The Gili Islands in Indonesia, are a group of 3 small islands; Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air and they are located northwest of Lombok Island and only a few hours from the popular hot spot, Bali.
The islands are characterized by sandy beaches boarded with palm trees, clear waters, stunning sunsets, loads of underwater life, no motorised transport, good food, beach restaurants and a very relaxed vibe. All of these combined, equal a perfect place for a holiday! Baby or no baby!
Here is a brief rundown of what each of the Gili Islands offer.
- Gili Trawangan – Also known as Gili T, is the largest of the three and the most popular island for party-goers. Backpackers flock here from all around the world and you’ll find a different party each night at a different bar. It is the most developed of the three islands, with a ton of restaurants, spas, shops and of course plenty of watering holes.
- Gili Meno – Gili Meno, the most remote of the 3, is untouched and unspoiled with some of the very best beaches the earth has to offer. If you’re looking for a real island experience, Meno may be the choice. Just be prepared for less choice with restaurants and accommodation.
- Gili Air – Gili Air is the perfect combination of Gili T and Gili Meno. A range of accommodation and restaurants are available along with a milder social scene. Had we of had our time again, especially with a baby, we likely would have stayed here instead.
How to get to the Gili Islands
Getting to the Gili Islands is relatively straight forward and there are really only 2 options.
- Fast Boat from Bali
Getting a fast boat from Bali to the Gili Islands is the most direct way to reach the Gili’s (unless you are coming from Lombok, see below). The boats depart from a few different ports in Bali (Serangan, Nusa Lembongan and Padang Bai). Depending on which company you choose, they can take you to Gili Air, Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno or to Lombok mainland.
We went with the reputable, fully licensed company known as Blue Water Express and although their prices are slightly higher than other companies, we found their service to be efficient, the boat was comfortable, they provided water and included transfer from your hotel directly to the port. Gili Getaway also offers similar services for a slightly cheaper cost.
- Travel time from Serangan to Gili Trawangan – 2.5 hours
- Travel time from Padang Bai to Gili Trawangan – 1.5 hours
- Travel time from Nusa Lembongan to Gili Trawangan – 2 hours
Tip: Book online in advance and save yourself some money.
- Flight to Lombok and Fast Boat/Local Ferry
Take a short 25-minute flight from Bali to Lombok followed by a taxi to the Bangsal ferry port and then a 30-minute public ferry (which leaves when it reaches its 40 person capacity) or a 15-minute fast ferry. All ferries from Bangsal run daily starting at 9 am and finish at 6 pm. Keep in mind that the time you spend at the airport prior to your flight as well as all the hassle that comes with flying, you’re looking at a very similar travel time, if not longer. Unless you’re already in Lombok, we’d suggest the fast boat option.
Is the boat safe for a baby?
In short, yes. However, if the weather is bad, it will make the trip considerably harder and could be quite dangerous (not to mention uncomfortable). We travelled in June and fortunately, the seas were fine both ways however, we have heard some pretty horrific stories with large swells, long delays and rough rides. Remember, the weather is something you cannot control so if this makes you nervous then perhaps give the Gili’s a miss. We took a gamble and just got lucky.
Top 8 Things to Do on Gili Trawangan
We spent 5 glorious days on the island of Gili T and despite not partying on the “party island”, we had all sorts of fun with our 8 month old baby, Hugo. Here are the best things to do on Gili T.
1/ Chill on the beach
This is a no brainer but just in case you weren’t sure… visit the beach! It’s the reason you’re here after all, right? Soak up the sun, have a cocktail, swing on one of the many swings, lounge on a sun-bed with an umbrella or simply walk along the rocky shores taking in your surroundings. Do nothing but relax (except if you have a baby, it may or may not be as relaxing as you may hope, especially when hands full of sand continue to make their way to their mouth), but hey, such is life.
2/ Snorkel or Dive the Coral Reefs
The Gili Islands are famous for their clear water visibility, diverse marine life and underwater statues which is why many people flock to Gili to brush up on their scuba skills or better yet, walk away with their PADI certificate. Dives shops can be found all along the main street but be careful what company you choose, there’s often a reason why a company is far cheaper than another. See this Gili Trawangan Dive Guide for a full guide on diving on Gili T, including the most reliable companies.
If you’re travelling with a baby, don’t let that stop you from seeing what lies beneath. We went out on a private, glass-bottom boat for one hour for 500,000 IDR ($35 USD) and Jacob and I just took it in turns snorkelling (sorry Hugo, not just yet!). You can arrange this with any of the people running boats along the main street. We’ve swam in some pretty incredible waters around this world, but we’d have to admit, we were extremely amazed at the clarity of the water here!
If you have more time, you can book a full-day snorkelling tour to the neighbouring islands.
3/ Cycle the Island
There is no motorised transport on the Gili Islands, therefore the only way to get around the island is by bicycle or horse-and-cart, but guys, unless you really have to, try and avoid using the horses.
