The beautiful Gili Islands of Lombok, Indonesia are located a bit far from Bali. If you are adventurous, and love sea life, you should consider visiting the Gili Islands. Gili Islands consist of three islands, Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan, also known as Gili T. All of the Gili Islands have a picturesque view, so I will do another article regarding all three of the Gili Islands.
Gili Meno Island is the smallest and also the most traditional island in the group. It is mainly known for yoga retreats and honeymoons. If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city life, you should definitely pay a visit to Gili Meno. The tranquil nature, sandy beaches, palm trees, horse carts and cottages are the things that would drive you to this island. Not to mention that the whole island is ringed by coral reefs so you can go any time to snorkel. It still did not get the touch of civilization and it is a unique experience. You will wake up early from the rooster crowing in the morning. This island is the best place to relax, and now and then take a dip in the ocean.
When to go
Tropical countries are always surprising, because I went during a peak season in January, but I faced rainstorms. There cannot be any rule book of following the seasons, as never-ending rainstorms can happen even during high season. The seasons are as follows:
HIgh Season: July-September
Mid Season: October-January
Low Season: February-May
How to go
First Step: Plane
To avoid hassle, you can directly book a airplane ticket to Lombok International Airport. You can book from AirAsia for the cheapest plane tickets. It is a very small airport which is one floor and hence there is only one exit.
Second Step: Taxi
Once you reach Lombok Airport, a lot of taxi drivers would start haggling. You should only pay for taxis from the counter. The taxi counters are located right outside the departure hall. You mention your destination place which is Bangsal harbour. English is not really understood by the locals, so it is quite hard to communicate. The price for taxi one way to the harbour would be IDR 105,000. Tell the taxi driver to take you to the Bangsal harbour or Teluk Nara. It would take you an hour or two to reach the ferry station. The drive might make you dizzy as Lombok is hilly and the roads have a lot of turns.
Third Step: Ferry
There is an app you can download for knowing about the ferry timings since sometimes the service stops due to bad weather. The app is called: “The Gilis”. It lets you also know about the weather in the Gilis, and the price of the ferry ticket. I got to know about the app which is available for both Iphones and Android from one of the westerners who has settled there. It was quite convenient for me to travel knowing the timings. It is best to book the ferry tickets once you reach the harbour.
Once you reach the Bangsal harbor, get past the gate. Then you would notice a small block of building surrounded by stalls or vendors. That is the ticket counter. Make your way in to the counter. During high season, there would be a big queue. During paying for the ticket, tell the person behind counter of your destination clearly. Then take a seat and wait for the announcement. The announcements are sometimes unclear, so notice if a lot of tourists or people start to get out of the room, and ask someone to check if it is your time to board the boat.
There are three ways you can go:
- Public boat– It is the slow boat, and is quite dirty. Mostly locals use it for their daily mode of transportation. The boats would not depart until they have enough passengers. The price for public boat one way to Gili Meno is IDR (Indonesian Rupiah) 15,000.
- Fast boat– This is a better option than public boat. It is cleaner, and is fast. Tourists prefer to travel by the fast boat. Be attentive to your own luggage, as some people might want to carry your luggage, but may steal it. If the boat staff are carrying your luggage, you have to pay them. They do not ask and start carrying right away, so you should tell them to not carry your luggage if you prefer it that way. The price for fast boat one way to Gili Meno is IDR 50,000- IDr 80,000. You can check the app for updated information.
- Private boat– It is the best option but is unquestionably pricey. The price for one way is IDR 740,000. If you book your private boat, you have to do so from before. When you book your hotel, you can book a private boat transfer from there. It would be a smooth trip in that way.
When you are almost near Gili Meno, you would be transported to a raft as the water there has lots of coral reefs. The raft would take you to the beach. Your legs would get wet while you get down from the raft, so be careful to not wet your luggage.
Where to stay
You can find some really nice places to stay in Gili Meno from Airbnb or Booking.com. Most of the people there who are in the business of hotels, cottage or villas, are the westerners. A lot of western people come and settle there because they love the sea and simple life. Once you reach Gili Meno, most of the places you might book would be in your walking distance. Or, you can take a horse carriage to your place. When you stay, try to take places that has painted furniture instead of bamboo because it is a tropical island, and there would be lots of bugs attracted to wood.
You would find local and halal food everywhere on the island. I personally did not like their pancakes, and mainly the chocolate pancakes. Their food is not exactly fingerlicking good but the fresh juices are delicious. The whole island becomes very dark after sunset, so make sure you carry torches. The food places close by 9 pm.
Rent a bicycle
You can rent a bicycle there and tour around the whole island. It will take you 45 minutes to complete your tour as the island is quite small. Moreover, the bicycle is very convenient if you want to go around.
You can surf there if the tides are high. You have to have your own surfboard or you can rent it from one of the boat men.
Kayaking would be provided by the offices right where you were dropped. Some of the seasons, they do not allow to kayak there. It was not available when I visited.
There are places right on the coast that provides you basic diving lessons so you can go and dive around the island. You do not get a license but just get to know how to dive, as it is a crash course of 30 minutes. If you want to go on a diving trip, you book the trip from one of the many stalls or from the diving areas itself.
Coral reefs surround the island, so you can just swim in the sea with your snorkelling gears and masks and watch the sea. Take care of your limbs so you don’t get scratched. You can book snorkelling trips from the diver’s place or one of the stalls.
You can take a private boat or travel with other tourists. If you do not want to get in the water, you can take a clear glass bottomed boat.
There is a man-made attraction: Bask Nest. It is the iconic underwater circle statue in Gili Meno by sculptor Jason DeCaires Taylor. It was created to make it into a habitat for the sea life. Whether you snorkel or dive there, you would be amazed by the sea life.
If you book a trip, it would include turtles’ bay, bask nest, crocodile island and some areas around Gili T and Gili Air for the corals. If you choose to travel with many, make sure to notice when your boat is about to leave.
Island Tours/ Return Ticket/ ATM
You can take a trip from Gili Meno to Gili Air or Gili T. If you want to book your return ferry ticket from Gili Meno to Bangsal Harbour, you have to book it from an office on the island. The office is located where you were dropped off once you reached Gili Meno. An ATM machine is located near the office. It is best to carry as much cash as you can because in case the ATM is down, it will take a day to fix it as the people would be coming from Lombok.
There would be massage places for you to relax and unwind. You can ask the location from your accommodation and go there for a balinese massage.
There is no police or hospital on the island as far as I saw. If there is any medical emergency, you have to book the boat ambulance for your trip to Bangsal where you can go to a hospital in Lombok.
You can order alcoholic drinks from most of the food areas but they close by 9 pm. During the high season you may come across some psychedelic fluorescent beach parties. If you want to avoid that, you can go during mid season.