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Gili Air – Lombok Island – Indonesia

Gili Air – Lombok Island – Indonesia

Gili Air is the most easterly of the three Gili Islands off Lombok.

Of the three Gilis, this is the island closest to Lombok. Traditionally, Gili Air was seen as the domain of families and couples wanting a quiet, off-the-beaten-path escape, while the rowdier hoardes had their fun on Gili Trawangan. With Trawangan now upscaling so obviously, more and more backpackers seem to be chosing Gili Air as their primary option. This island has more of a rural, established feeling than the other two, and it is no surprise that many of the local Gili Islanders seem to prefer living on Gili Air, and that it has the highest permanent population of about 1,800.

Most of the accommodation and other tourism facilities are on the south and east coasts, facing Lombok. The boat landing is in the centre of the south coast. A coastal path leads you around the perimeter of the island, and a leisurely stroll all the way around will take about 90 min. For such a small island, the maze of paths that criss-cross the island can get surprisingly confusing, but these always lead back to the coast path eventually.

Get in
By Boat
The sea is calmest in the morning and all transport stops running in the late-afternoon, well before dark. During periods of southerly winds and in July and August especially, the swell can be a bit hairy and you are very likely to get wet on the crossing. It is advisable to place laptops, cameras and handphones in waterproof bags for the crossing. You will need to wade through shallow sea when disembarking, so wear either appropriate footwear, or none at all.

From Bali
Not All fast boat operators stop at Gili Air. Here are some of the ones that do:

Gilifastboat.com offers a twice daily high-speed schedule to Gili Air from Amed on the East coast of Bali. Boats depart Amed at 10AM and 3:30PM with arrivals on Gili Air at 11:30AM and 5PM. Prices are Rp 600.000 (one-way) and Rp 1,100.000 (return) and tickets can be booked online.

Scoot Cruises also now departs from Sanur in Bali and stops in Lembongan, Lombok and Gili Air. Gili Getaway (formerly Island getaway) go directly to Gili Tawangan but offer a transfer service to Gili Air as soon as you arrive.

Also Kudahitam and Semaya one both stop at Gili Air.

To check live seat availability on a variety of trusted carriers (including many of the above) and book boat tickets online, use the recently established www.gilifastboat.com website.

From Lombok
Public boats depart from Bangsal between 8AM-5PM but often no later than 4PM and are fewer in number than go to Gili Trawangan. The voyage takes about 30 min and the official price is Rp 12,000 (from December 1st 2014). Sometimes these services only depart when there are enough people, normally a minimum of 15 is enough. If numbers are insufficient you may have to endure a wait at Bangsal. The official maximum is 20 people but sometimes the boat is overloaded by the time it is ready to depart. The best time to be sure of a crossing to Gili Air is 2PM-3:30PM in the afternoon however this can vary, especially with weather or passenger loads.

From the Lombok International Airport by taxi is about 350,000 around 2 hours if it’s a “normal” driver, there are a few taxi providers before you step out of the airport gate.

Buy your tickets direct from the official Koperasi Angkutan Laut Karya Bahari office. In Bangsal this is located inside the main building near the door at the eastern corner. The Koperasi operate the Public Boat, the Shuttle boat, the Island Hopping boat and also offer (official) Charter boats. The office lady still encourage you to buy the rest of the tickets to ensure that you depart on time, but actually it fulled within half hour with locals (by the time I took on April 15th 2014).

There is a ticket office on Gili Air to buy your ticket back to Bangsal, it is located adjacent to the arrival and departure point.

Public boat (ferry)
This is the standard method to reach Gili Air and is used by both local residents and tourists. The maximum number of passengers is fixed at 20 persons but it is often overloaded with goods and or passengers. If it seems clearly unsafe due to either overloading or prevailing weather conditions then it is most likely best not to board it.

– Bangsal to Gili Air 1 way is Rp 20,000 – (from December 1st 2015)
– Gili Air to Bangsal 1 way is Rp 20,000 – (the earliest deaprt at 7:30 am, the next around 8:30, it includes the time for slow boarding)

Shuttle boat
This service supplements the Public boat (ferry) service.

– Bangsal to Gili Air departs at 5PM, the official price is Rp 45,000.
– Gili Air to Bangsal departs at 8:15AM, the official price is Rp 35,000.
(This is more expensive than the standard Public boat cost officially fixed at Rp 18,000).

Charter boat
The official charter boat service provided by Koperasi Angkutan laut Karya Bahari is permitted to carry a maximum of 12 persons.

– Bangsal to Gili Air 1 way is Rp 155,000, return Rp 350,000
– Gili Air to Bangsal no published price
– Gili Air to Senggigi 1 way is Rp 600,000, return Rp 750,000

Informal and unofficial charters are also available from private operators to travel from Bangsal to Gili Air. If requiring one try to deal only with the boat operator, ignore the touts and ‘facilitators’ and use your time over a negotiation, any hint of haste or urgency is sure to raise the price.

There’s also a speed boat service by Koprasi Karya Bahari (phone: 081802091999 )

Gili Air to:
– Bangsal 550,000
– Gili Meno 550,000
– Oboroi 600,000
– Sira 550,000
– Teluk Nara 550,000
– Senggigi 1,700,000
– Gili Trawangan 700,000; Bangsal to Gili Trawangan 750,000

Departing from Bangsal to either of the three Gili islands is rarely pleasant due to the very persistent touts who infest the place, just try to ignore them and do not listen to their generally fanciful tales that involve you paying them money to solve an imaginary transportation problem. They often provide a chorus of gloomy predictions regarding the alleged unavailability of services, then if successful they just place unknowing passengers upon the normal scheduled service or a private charter at an often seriously inflated prices.

