gili islands day trip blog 2017 lombok indonesia

Lombok to Gili Islands: Snorkeling and island hopping

Sitting on top of the fast boat from Bangsal Port, it was easy to see and understand why the Gili Islands are popular with travelers. White powdery sand, coconut trees, and water with different shades of blue. It was paradise right in front of our eyes. After being landlocked for our first few days of Trip of Wonders, we were excited to finally hit Indonesian waters for a day trip to the Gili Islands!

More of Lombok: Sasak Sade: One of Lombok’s Colorful Traditional Villages

How to Easily Reach Gili Islands from Lombok

If you’re planning a trip to Gili Trawangan from Lombok (Bangsal Port or other ports), you have a few transportation options to choose from. Here are the three most popular ways to get to the island:

Public Ferry

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The public ferry is the most affordable way to get to Gili Trawangan. The ferry runs from Bangsal Port to Gili Trawangan every hour between 8 am and 5 pm. The journey takes approximately 30 minutes.

However, keep in mind that the public ferry can get crowded, especially during peak travel season, so it’s best to arrive early to secure your spot.

Speedboat Services

Speedboats are a faster and more comfortable way to get to Gili Trawangan. Several speedboat operators run services from Bangsal Port to Gili Trawangan throughout the day.

The journey takes approximately 15-20 minutes and prices depend on the operator and the type of boat. Some speedboat services also offer hotel pick-up and drop-off for an additional fee.

Private Boat Hire

If you’re traveling with a group or prefer a more personalized experience, consider hiring a private boat. Private boat hire allows you to customize your itinerary and travel at your own pace.

You can negotiate the price with the boat owner but expect to pay around IDR 500,000-1,000,000 for a one-way trip to Gili Trawangan.

Keep in mind that private boats may not be as regulated as public ferries or speedboat services, so it’s important to choose a reputable operator and ensure that safety measures are in place.

From Lombok Airport to Gili Islands

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No matter which transportation option you choose, make sure to check the weather conditions before you travel and bring plenty of water and sunscreen. With these options, you can easily get to Gili Trawangan from Bangsal Port and start enjoying the island’s beautiful beaches and laid-back atmosphere.

Gili Islands Day Trip from Lombok

Gili Trawangan

From our hotel in Mataram, our tour bus took us to the harbor (Bangsal Port), passing by towns and finally a glimpse of Lombok’s coastline.

Feeling a bit braver this time, I followed some of my Trip of Wonders batchmates on top of the fast boat. The strong winds and salt water on our faces and hair were a small price to pay for the beauty right in front of us when we docked.

It reminded me of the beaches of El Nido where I was frolicking in before this trip. The blue waters were like something out of a painting. From light to navy blue, signaling how deep those waters are.

I have this irrational fear of seawater where I cannot see what’s on the bottom. So seeing how clear the waters are near the dock made my heart flutter!

After changing boats, getting some snorkeling gear, and changing into our swimsuits, we boarded a smaller boat to take us island hopping around the Gili Islands.

Gili Islands

Photo by Tom Bixler on Unsplash

Off the northwest coast of Lombok lies little islands perfect for beach lovers and underwater explorers. According to one of our Indonesian friends, Gili means Island in the local language. So saying Gili Islands is redundant! 😀

Among the main three islands, Gili T, as Gili Trawangan is famously known, is also the most popular (read: crowded). It is best known for being the “party” island, while Gili Meno is said to be more suitable for couples and families. Gili Air, meanwhile, is the one closest to the mainland and makes you feel like you’re a part of the local community.

  • Gili Trawangan: the largest and most developed of the three. It offers a lively nightlife scene with beachfront bars and restaurants, making it popular among backpackers and young travelers. Despite its party reputation, Gili Trawangan also boasts beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters ideal for snorkeling and diving, and stunning sunsets.
  • Gili Meno: Considered the most tranquil and peaceful of the Gili Islands, Gili Meno is perfect for travelers seeking a serene escape. It is less developed than Gili Trawangan and Gili Air, offering secluded beaches, pristine coral reefs, and a slower pace of life. Gili Meno is a popular destination for honeymooners and couples looking for a romantic getaway.
  • Gili Air: Positioned between Gili Trawangan and Gili Meno, Gili Air strikes a balance between tranquility and activity. It features a relaxed atmosphere with fewer crowds compared to Gili Trawangan, yet still offers a variety of accommodation options, restaurants, and water sports activities. Gili Air is known for its beautiful beaches, excellent snorkeling spots, and stunning views of Mount Rinjani on Lombok.
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It’s important to note that there are no cars or motorbikes allowed on the Gili Islands, including Gili Trawangan. The main mode of transportation is by foot, bicycle, or horse-drawn carriage known as a cidomo.

Snorkeling and diving are among the main attractions of the Gili Islands, with vibrant coral reefs teeming with colorful fish and other marine creatures. Several dive shops offer courses and guided excursions for both beginners and experienced divers.

