The Gili Islands (Indonesian: Tiga Gili (Three Gilis), Kepulauan Gili [Gili Islands]) are an archipelago of three small islands — Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air — just off the northwest coast of Lombok, Indonesia. The islands are a popular destination for tourists looking for a remote island experience. Each island has several small resorts, usually consisting of a collection of huts for tourists, a small pool and restaurant. Most local inhabitants live on Trawangan in a township stretching along its east side just inland (which is also where most recent development is taking place). Automobiles and motorised traffic is prohibited on the islands by local ordinance, so the preferred method of transportation is by foot and bicycle or the horse-drawn carriage called a cidomo. Diving in and around the Gilis is also popular due to the abundance of marine life and attractive coral formations.
The name “Gili Islands” is a misnomer, because Gili simply means “small island” in Sasak. As a result most of the islands around the coast of Lombok have Gili in their names, although confusion is averted by referring (in English) to the other Gilis around the Lombok coast by their proper names only.
The Indonesian word for water is Air (AH-yer) and Gili Air was named for the being the only island of the three to have subterranean fresh water. This is acknowledged as a finite resource with some resorts and restaurants shipping in the water from the mainland.
Geography and climate
The Islands are located in the Lombok Strait, to the immediate northwest of Lombok. They extend outward from a tiny peninsula called Sire near to the village of Tanjung on Lombok. Bali lies about 35 km to the west of Gili Trawangan, the islands’ most westerly member. Both Bali and Lombok are easily visible from the Gilis in clear weather. Mount Rinjani, Indonesia’s second highest volcano, is close by on neighbouring Lombok, and dominates the views towards the east.
Due to their close proximity to the Equator, the Islands have a warm, Tropical climate with a dry and wet season. With Mount Rinjani to the immediate east on Lombok, and Mount Agung to the west on Bali, The Gilis are somewhat sheltered and actually enjoy a slightly drier Microclimate when compared to the surrounding archipelago. Dry Season usually last from May until October, with Monsoon season starting in November and continuing through to April. Temperatures range between 22 °C to 34 °C, with an average annual temperature of around 28 °C.
Although specific census records for the Gili Islands alone are not available (being incorporated into the regional census), according to the annual written register of “Kepala Desa Gili Indah” (head of the 3 Gili Islands), Mr. H.Taufiq, Gili Air has 450 families, Gili Meno 172, and Gili Trawangan 361. This puts the number of registered resident Indonesian families on the islands at 983 as of 2012. The significant number of permanent western residents is difficult to quantify as there are no official statistics to date.
Gili Trawangan is the largest of Lombok’s Gili Islands and the only one to rise significantly (30 m) above sea level. Measuring 3 km long and 2 km wide, it has a population of around 1500 (see demography). The name Trawangan originates from the Indonesian word Terowongan (Tunnel) due to the presence of a cave tunnel built there during Japanese occupation in World War 2. Of the Gilis, Trawangan is the most developed and geared towards tourism. The main concentration of settlement, recreation, accommodation and diving business is situated on the eastern side of the island. A local pub, Tîr na Nôg claims that Trawangan is the smallest island in the world with an Irish pub. It was previously administered under Lombok Barat Regency along with Senggigi until 2010 when the Gili islands came under the jurisdiction of the new North Lombok Regency (Kabupaten Lombok Utara).
On Gili Trawangan (as well as the other two Gilis), there are no motorised vehicles. The main means of transportation are bicycles (rented by locals to tourists) and cidomo (a small horse-drawn carriage). For travelling to and from each of the Gilis, locals usually use motorised boats and speedboats.
Some of the first inhabitants of Gili Trawangan were fishermen and farmers from Sulawesi. Previous to human settlement Gili Trawangan was covered in forest and deer lived on the island. (Source: Inhabitants of Gili Trawangan — no printed source available). The economy of Gili Trawangan centres on tourism, as the island is too small to support any broad scale agriculture, and too remote to allow economically viable industry or commerce. There is a mosque on the island.
Gili Meno is the middle of Lombok’s three northwest coast Gilis. Gili Meno has a population of about 500, mainly concentrated on the centre of the island (see section on demography). The main income comes from tourism, coconut plantation and fishing. On the west side of the island there is a small shallow lake that produces salt in the dry season. Until a few years ago there was also a small production of seaweed on the reef at the north end of the island. Gili Meno has swimming beaches all around the island, and a bird sanctuary.
The island attracts fewer tourists than Gili Trawangan and is the quietest and smallest of the islands. However, honeymooners are often drawn to the crystal clear water and idyllic, secluded white beaches. There is no fresh water on the island and it has to be brought by boat from Lombok. Electricity is supplied by underwater cables from Lombok. There are no cars or motorbikes.
Gili Air is the second smallest of the islands and the closest to mainland Lombok, making it popular with honeymoon couples and travellers seeking a quiet retreat. It has a population of about 1,800. The island offers excellent snorkelling and scuba diving off its east coast, and turtles can be seen along the coral reef. Other water sports such as Stand Up Paddleboarding and Kitesurfing are also now available.
Continued investment in tourism is seeing these islands develop very quickly and each year sees new resorts and accommodation on the islands while attempting to retain their individual character. Proximity to Gili Meno, the smallest and most secluded of the islands and to Gili Trawangan the largest island, known for its many restaurants and parties, makes Gili Air a happy Medium of seclusion with adequate services. Both other Islands are a quick boat ride away.
There is no motorised transport on the Islands. The short distances on land are traversed on foot, by bicycle or Cidomo. The Islands can only be reached by sea, and are frequented by a variety of fast boats operating various routes from Bali.
Flights from Ngurah Rai International Airport (IATA: DPS) to Lombok International Airport (IATA: LOP) take about 40 minutes followed by a 2hr taxi ride to Bangsal harbour in Northwest Lombok and a Local boat to the Gili Islands for a further 20-30mins.
Public Ferries depart from Padang Bai (Southeast Bali) every hour, taking a minimum of 4-5 hours to reach Lembar (Southwest Lombok), after which a taxi can be taken for a 2hr drive to Bangsal harbour where local boats to the Gili Islands await during daylight hours.
There are now numerous direct Fast boat services from Bali to the Gili Islands, all of which also service Lombok, and a few of which pass by Nusa Lembongan en-route. Prices and standards vary widely both online and locally, depending on departure point, level of comfort and operating expertise. Established daily services depart from Benoa and Serangan in South Bali and from Padangbai and Amed (Bali) in East and Northeast Bali respectively. Benoa Harbour and Serangan are around 25 min by car, (dependent upon traffic) from Kuta and the main South Bali tourist hub. Padang Bai is about another hour by road from the same point of reference. In 2011, the Gilibookings website made first provision for online e-ticketing for the fast boat sector.
Main Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gili_Islands