SHE was on a fact finding mission recently to find out what all the fuss is about the Gili Islands. As a born and bred Perth girl, SHE's spent many a holiday in Bali - a 3 and a bit hour flight makes getting there a breeze! But SHE is always in search of 'new' destinations - somewhere that takes us back to the days when life was simpler, where dressing for dinner involves a slip of a dress and a pair of thongs, somewhere that's a bit off the beaten track. SHE's excited to report that these stunning 3 tiny islands sitting off the coast of Bali and Lombok proved to be everything SHE had hoped for and more! But ssshhh...don't tell anyone! SHE began this adventure in Bali. There are any number of ways to reach the Islands - by fast boat (catamarans that the companies brag are built in Australia - therefore they must be good!); by very slow boat (uh..no thanks! Seasick...ugh!); by very short flight via Lombok (tick in the box to this one!). SHE decided to take the fast boat from Padang Bai on the East Coast of Bali (about 1 hour from Sanur hotels) to Lombok - a 1 hour trip over what was thankfully a very calm ocean. All hail the Ocean Gods - SHE loves the concept of boats but doesn't always travel well on the ocean - the Lombok Strait can be awfully rough and isn't for the faint hearted at certain times of the year. Ginger tablets are highly recommended!
SHE took the opportunity to stay a couple of nights on Lombok - all those visits to Bali and SHE had never set foot on the sister island! SHE found a lovely resort - Alang Alang Villas - to relax for a few nights. Great location, nice accommodation, small and boutique - and some of the most beautiful sunsets SHE has had the good fortune to see!
Lombok is much quieter than Bali. The beaches are lovely - it's picture postcard 'palm tree hugging the coastline' scenery. The pick of the beaches is a trek from the main area of Sengiggi - venture to the south coast of the island and you'll be rewarded with beautiful white sand beaches and not too many people to share it with! There's no shopping to speak of so those of us who like a bit of retail therapy should make sure that's well and truly covered in Bali.
So with Lombok ticked off the list, it was time to find the way to the Gili Islands. SHE chartered a boat from Lombok with a day of snorkelling and island hopping in mind. The 1 hour trip to Gili Trawangan (the largest of the 3 islands) was leisurely and trouble free (those Ocean Gods were smiling again!). Ady - our trusty and incredibly competent skipper - pulled his boat into the beach and invited us to explore the island, and step back in time...
There are no cars or motorbikes on Gili T. It's walking, a push bike or a horse and cart if you want to get around here - and on a bike it takes around 1.5 hours to see it all. There's nothing to do except swim, snorkel off the beach, laze in and out of the water, eat, drink...is this sounding like the perfect escape? 3 days here and SHE felt like SHE'd been on holidays for a week. It's been a very long time - maybe all those years ago as a kid on Rottnest Island - since SHE has visited a destination that truly fits the bill for 'doing nothing'. Oh sure - you can charter a boat and explore the other 2 islands (Gili Meno and Gili Air), go diving (apparently it's fantastic) or snorkel in water that is described as turquoise - but that doesn't do it justice. It's blindingly blue and clear - and that's not normally what you'd expect in and around Bali. Wow. You can do all that or you can just relax...sigh.
This tiny island is fondly (!) referred to as the 'party island'. SHE happened to be staying when the final of the World Cup was played (don't get soccer...SHE's Aussie rules football all the way!), and on the following night, SHE ws invited to a Dance Party with what felt like the whole island and half the world's backpackers! Ahh...the universal language of music!
SHE found lovely accommodation at the Villa Unguul - only 8 months old, a little further up the beach from all those 'kids' (aka backpackers, SHE's showing her age!). There was a great swimming pool, very clean and spacious rooms - perfect! And when it's time to eat (again, yep...really, may as well!), the food's great. Choose cheap and cheerful or some of the freshest fish and best looking crayfish SHE's tasted in a long time. Sit with your feet in the sand, kick back and enjoy the laid back approach of the locals. No-one's in a hurry, everyone's smiling - it doesn't take long at all to slip into Gili T time.
All too soon it was time to leave - SHE decided to take the fast way home. Speed boat from Gili T to Lombok (around 10 hilarious minutes that felt like something out of a James Bond movie!), private car transfer to Mataram Airport (roughly 45 minutes via a very scenic road to the town that is the main gateway to Bali and beyond), and the very quick 30 minute flight to Denpasar via Garuda. SHE loved this combination - and all this meant a smooth connection with the midnight flight home to Melbourne. SHE can't wait to do this again...wanna come?