Introducing Gili Trawangan
Home is a strange concept, when you have no permanent address. For how long do you need to stay still, to put down your backpack and to sleep in the same bed, in order for a place to be a home? For someone who has spent the past two years crisscrossing the globe, that threshold becomes quite low.
For the last five weeks of my most recent jaunt to Southeast Asia, I called Gili Trawangan home.
I put down my bags. I made friends. I bought a bike. I started seeing someone. I paid a month’s rent. I became a regular at my favorite bars and restaurants.
Gili Trawangan is the most recent in a string of islands that I have paused to nestle into for a while. I came here with the express purpose to complete my Divemaster training – but (much) more on that later.
Gili Trawangan is the largest of three predominantly Muslim teardrop islands off the coast of Lombok, Bali’s more rugged sister isle to the East. Gili’s assets could be labeled with paint chips – hot pink sunsets over Bali’s Agung volcano, electric blue waters stocked with enough coral-munching sea turtles to guarantee sightings, eggshell white frangipanis growing wild on the side of dirt roads. Notably absent is the whir or motorbikes or the snarling of local mutts – both are banned on the island and replaced by bicycles and horse drawn buggies and kinky-tailed cats. The road that rings the island – and in many parts is no more than a clearing in the sand – is just under five miles. The entirety of Gili T, as locals affectionately call it, could fit roomily inside New York’s Central Park.
My days here were marked by dives in the island’s warm waters, studying on my balcony, yoga classes to the call of the mosque, lunches at local warungs and epic battles with the painfully slow and sporadic internet connection (the ideal place for a digital nomad this is not.) Nights ticked by with sunset bike rides around the island’s circumference, bopping around the island’s infamous bar scene, and endless rounds of vodka joss.
My time on Gili Trawangan was special, and not long enough — just yesterday I arrived back here for a second five week round on the island. In the coming weeks I plan to share details about my Divemaster course, practical information for travelers coming to the island, and my usual dose of personal oversharing. To keep things fresh, I’ll intersperse those posts with snippets about my trip home.
I hope you’re ready for a whole lot of posts about paradise — assuming I can get the internet connection to cooperate long enough.
Is there anything in particular you want to know about my time on Gili Trawangan? Ask away, and I’ll try to address is in my upcoming posts!
Oh Gili T – I was there just a few weeks ago! I’m looking forward to hearing all about how you went with your divemaster training!
Well you are in luck because I have TONS of posts coming up about it! I just can’t find a concise way to talk about such a major course 🙂
I’ve heard a lot of great things about this island- and cannot wait to read all about your adventures of your new ‘home’. And of course all your beautiful diving photos which I absolutely LOVE.
Aw, thanks Jessica! I have so many to share… better get uploading!
This place looks so beautiful – I can’t wait to get there! Hope we can make it happen next year. As digital nomads, Jess and I would like to know all about good places to rent long-term, if there are any cafes/restaurants where you can work at and which places have good wi-fi 🙂 Lots of sunset and beach photos are always welcome, too 😉
Oh Dani, I haven’t forgotten the massive email I owe you! I will warn you this is not the idea place for anyone who needs reliable internet — I’ve been in tears two out of the past three days looking for a decent enough connection to upload photos! But that was definitely information that I was looking for, so I will try to provide whatever I can 🙂
Well, you already know I want to know alllllll about the diving 🙂 But also I’m hoping you find somewhere with good internet. I’m really interested in heading here, but good internet is a requirement for me. Do they do the 3G internet sticks like in Central America…maybe those are better than the wifi there? I also want to know about the FOOD! Food is my favorite thing when I’m traveling.
Hey Rika! They do have those sticks, but you have to get them in Lombok or Bali, they don’t sell them on island. And they do go by the data rather than a monthly plan, and I was worried I would blow through it in days with so much uploading and downloading. Still, I kind of wish I had tried now!
I want to hear about everything you ate at the local food market!! Hehe, that was my favourite part of Gili T 🙂 Looking forward to reading about your adventures and seeing some more gorgeous photos!
My post on “Where to Eat in Koh Tao” was so popular, I definitely plan to do a Gili version! I must say though that I haven’t found the love for Indo food that I had for its Thai counterpart. Le sigh.
I love the Gili Islands. I spent a few weeks there for xmas and new year and agree that it really is a special place. I’d love to go back some day!
Me too, and I haven’t even left again yet 🙂 I’d love to see Gili Air and Gili Meno one of these days… I just never seem to have the time!
Love the bike in sunset photo!
Looking forward to reading about your divemaster course, Alex.
Thanks! First post goes up tomorrow 🙂
Your “usual dose of personal oversharing” is what keeps me, and I’m sure many others, coming back to your site over and over!
