How to get to the ‘Gillis’
We were picked up from our Senggigi homestay on Lombok, at 8.30am for the 1hr drive to the port at Bangsai. We were told the fast boats were not running due to bad sea conditions, so we would need to catch the local boat which takes 20mins. We sat waiting for about half an hour & then had to pay £3 for a pony & trap which took us 400m to the ‘port’.
I counted 36 people on board, sat on the wooden benches; half tourists & half locals with their provisions (including fruit, eggs & sarongs), I only spotted 3 life jackets. The sea, luckily for me, was flat & we arrived at our destination safely. The total cost was £12 each (inc the horse ride).
It is also easy to get to the Gillis from Bali: The shortest route is from Amed or next: Padang Bai.
We chose Gilli Meno to visit first, as it is the smallest & quietest island & the least developed. It takes only 15mins to walk from the East side to the West side of the island & 90 mins to walk around the circumference.
There are approximately 400 residents who live here, mainly in the centre of the island around the mosque. Like the majority of Indonesia, the islands are predominantly Muslim. For this reason there are no dogs on any of the Gilli Islands which makes a nice change. Instead the island has 100s of cats along with chickens, cows & goats. In addition there are many ponies which power the main form of transport here, as motorised vehicles are banned (we did spot a couple of electric bicycles).
Crime is low on the island as it is governed by the island community, who we read, punish offenders by making them take ‘a walk of shame’ around the island. The sense of village unity is extremely strong here & people seem to know everyone & help each other.
Currently the balance seems to be working with tourist accommodation around the perimeter of the island & the village in the centre. Like most developing places we’ve visited though, it appears on the cusp. When tourists tire of Gilli T & then Gilli A, will they move on to Gilli M? I hope not.
We stayed in the centre of the island by the mosque, in a simple but friendly homestay: Putri Homestay. Breakfast was amazing & the family couldn’t do enough to help us.
Gilli ‘T’ as it’s known, is the largest island & popular with younger tourists. It’s known as the party island. We decided to take a day trip over from Gilli M as we wanted to see it, but not necessarily experience it by staying there. Unfortunately the sea was rough the day we planned to go & we decided to cancel. Having spoken to fellow travelers, I don’t think we missed out.
According to the guides Gilli ‘A’ as it’s known, is the middle sized island & popular with couples, groups & young families. It has a wider choice of restaurants with International dining options & a wider standard of accomodation than Gilli M (budget to luxury) . It is therefore popular with tourists who want certain amenities & home comforts. We decided to stay on the island to compare it with Gilli Meno.
From the moment we arrived we were struck by the number of tourists. It feels crowded especially around the port area.
Our accomodation was on the other side of the island & rather than pay £6 for a horse (much more than Gilli M) we walked the 15min walk.
Our accommodation was £3 a night more than Gilli M but far inferior (without: Aircon, free drinking water, hot shower, free tea & coffee or breakfast that we had on Gilli M). The room was stifling hot & seemed to be a magnet for a multitude of creepy crawlies that found their way in.
All in all, we much preferred Gilli Meno, with its laid back culture, quiet rural setting, village location, friendly people & lack of tourist hordes.
Next stop … Back to Bali by boat, then flying from Depensar to Sumatra.