OLIVIA ROUND GILI TRAWANGAN ISLAND

Known for:
Diving + snorkelling
Turtles
Wild parties
Breathtaking sunsets
Island life


WHERE TO STAY

@oliviaroundtown:

Having returned to Gili twice now, the first place I stayed with my friend Michelle has closed down. Second time round, David and I opted for the North side of the island which is a little more peaceful and relaxing.

Villa Grasia: A short walk from the lively part of the island, Villa Grasia is a comfortable, clean and relaxing option if you are travelling in peak season and need respite from the yahooing travellers downing Bintangs on the beach. Staff are impeccably polite, friendly and hospitable, making us feel warmly welcomed and at home. Rooms are a decent size and very tidy with crisp white linen and frangipani flowers throughout. Relax by the pool or swim with turtles across the road at Turtle Point, and take a stroll to the left of the property at 5pm to watch the sunset.

If Villa Grasia is booked out, there’s Jambuluwuk next door.

Jambuluwuk: A quirky place with the most bizarre animal sculptures throughout the jungle themed garden, is fit out with the most luxurious pool (which is the ultimate drawcard for me), very efficient AC and pristine rooms. Great hang out areas to play table tennis, pool or lie in a hammock and read a book.

🇲🇨 Night swims every night 💙 beautiful pool at @jambuluwuk #OliviaRoundGiliT // 📷: @psychedelicpanther

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Travel tip: I love the Indonesian manner, and many people (including hotel staff) are so calm and genuine. One of my favourite parts about travelling is taking the time to talk with people about their lives and it’s amazing how much they will open up to you. It’s incredible how much you can learn about a place when you get off the beaten track, avoid tourist comfort-zones and take an open mind with you.

WHAT TO DO

The great thing about Gili is that you can relax and do nothing (make the most of island living) – or you can go crazy filling your days with partying, water-sports and adventuring!

Firstly, your main method of transport will probably be by foot.

Soft white sand beaches
Soft white sand beaches

If you’re looking for a bit more of an adventure, you can pick up a bike for around 5000 rupiah from any local dairy or “car park” to use for the day. Cycling round the island takes approximately 30 mins and is 100% worth doing. I would suggest doing so on day 1 to get your bearings so you can see how close everything really is.

Spread the positivity with these groovy bicycles (someone should rent these out on Ponsonby Road or Cuba Street)
Spread the positivity with these groovy bicycles (someone should rent these out on Ponsonby Road or Cuba Street)

Travel tip:  Avoid riding mules. They may look fun, but these poor animals are often hot and tired from charioting around lazy tourists in the heat. Instead show them some love and attention.

Mule drawn carriages

Guy with his mule

Once you’ve got your method of transport sussed, you’ll be able to whizz down to catch the sunset at one of the beach clubs. When we arrived we asked how long it would take to cycle to The Sunset Beach Club… “Oh 40 minutes, 40 minutes! You’ll never make it now! Too far!” – we soon learnt that Indonesian time is very much like “Island time” back home – basically take timeframes with a grain of salt and go with your gut. It literally took 12 minutes at moderate speed so from then on, we dedicated space in our un-planned days to watch the beautiful sunset.

Sunset bar
Sunset bar

One of the nights we rode a little bit further past Sunset Bar to Ombak Sunset. This bay is famous for the swings in the water. After watching hundreds of tourists pile onto the swings one after the other to take their Instagram pics we decided if there was one touristy pic we were going to take, this would be it.

Beautiful transition to deep blue darkness
Beautiful transition to deep blue darkness
Misty orange haze
Misty orange haze

During the days we explored the island. Here’s a list of what you can get up to:

1. Visit the turtle aquarium

Turtles in a conservation tank = animal welfare points ♡
Turtles in a conservation tank = animal welfare points ♡

2. Haggle for cheap jewellery and crafts

The men we haggled with for our bracelets – they drove a hard bargain, but we drove an even harder one!
The men we haggled with for our bracelets – they drove a hard bargain, but we drove an even harder one!

3. Go snorkelling – for $15NZL you can go for a 5 hour boat trip and visit 3 of the Gili Island reefs, and even stop for lunch at Gili air. Great trip and super cheap, would highly recommend.

Travel tip: Don’t get sunburnt. It’s easy to get carried away spotting turtles, but when you’re in the ocean for an hour or more you’re likely to get scorched. The cool water is deceptive.

4. Relax on the beach at one of the many free lounge bars

Beach beanbags

...and look at this view

5. Befriend the local cats

Me looking smitten with the Gili Dive Centre cat
Me looking smitten with the Gili Dive Centre cat
It is common for travellers to tell you not to touch any of the animals due to diseases etc., however the cats on Gili T are fine – I'm still here to tell you about it ;)
It is common for travellers to tell you not to touch any of the animals due to diseases etc., however the cats on Gili T are fine – I’m still here to tell you about it 😉

6. Drink fruit smoothies like water

Pick up a fresh juice or fruit smoothie for as little as $3NZL – Mango and banana is always a good combo, the fruit couldn't be fresher and they are served ice cold. Forget Tank, this is the real deal.
Pick up a fresh juice or fruit smoothie for as little as $3NZL – Mango and banana is always a good combo, the fruit couldn’t be fresher and they are served ice cold. Forget Tank, this is the real deal.

Travel tip: Try to avoid coming across brash. Indonesian people are rather traditional when it comes to manners and cultural communication. Remember your “Terima Kasih” (thank you) which will often be responded to with “Sama sama” (you’re welcome).

Tourist haaangry for his banana smoothie

7. Look at all the cool crafts and artwork on the side of the road

Indonesian artwork
Indonesian artwork

8. PARTY – didn’t really get any photos of this, but there are lots of great places along the main strip, just make sure to keep your wits about you – don’t take valuables or do anything your parents wouldn’t do. Definitely play music though!

Playing the Jambe with the locals at the Reggae bar
Jamming on the Jambe with locals at the Reggae bar

Travel tip: If you get sick at all during your stay, dose yourself up on probiotics (pick up some Kombucha – fermented tea that alkalizes and detoxifies the body. Kayu Cafe, $4NZL); hydrate with water (30cents); refuel your immune system with a cold pressed juice (go back to Kayu for a “Glowing Green” – Wheatgrass, celery, parsley, spinach, romaine, lemon & apple for $3.90NZL); and buy a drinking coconut as they are full of electrolytes ($2NZL).

Fresh Kombucha from Bali Buda in Ubud

WHAT TO EAT

Bale Sampan: Fresh salads, black bean falafels, wraps, juices, spinach and feta rolls, you name it, they have it. Delicious, fresh, cheap and healthy.

Pizzeria Regina: I’m definitely a full believer in trying the local cuisine, but when you have a world class Italian pizza chef running a packed restaurant on a nightly basis, you’d be silly not to pay him a visit. To be honest we returned three times.

Drinking coconuts: for only $2 NZD they’re a steal!

Fresh drinking coconuts $2NZL (when we got to Melbourne they were $6 so make the most of them!) // Also nice mixed with cheap rum which you can buy from any dairy...

PHOTOGRAPHS

Overall I would have to say Gili is one of my favourite places, mainly because the days are long, traffic doesn’t exist and you can live unplugged, not having to worry about checking your iPhone for fear of missing out because let’s face it, you’re where everyone would rather be. If I can give you one bit of advice, don’t skip out this island… even if you opt for Gili Air or Meno (the quieter of the three). Let me know if you’d like any more tips or have any questions I’d love to help.

Love,

Liv x

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