Gili Islands, Indonesia 


Gili means “tiny island” in the local Sasak language, and Lombok Island is surrounded by at least 30 gilis. But three tiny islets off the northwestern shore of Lombok—Gili Trawangen, Gili Meno, and Gili Air—have found their place on the international tourist map (particularly for young Australians) and so their names get popularly conflated, reduced, and reduplicated to simply Gili Islands. A major charm of the Gilis, apart from their natural beauty and opportunities for snorkeling and diving, is their quietude, since no motorized vehicles are permitted to ply upon them. Being desert islands without any surface sources of fresh water, these islands remained uninhabited until fairly recently, but for the temporary visits by nomadic families of Orang Laut (People of the Sea), who make their living primarily off the sea. Only less than 200 years ago, during the colonial era, when it was found that Gili Air has an underground, freshwater aquifer (“Air”, approximately pronounced as "A-yir”, means “water” in Sasak), did Sasak people begin to settle villages on it, bringing with them all the edible plants found here today, as well as cattle and cats (presumably rats and mice, also; we didn’t actually see any vermin, but the feral cats were not starving). Eventually, especially with the rise of tourism, settlement spread to the two other nearby islets, and today some 3,500 call these islands home; the locals are joined by perhaps hundreds more temporary residents from other Indonesian islands who come to work in the islands’ growing tourist industry. —Text by Usha Alexander, Dec 2016.

 

Gili Air Island

Gili Air, nearest to the mainland of Lombok, is absolutely flat and can be circumambulated in about 2.5 casual hours. Air has the largest permanent population of these three Gilis. Most of the tourist development rings the island, taking advantage of the frequent offshore breezes and stunning views of blue sea and green islands nearby, including the massive cone of Gunung Rinjani rising above Lombok. The island’s interior is parceled out into tiny fields, criss-crossed by narrow, half-paved roads, dotted by simple homes, and amply shaded by coconut palms, mango, and other food trees. Lombok can be reached within 20 minutes by motorboat.

South-eastern coast

Picking mussels

North-western coast

Tide pools

Sunset with Mt. Rinjani

East coast

East coast

View of Mt. Rinjani

Horse-drawn buggy

Bali's Mt Agung behind

Northern beach

Only transport on island

Gili Air's main street

Lined with restaurants

Lined with restaurants

Gili Air's main street

Doing American classics

Harbor area

Village in the center

Island interior

A road in the interior

Tourists

West coast beach

Picking mussels

Many shades

West coast

West coast

Visitor

Girls on the beach

West coast

Gado-Gado lunch

Mi Goreng lunch

Gili Air's main street

Seat with a view

East coast

Village in the center

Village in the center

Solar panels

Sundown (more)

Beach restaurant

Mt. Rinjani view

Eastern vista

Cats about on the island

A walking path

Unknown fruit (more)

X-mas tree with Bintang
bottles etc.

Man picking Jamun
fruit from the tree

Hiking path on island

Gili Meno Island

Immediately west of Air, across a very narrow strait, is the smaller Gili Meno, which one can easily circumnavigate in under 2 hours. Fewer people live here and fewer people visit here, compared to Air, making it the quietest of the these Gilis. Meno’s unique feature is a tiny salt lake on the western side of the island.

East coast

Beachside restaurants

East coast

Visitor

Beachside bar

Island transportation

Harvesting mussels

Boat repair

Walking path

Walking path (more)

Walking path (more)

Walking path

Beach vista

Beach vista

Beach vista

Beach vista

Village homes

Walking path

Walking path

Village home (more)

Lunch with a view (more)

Beach vista

Beach vista

Penthouse on the beach

Tannins in water

Salt Lake

Salt Lake (more)

Island interior

Goat

Turtle nursery

Gili Meno mosque

Coast of Gili Meno

Beach vista

Beach vista

Beach vista

Beach vista

Gili Trawangan Island

Gili Trawangen, or “Gili T,” just a short jump to the west of Meno, is the largest of these islets. Because it’s closer to the most popular dive sites, Gili T was the first to draw a crowd of international tourists, and remains the busiest, most crowded, and most developed of the Gilis. It might take at least 4 hours to walk around the island’s perimeter, and much longer still to explore all the shady paths of its interior, including climbing its one low butte, which was used as a lookout during WWII; this island gets its name (Trawangen = “tunnel”) from the underground tunnels that the Japanese occupiers dug at that time (no longer there). A crowd of rowdy partiers overflowing from Bali keep this place jumping, especially along the southeastern coast, which seems to be the main tourist hub. From its western coast, Bali’s Gunung Agung volcano can be seen rising sharply in the mid-distance, and Nusa Pendida floats in the mists of the southern horizon. The mainland of Lombok can be reached in 30-40 minutes by water shuttle.

Gili T east coast

Main street

Shisha bar + Indian food

Main street (more)

Coastal road

Beach vista

Washing a horse

A little forest

Burning trash

Truly free range chickens

Village street

Village street

Tourist quarter

Tourist quarter

Tourist quarter

Tourist quarter

Beach vista

Beach vista

Beach vista

Beach vista

 

 



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