The Gili Islands are a small island chain east of Bali and very close to Lombok. The main island, Gili Trawangan (Gili T), is where most people go since it offers the broadest range of accommodation and services. The other two islands, Gili Meno and Gili Air, are very small and feature a couple of really secluded beach resorts which appear to cater more to couples and families.
The best activity to do on Gili T is snorkeling. On the developed east side of the island there is a beautiful reef that is literally a few meters away from the beach. You can easily swim about 5-10 meters out and see all sorts of marine life. There’s a light to moderate current in this area but the probability of being swept away is quite low. At worst you may need to walk maybe 50 meters back to your spot on the beach. To see sea turtles, go to the northeast side of the island and swim out to where the reef drops off and you should be able to spot some there. My two mates saw some turtles but I was unlucky and didn’t see any 🙁
We found a snorkel hire stand just north of the pier (there’s only one pier) that rented out brand new mask + snorkel sets for 15,000 IDR (appx 1.5 USD / 1 GBP) for the whole day. Fins and lifevests are 15,000 IDR per day as well.
There are loads of places to stay in Gili T, ranging from homestays to 5 star resorts. We opted for a homestay because it was the cheapest option. We stayed at Pondok Ricko Homestay in the middle of town, away from the beach and paid 40,000 IDR per person per night with breakfast. Every morning we had a delicious and fresh banana pancake and tea. The 5 star resort, Villa Ombak, had rooms for 900,000 IDR per night.
There are parties on Gili T on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and sometimes on Saturdays. I think it’s a compromise between the tourist industry here and the predominantly Muslim population. The parties aren’t as wild as the ones in Kuta but are still worth going to. The diving here is supposed to be amazing and is only slightly more expensive than Koh Tao. Unfortunately since my sinuses were blocked up I didn’t get a chance to go diving. My friends went and they said the visibility was 20m each day!
It’s easy to get to Gili from Bali. There are daily ferries from multiple companies. The slow boat takes about 8 hours and costs about 300,000 IDR for a return ticket. If you take the slow boat it’s recommended that you take the earliest one at 6am. The fast boat takes about 2 hours and costs 600,000 IDR for a return ticket and they’ll drop you off almost anywhere on Bali. We got picked up from Kuta on the way to Gili and were dropped off in Ubud when we returned.