The situation arising from the activities of pestering touts combined with confusing and inadequate formal services at Bangsal is the source of many disappointments and complaints.

From Gili Trawangan and Gili Meno
To move from one island to another the formal procedure is to take the Public boat (ferry) to Bangsal and then a further similar ferry to the required island departing from Bangsal. To return the reverse is required. This can be confusing and co-ordinating the timing with the connecting boat departing from Bangsal may be either difficult or elusive. There is also a limited official inter-island Island Hopping service provided.

Ferry operators may sometimes enter into informal arrangements with passengers to journey inter-island. In this situation a passenger boards a boat that is meant to go directly to Bangsal from one of the three Gili islands but instead it detours and sets down on the beach at another island whilst en-route. The prices are a movable feast but people will normally pay a price of around Rp 35,000. Inter-island access on the public boats in this manner is dependant upon timing, weather, loading, payment and the inclination of the crew to facilitate an inter-island journey and such arrangements are not officially sanctioned. The standard procedure is to travel to Bangsal and make a separate trip to the different island or to use the very limited official service. The price for a single journey Public Boat ferry journey from Gili Trawangan is Rp 10,000 and Gili Meno to Bangsal is Rp 9,000. The price for the subsequent Public boat to Gili Air from Bangsal is Rp 10,000, this assuming the required connection was made at Bangsal.(there will be a cheaper price if you purchase two way – checked on April 15th 2014, but lack of detail)

Get around
Walking is the best option as you can wander around the whole of Gili Air in about 90 minutes.

Bicycles are widely available for rent for Rp 30,000-50,000 per day. Some hotels might give you one as part of your accommodation package.

There are fewer horse carts (cidomos) here than on Gili Trawangan, They have become quite predatory and will lead you to believe you need one to get to your destination. Most guest houses can be walked to if you don’t have heavy bags. Negotiating seems to have gone out the window and they now charge a flat rate of Rp50,000 for any trip regardless of distance.

Freediving, breath-hold diving or apnea, is a form of diving where a person relies on his or her ability to hold their breath. With an abundance of dive sites and warm, clear waters, Gili Air is the perfect place to experience the amazing and fast growing sport of freediving. Although diving on a single breath of air may sound difficult, you will be amazed what an experienced team of freediving instructors can do for you in just a few days. By applying the correct techniques, together with informative theory and practical water sessions, you can experience new sensations and realise the natural ability of the human body to dive to depths you previously thought impossible, on just one breath!

Any of the dive shops will also be able to organise snorkelling trips for you, including hire of gear. Alternatively, there are some good spots where you can snorkel from the beach. Try almost anywhere along the east coast where the fringing reef is fairly healthy and close offshore. Be careful walking in the shallow waters though as there are a lot of very spiny sea urchins in amongst the sea-grass. Equipment can be hired from almost any cafe or shack close to the beach for about Rp 30,000, or your hotel will be able to help you. Please note, the coral reef is a sensitive ecosystem, when snorkeling please swim rather than walk over the shallow reef; will be surprised how much is growing under you, as a rule of thumb, as soon as the water is up to your knees you are safe to swim.

Gili Air hardly registers a blip on the global surf scene, which is somewhat surprising. There is a poorly known, barreling right hander off the south coast called Playgili. This is by no means a straightforward wave, breaks over some very sharp coral and is best left to experienced, skilled surfers. It does not always roll, but when it does this is a good wave. Best first stop for any surfer is Ozzy’s Surf Shop, where the local crew will be keen to rent you a board and chat about the conditions.

Kite Surfing
Stefano Cavallucci runs Gili Air Watersports Club @Sun Rise Hotel with Kitesurf, wakeboard, stand up paddle, surf, and kayak. info@gilikitesurf.com

The circular walk around Gili Air is very pleasant indeed. The highlight for many would be the awe-inspiring views of massive Mount Rinjani towering over Lombok.

There is an ATM outlet of CIMB Niaga bank on the island. It is located 5 min east of the ferry arrival area. There are 2 terminals inside, the one which dispenses Rp 100,000 notes allows up to Rp 3 million per transaction from any Visa/MC (no extra charges). A second ATM can be found further north on the same main beach track past the Turtle Beach hotel. These are the only two on the island but are generally reliable. The best bet for changing money is Oseana shop located in the Harbour. Oseana shop will change a lot of different currencies. Ideally, make sure you bring enough cash with you that is already converted to Rupiah.

There are a few shops selling basic necessities close to the boat landing and on the eastern coast. In the same area there are also a couple of vendors with a reasonable collection of Lombok handicrafts for sale.

In the centre of the island (in the village, on main north-south road of the island), there’s a bigger shop (they have lots of smelly dried fish), selling, besides other things, some cheap foods (try donuts for Rp 1,000 if you are not afraid). Slightly cheaper than beach shops, but some sellers try to compensate for that when see foreigners, so the same 1.5 lt bottle of water could easily cost Rp 5,000 one day and Rp 4,000 the next one depending upon where you purchase it.

Get out
– Hop over to Gili Meno for further seclusion and a real desert island experience.
– Back to Lombok and Mount Rinjani for one of the best climbs anywhere in Indonesia.
– Bali per Fastboat depending upon the weather conditions.

Be aware that they’ll ask you to pay a Passenger Service fee Rp 250,000 if you depart from the Lombok International Airport, it says doesn’t include when you purchased your flight ticket.(checked on April 15th 2015)

there are many service agents on the island, to offer you more service to leave or arrange the trip, they could arrange your trip from a pick-up service at your stay all the way to the airport or anywhere I believe.

a charter car(private car)instead of a taxi from Bangsal to the airport was Rp 350,000 on April 15th 2015.

There’s also a shuttle bus around Rp 350,000, will take you from Gili Air through Senggigi to the airport, cheaper but takes longer.