There are also smaller islands known as “Secret Gili Islands”. They’re lesser known but they’re more serene and unexploited, offering a more off-the-beaten-path experience. Travelers often visit them in one day that includes swimming, snorkeling, and island hopping.

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  • Gili Nanggu: Located off the southwest coast of Lombok.
  • Gili Gede: Situated near Gili Nanggu, Gili Gede is the largest island in the southwest Gilis.
  • Gili Sudak: Another island near Gili Nanggu, Gili Sudak is famous for its shallow turquoise waters and white sandy beaches.
  • Gili Kedis: Known as the smallest of the Gili Islands, Gili Kedis is a tiny, uninhabited islet with a picturesque beach and clear waters.

Gili Islands Snorkeling and Island Hopping

Photo by Aria Bima on Unsplash

Our glass-bottomed boat was perfect for island hopping. It gave us a peek of the underwater world that awaits us. Some of our boatmates saw a sea turtle but I was too late in turning my head. Maybe next time I’ll get to swim with one.

Although the corals were not as colorful, we still had fun snorkeling to our heart’s content. So much so that we didn’t see that our boat was already moving away.

This had me going into a panic attack, making it harder for me to swim and breathe even with my snorkeling mask and life vest on. Very thankful for my boatmates who didn’t desert me and helped me to swim up to our boat. To this day I still didn’t know why they moved away.

That little episode didn’t deter me from enjoying our next stop, Gili Air. We docked by sun loungers along the beach and enjoyed the crystal clear waters. Soon enough, it was time to go back to Gili T for late lunch.

After refueling in Hotel Villa Ombak for a hearty lunch, we opted to walk around and find a place to chill. The others took the “cidomo (horse-drawn carriage) and bikes to explore the rest of the island, including the famous swing.

Upon Rain’s recommendation, we took a spot in one of the resto bars along the main street and sipped our Bintang and cocktails in pillow cushions on the floor. We had a view of both the beach and the street and everything was once again calm in our world.

It was hard to leave the islands because certainly, a day trip is not enough in paradise. So I’m considering this as my appetizer to the Gili Islands and I’ll surely come back for the main course and the dessert! 🙂

Quick Travel Guide to Gili Islands

How to get to Gili islands from Lombok and Bali:

Nearby international airports: Lombok International Airport (LOP) and Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS)

From Lombok: You can take a fast boat from Bangsal Port. You can either wait for the regular public boat (Note: Go as early as you can to the port and be wary of the touts!) or charter your own.

From Bali: You can take a fast boat from Padang Bai or Serangan to take you to Gili Trawangan.

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Things to do in Gili Islands (popular activities)

  • Swimming
  • Snorkeling
  • Nightlife
  • Beach Bumming
  • Surfing, kayaking, paddle boarding, wakeboarding, and other water sports
  • Diving
  • Biking
  • Visit the famous Gili swings
  • Dive and visit the underwater sculptures (Gili Meno)

When to go to Gilis:

  • Peak season: July to September; December to January
  • Low season: February to April

Accommodation choices: Where to stay in Gili Islands

There are a wide variety of accommodation options available on the three islands. From beach shacks to 5-star resorts and everything in between.

Check here for discounted rates at Gili Islands:


Where else to go in Indonesia? Check out the rest here:


 Disclosure: I was invited to join the Trip of Wonders in September 2016 for Wonderful Indonesia. Thank you to the Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia. Although this is a sponsored trip, all opinions and biases are my own.

Darlene is currently on the road again and traveling full-time after being an expat/overseas Filipino worker in Qatar. She's rediscovering what it means to travel solo and in her 30s while working on her blogs.


  • Carrot

    Great place it is in Indonesia. Loved the photographs, would definitely plan it in my travel itinerary.

  • I only knew Bali in Indonesia and it’s good to read from your blog that there is also a Gili Islands. Now i have a lot of options to choose.

  • This is the really amazing destination for this year traveling, It will certainly beat backpacking trip. Btw, amazing shot of photos.

  • This place looks lovely! Seriously, that photo of the beach just seems so serene!

  • Wow!! beautiful photos, that place is amazing!!! 😀

  • The Gilis are amazingly beautiful and your photos show that 🙂 Great post!

  • I’ve always wondered what the difference is between the different Gili islands so thanks for clearing that up! I’m really hoping to get to Indonesia soon and your photos are seriously wanderlust-invoking! P.S. I don’t love not being able to see the bottom either!

  • Chitrangi Sharma

    Great post ! Specially the photographs are extremely beautiful. 🙂

  • Adam Kevin

    This is truly a well researched and fabulously written guide that brings out all the beauty of this lovely place that I am now every enthusiastic about visiting- after reading Darlene’s guide. The pictures are spellbinding and I am sure lend themselves and exposes richly the beauty of these islands.

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