Thanks for saying so Nathan! I’m glad to hear that 🙂
Gili sounds interesting. Looking forward to more of your future posting Alex!
Thanks Andrew! It will be a fun challenge to try to describe this bizarre little island 🙂
Can’t wait to here all about it! The little photo snippets here are beautiful, as always!
I just could not be more in love with my iPhone 🙂 Thanks Jade!
Ha, I feel your pain with regards to the internet speed – we had a hell of a time with it on the Gili Islands! Looking forward to hearing more about your Divemaster training.
I have finally managed to find a monthly rental with (relatively) decent connections… let me know if you ever head back this way and I’ll give you some recommendations!
Gili is amazing, I just came back from there. Do you know anything about diving in Raja Ampat? That’s where I’m going next.
I know that I’m very jealous! Ha. Honestly I don’t know much as I’ve never been there but it’s a legendary dive spot. Enjoy!
Firstly, great blog name!!! I’m heading to Gili T in a couple of months so would love to read your take on the island and where to eat etc!
If you poke around in my Indonesia archives you’ll find plenty of Gili posts, Chelle! Another one is coming out today 🙂
Like it Gili T
Where would you suggest to stay on the island? I’m looking at villa ombak or more of a villa style at the trawangan resort. Thanks
Both Villa Ombak and Trawangan Resort are fantastic choices! Trawangan Resort is a little further away from the main drag, which can be either a good or bad thing depending on what you are looking for. Good luck!
Hi, My husband and I are spending 7 days on Gili T. Looking forward to along awaited vacation. We are from Montana. My husband completed his open water PADI cert in 2009. I chickended out at the time. I was hoping for a good recommendation for dive instructor/school on Gili T that is patient and fun.
Thanks a ton,
Hi Jody! I wrote a whole post on the subject — let me know if you have any questions after you check that out! Enjoy your trip!
Hey Alex, we’ll be here around New Year.
Must we book a place in advance, or is it ok get off the boat and find somewhere? (No idea if the island can book out!)
Honestly I’m really not sure! I was never there around Christmas (my visits spanned April – August) so I can’t really say. I know that it is the rainy season but the holidays can throw a wrench in anything. Good luck!
No problem, I’ll let you know our thoughts on the place once we’ve been.
It certainly looks like a nice place to bring in the New Year!
Taking my family to Gili T. for Christmas break. Our villa seems to be centrally located,
How difficult is it to get from Lombok to the island?
Is it an all cash kind of place?
Do we need to ask our villa for a cook or house boy to get the goods from the market?
We live internationally and have come to fully understand that there is a difference when our staff buys from the markets vs when I buy from the markets.
I actually never traveled between Lombok and the Gilis but from what I understand they are very easy to travel between. Restaurants, shops and most stores will be cash only — definitely stock up! Locals absolutely pay cheaper prices in the markets but I went by myself several times and still found it cheaper than home. Hope that helps!
I would be going there for a dive trip. Would be coming in from Lombok. Do you think its feasible to bring a wheelee dive bag. Does the jetty able to accomodate that, or is it better to just pack a normal bagpack ?
Hey Faz! It varies by company, but most boats seem to load and unload on the sand. I’m sure they could accommodate a wheelie bag but in general considering the roads aren’t always paved I’d recommend a backpack.
There comes a time when we actually stop to think about happiness and the path we’ve chosen regarding our personal & professional life. Guess what, I’m a long term internal auditor in banking (Lisbon/Portugal) and I did just that! Fortunately! I’m now preparing to move to Gili Trawangan, to take the MSDT Certification from scratch, to live & work there as an Instructor (also and, just like you, to buy a bike :-)) and most important, to be happy!!! (it might take a few months though, since I’m selling the majority of my assets here).
Nevertheless, I’d like to ask you a couple of questions regarding living on the island, like for example accommodation costs on a monthly basis, ATMs and / or Banks on the island (are there any?), medical assistance availability if needed, etc. Feel free to write on, please :-)) And thank you!!
Hope to see you there in the near future.
Sounds like you have some really exciting plans coming up, Ricardo! I think this post will answer a lot of your questions about accommodation and the cost of living… as for banks and hospitals, nope, there are none! There are a couple ATMs and clinics though and Bali is just a bike ride away. Hope that helps, and happy travels!
I love Gili! The dive sites are awesome and the island is just lovely. You should come to other part of Indonesia, like Derawan or Bunaken with even more amazing view, you can read about them here: http://www.jakpost.travel . Anyway nice article!
I’d love to explore more of Indonesia someday! Hopefully sooner rather than later 🙂 Thanks for the suggestions!
