Indonesia is a country full of beautiful islands, the most famous being Bali, but there’s a trio of spectacular islands known at the Gili Islands. Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan (commonly known as Gili T) form a threesome of incredible places to relax, sunbathe and take a cool coconut drink on the beach. Well, since we were already in one famous destination, we decided we’d try out another!
THE JOURNEY TO PARADISE
We woke up bright and early, full of energy and excitement at the prospect of our trip to Gili. Unlike most travellers, we were a little pushed for time so opted for the day trip, but we’ve heard several amazing tales of sunrises on the islands – so, if you have the time, try an overnight stay!
Having bartered the price of the trip the day before, we headed out with our tickets and got on the hour and a half long “coach” (or, in Balinese style, a run down van) to Sanur Beach, where we transferred onto a “fastboat”.
Fair warning, it’s cheap for a reason. In all seriousness, the fast boats to the Gili Islands have hundreds of terrible reviews from customers of all ages. Prepare yourselves for a three hour trip in the blistering heat, wondering where your luggage is and praying you don’t vomit all over the poor person in front. Luckily for us, we weren’t there during peak season, where we’ve heard horror stories about overfilled boats.
But – fear not! We definitely had the trip of a lifetime!
We disembarked on the sandy shores of Gili Meno, and gazed around in wonder. All around were little wooden huts, selling snorkelling or snacks and looking perfectly picturesque. As we ventured up onto the makeshift roads (dusty tracks, shaded by trees), we witnessed the public transport available on the island: horse and carriage! There are no cars or motorbikes on the Gili Islands, making it a timeless, unique experience!
While Gili T has a reputation for partying and having legal drugs (watch out when ordering mushroom pizza!), all three islands are famed for their stunning snorkelling and swimming trips. All along the beachfront, there are stalls selling day trips and renting masks and fins, so we headed over and bartered for our trip.
We ended up on a little fishing boat with a father and son, ready for snorkelling! As usual, the Indonesians were incredibly friendly and helpful; after we told our captain that we wanted to swim with turtles, he took us to his favourite, lucky spots. We did five swims throughout the day, cooling off in the beautiful ocean and admiring the wonderful undersea life.
Finally, we got the signal and saw over to our captain, who pointed below at two enormous turtles swimming with the tropical fish! And, let us tell you, they are faster than you think! The minute we dove and tried to get a closer picture, they swam away into the deep blue sea – but fear not! There turned out to be more turtles camouflaged in the seaweed, and we managed to get an underwater photoshoot on the way!
The vast array of sea creatures was a real treat on our trip. From turtles to blue tangs (aka Dories from Finding Nemo), we really got what we came for! We even managed to dive and grab a starfish for a close up picture!
After a few hours, we returned to shore and treated ourselves to a fresh coconut milk drink, just what we needed after a tiring day of swimming! Even though the weather had seemed to turn, we managed to avoid rain and even got a tan – success all round!
So, after a wonderful day swimming in the deep blue sea, sipping on coconuts and lapping up the sunshine, we braced the fastboat once again and finally made it back to Bali. And that was when the trouble began.
Unbeknownst to us, we’d been given the wrong ticket to get home; the ticket office on Gili Meno had read our address wrong and issued us a ticket for the wrong coach home. Ignorant to this mistake, we hopped aboard the coach, gave our accommodation name and sat back in total ease.
Not ten minutes later, the bus pulled up and called out our name. Confused, we explained that we were staying two hours away and this was absolutely not our accommodation – and luckily, there was another passenger who translated for us. After much arguing and having to stand our ground, the driver furiously continued driving (quite maniacally), until everyone had been dropped off and it was the last stop. He took us to Ubud, two hours from our accommodation, and demanded that we get out.
Naturally, we refused. After a heated argument, and threats to call the police, we took his details and marched off to a police station ourselves, seething. It was dark by this point, and we’d been stranded two hours from where we lived because of a mistake in admin that was not our fault! The injustice continued at the police station, where the officers laughed and shrugged, clearly unperturbed by our problem – but more than happy to take pictures with us! They simply rang the company, listened to their lies that it was all our fault (??) and called us a taxi.
Tired, defeated and fed up, we headed home, resigned to the fact that we’d have to pay for our transport home despite having bought a return ticket with the tour company. At least the driver was friendly and funny, playing upbeat music after we’d told him our dramatic day!
Fear not guys: the next day, we marched up to the boat company’s head office and demanded a refund. After three hours of arguing and sit-in protesting, they refunded half of the amount of money just to shut us up, and we decided to take the victory! It was disappointing to encounter such nice people on the island, and such rude staff members at the headquarters, but no harm no foul!
Despite this slight hitch, the Gili Island trip was fantastic, unique and unforgettable! Things are never going to go smoothly, but we managed to laugh it off and not stress, so it was a success all round!
If you can, pay slightly more (it’s still dirt cheap!) for the better tour companies to avoid our hassle, and enjoy your island hopping!