
Gili Trawangan, most offshore, is with 3,5 sq.km. the biggest of the three Gili's. Many of the residents are, like the other people of the Gili's, descendants of Buginese migrants from South-Sulawesi. They have interchanged with the local Sasak-population and speak the Sasak language as well.
On the climax of the tourist season, the months July and August, many of the daily flood of tourists which leave from Bangsal find a place to sleep on the beach. All losmen are located along the eastern coast. The young, mainly European tourists which come to the Gili's, spend their days on the beach, sunbathing. Snorkeling and playing frisbee are the favorite sports. On many places you can rent goggles and other diving gear. The reefs off the eastern coast of Trawangan are reasonable, but beware of the strong currents further off the beach, they can be dangerous. A walk around the island takes about four hours.
You can find good equipped diving centers on the Gili's. Most centers also take care of the beginners, but also can provide you with the heavy things, like diving in the strong currents off the west coast of Trawangan, where divers can see huge shells (tridacna), as well as sharks, mantha's, and blue tailed rays.
Location map of The Gili islands
Last revised on December 14, 2009
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