Gili Air, Lombok

On the northwest corner of Lombok are three tiny islands or “Gilis.” The three Gilis are Air, Meno, and Trawangan. Gili T is the most popular destination for travelers as it boasts a lively party atmosphere with dozens of bars lining the beach. Meno and Air are much more relaxed and just as beautiful. We chose to spend four days and nights on Gili Air, the closest Gili to the mainland and only a 15 minute public ferry ride.

Gili Air was much more deserted than I expected. Most of the coast was filled with restaurants, bars, and hotels, but a lot of the coast remained empty and natural. There were no cars on the islands and only a few scooters. Most people use bicycles or ride in the horse-drawn wagons that were found everywhere.

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The horses were decorated with bells, garlands, and trinkets in every color. The bells jingled merrily while the horses trotted along the dirt paths throughout the island.

Generally we haven’t been impressed with the food here in Indonesia, and there isn’t too much diversity from menu to menu. However, we stumbled across Warung Sunny near our homestay in the middle of the island. This warung had the most unique menu we’ve seen so far, offering traditional, yet diversely spiced street food dishes to Indonesian inspired burritos. We also tasted our first Jamu there, a healing drink made from turmeric, honey, tamarind, and ginger.

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Hero was the chef and very friendly with the guests. Throughout the restaurant “Hero Easy Bite” was scribbled on signs and walls. We ate there everyday.

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We also enjoyed healthier meals at local organic cafes. Gili Bliss served amazing smoothie bowls filled with fresh fruit, chia seeds, and handmade granola.

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It was probably the second time I had a really healthy meal while traveling, and I felt so refreshed afterward. I wished to have a smoothie bowl every morning, but they’re not so easy to find.

We also dined at Pachamama for lunch one day, another organic, vegan and gluten-free friendly cafe. I had a spicy beef bowl with ferns, quinoa, beets, pumpkin seeds, and a side of thick tomato sauce. I also ordered their house-made kombucha.

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The cafe was decorated so lovely with macrame, hanging plants, garlands, and stained wood furniture. These cafes were definitely more pricey than a standard plate of fried noodles, but it was worth experiencing healthier dishes made with local and organic products from the island farms.

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Of course it was quite rainy during our stay on Gili Air, and we found ourselves sipping cocktails or soda for hours under a beach hut.

You could walk the perimeter of the island in about 90 minutes, so no matter where you wandered you were never too far from home. We listened to more talented musicians at the bars in the evenings. While we listened to some impressive covers, other guys were spinning fire wands for even more entertainment.

We booked a snorkeling trip one day and went off with a group of 10 people to all three islands. We were hoping to see sea turtles, but I thought it wouldn’t be likely. To my surprise we saw several at our very first spot, and even more at the next one! Our guide was able to spot the turtles hiding at the bottom of the ocean, nestled into the coral. Their shells blended flawlessly with the coral, yet the guide was able to point them out to us all over. He would swim down and at a distance wave his arm around. This simple tactic got the turtles to start swimming so we could gaze at their movements. One turtle swam to the surface and periodically would stick its head out of water. We saw turtles of all sizes but most were the size of a sledding saucer. Besides the sea turtles we were able to see tropical fish and colorful coral (not as stunning as Crystal Bay, however). At one snorkel location off of Gili Meno there were two underwater sculptures. One was a huge round structure with a man and woman embracing, and this was repeated around the circumference of the circle. They stood about 10 feet tall. Sea coral and weeds were growing on the sculpture which attracted more fish to this area. It was unbelievable seeing this massive sculpture underwater and hundreds of fish swimming around the heads and in between legs of the men and women.

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We spent most of our time on Gili Air relaxing on the beach and enjoying the view of Lombok in the distance. Layered rows of mountains stretched before us with Rinjani towering over all the rest. We never saw the peak because of the clouds, and the dark sky around the summit suggested a constant rain. Our next destination from Gili Air would be to the foothills of Mt. Rinjani in the small village of Senaru.

P.S. We saw a baby Komodo!

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