Just discovered your blog after searching for info. on Gili T.
I’m heading there in 2 weeks! I’ve been reading everywhere that they daily mosque prayers are quite loud and can be heard everywhere on the island. Is this true? I’m looking forward to a relaxing vacation and worried about being woken up at 4am daily. eek
Btw where is that last picture bottom left of the huts on the beach from? So cute!
The mosques are quite loud…. but you get used it after a few days 🙂 In the meantime, bring some earplugs. I can’t remember the name of that place with the beach huts, but it’s at the far north of the island. Hope that helps — enjoy your trip!
hi, i’m planning to stay at gili t for a while. what prices do i have to expect for monthly rentals? simple bungalow maybe not next to a mosque 🙂
Hey Nico! I think this post should answer all kinds of questions on the monthly costs of living in Gili Trawangan. Hope it helps!
I’m traveling from Seminyak to Gili T. Would you recommend booking boat tickets once we arrive in Bali, or via Internet in advance?
Definitely upon arrival! I am always suspicious of booking such things ahead as they are almost always marked up, and don’t allow for much flexibility. Good luck!
Olaaa.. do you know any private villa or private house to rent out? We dun mind living in the jungle as long as have wifi, kitchen for cooking, and hot shower. 🙂
I don’t know of any specifically, Charlie — I’d just check the usual sites like AirBnB, Flipkey, and VRBO. I will warn you that wifi is very rare on Gili Trawangan and will likely only be in the more high end rentals. Good luck!
Hi Alex. Just to give you some background… I am a 26 year old guy from South Africa. After graduating and working 4 years i decided i need to travel and see te world before I get ‘caged in’. So Desember 2014 I sold my car etc. and came to Thailand, with a plan of course. I love diving so after my research thailand was the place I thought would be best for by budget, diving, relaxed life etc. I became an open water diver back in 2007 and my advanced just before I came to Thailand Desember 2014. So since January, I did my rescue and EFR in Phuket, and currently I am in my last stretch of my DMT. But I made a bad choice… I am doing my DMT with a Korean, lady instructor. She is a very good instructor and I chose her to be my instructor for her methods and the initial feeling i got after talking to her etc. But now, after a month of training, I am not feeling that I am getting what I need, mostly because of bad communication. Also the dive company caters mostly for koreans so even though i join the dive trips as assistant etc. Most of the time the students or clients don’t even speak english. So I am not happy and not feeling that vibe of being a divemaster is fun etc. I look at english speaking DMs and instructors on the boat, listen to their briwfings etc. and i get excited about their situation. But not mine, siting there not being able to chat to ‘my clients/students’ and giving breifings to them even though they dont understand. No questions and answers going on… So obviously I know I made my choice, but now realize it was a wrong choice but I am so close to finishing the DMT requirements. So my actual question… Do you have any advice for me. Should I just quit and lose the +- 30000 THB I paid in full already and find myself a new instructor/company after doing a lot of reasearch and chatting to loads of other divers, dmts and instructors, or finish my DMT getting the padi dm certification which wouldnt make me feel as a good DM at all… The only thing keeping me with this current instructor is the fact that I paid in full. But I i really need to, I can save and start the DMT all over again with a new company, paying another 30000 THB. any advice would be very much appreciated
Is it possible that you can stay with the same company but ask to be switched to a different instructor, one for whom English is a first language? I think it is very important that you be able to communicate with both your instructor and your students and it doesn’t sound like that is what you are getting. However you mention other English speaking DMs and customers on the boat — can you work with them instead? It sounds like it is time for an honest conversation with your dive company. They won’t want to sign off on an uphappy DM who feels unqualified… hopefully they will work with you to find a solution!
Gili Island is a remarkable place. The society is traditional and civilized sublime that added comfort while visiting the place. Gili Island is another alternative besides Bali as a tourist spot. It is a remarkable place. pristine environment, and pristine flora fauna, adds to the beauty and uniqueness of Gili island. Nice share.
Thanks Kerry! Gili holds a really special place in my heart. Miss it dearly!
Thinking of Gili T over Xmas/New year this year. Do you have any tips on this i.e. best places to be for festivities (not too hectic) and good accommodation? Also how best to get here from Bali….
Hey Beckie, unfortunately I’ve never been in Indonesia around that time (only in the summer) so no tips there! Check this post for accommodation and transport tips. Hope that helps. Enjoy!
Thanks a lot!
Wow! what a lovely write up and pictures… I spends 4 days in Gili T last month and witnessed the best sunrise of my life!!
You have a new fans darling!
Aw, thanks! I miss those sunrises and sunsets…