Gili T is the perfect size to explore by bike. You can get around the whole island in less than an hour, stopping at the many restaurants, beaches and swings along the way. Most of the “roads” are made up of sand and light gravel so you rarely go faster than walking pace. You can rent a bike (50,000 INR) ($5/day) from numerous places on the island or directly through your accommodation.
If you request it, you can also have a bike with a baby seat on the back. Hugo wasn’t too keen on the baby seat but he thoroughly enjoyed being in the baby carrier so he could see the world in front of him. Livin’ the life!
4/ Fill your Belly
There’s no denying that Indonesia has great food and although we preferred the food in Bali, there were still some noticeable standouts on the island of Gili T.
- Kayu Cafe – A great spot for breakfast serving healthy organic meals as well as raw treats, smoothie bowls, sandwiches and great coffee. They also have indoor seating with air conditioning as well as outdoor seating on the beach. The peanut butter smoothie bowl with extra PB was delicious.
- Banyan Cafe – Another great health food cafe with plenty of vegan and vegetarian choices as well as Indonesian specialities, raw cakes, homemade bread. Enjoy your meal on the beach or inside the air-conditioned restaurant (rare on the island).
- Regina’s Pizzeria – Hands down the best pizza. Located slightly off the main road with a large area for seating, this restaurant serves pizza and pasta fresh and fast. Not one to be missed! Mmm pizza.
- Pearl of Trawangan – Attached to one of the most popular resorts on the island, this restaurant has great meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The restaurant overlooks the beach and the staff are very friendly. Reasonable prices for a resort too.
- Pondok Santi – If you want a fresh BBQ buffet, this 5-star resort offers just that set amongst the hotel gardens. About $24/pp.
- Casa Vintage Beach – A brilliant spot to watch the sunset and enjoy some Jamaican inspired food. This was one of our go to’s for sunset (and Pink Coco).
- Hellocapitano Lifestyle Cafe – Love yourself a smoothie bowl? Look no further. You can find them right here. Large portions with awesome toppings in a quirky beach shack.
Note: We didn’t find any baby food on Gili T but if your bub is anything like Hugo, he’ll eat avocado and banana as well as toast all day every day. All of the cafes happily provided this upon request.
5/ Party (or not)
Gone are the days of late-night partying (for us at least!). This was definitely one thing we didn’t part take in during our time on the island but hey, if you’re a backpacker and not a couple with a baby, then you’ve come to the right place! A different bar each night will hold a party, organise a bar crawl or you can head out on the “jiggy boat party”. Young crowds, cheap drinks, bonfires, live music, fire shows, you name it, Gili T has got it.
6/ Watch the Sunset
Is it possible for sunsets to get old? I don’t believe so. If you don’t end your day on Gili T with sundowners and a bite to eat at one of the many beach restaurants, you’re doing it wrong. During our time there in June, the sunset was at 6:00 pm, a perfect time for us to keep our little Hugo’s schedule.
A few of the more popular places to watch the sun go down were Pink Coco, Casa Vintage Beach, Paradise Sunset, Ombak Sunset Resort (don’t forget to get your insta shot on the famous swing). Honestly, any of the bars along the west side of the island all offered great views with comfortable lounge chairs, swings, beanbags, cocktails and food.
7/ Head to the Gym
Just because you’re on holidays doesn’t mean you have to get lazy or does it? Should you wish to exercise, there is a new gym called Total Body Fitness on the main street. A one day pass costs 70,000 IDR and for an island gym, it’s pretty decent with a variety of weight machines and cardio. They offer water, towels and the gym is fully air-conditioned – very essential! Or, you could run around the island for free!
8/ Roam the Streets
Aside from restaurants, bars and souvenir stores, Gili T has quite a few quirky stores, as well as a few surf shops. Take respite from the heat and pop into one of the many shops along the main street.
Tours on Gili T
Where to Stay on Gili T?
Gili T has the largest choice of accommodation out of the 3 islands and you can find anything from hostels to luxury villas, boutique bungalows or 5-star resorts. When researching Gili T with a baby, we wanted to find somewhere that allowed us to enjoy the sunshine and a swim without leaving Hugo in the hotel room alone.
Ponte Villas ticked all the boxes and then some. Beautiful private villas with a comfortable bed, a large bathroom with an outdoor shower, working air conditioning, friendly staff, bike rentals, 4 minutes from the beach and most importantly, an incredibly clean pool right outside your doorstep.
If you have a larger family, why not consider renting a private villa with its own pool, multiple bedrooms and living space. Your own private haven. Sounds pretty enticing?
Here are some top accommodation choices on Gili T:
- Gili Villas – Spacious, well-designed villas located right in the centre of all the action. Each of the villas come with a private pool and can sleep anywhere from 2 to 4 people.
- Kokomo Resort – Located on the east side of the island close to many restaurants and bars. Choose between 1, 2 or 3 bedroom villas sleeping up to 6 people. All of which come with a private pool.
- Kelapa Villas – Located amongst a coconut plantation, northwest of the island, these privately fenced villas are decorated differently and with careful touches, each villa comes with a private pool, lounge areas, access to a gym and can sleep up to 6 people.
So, are the Gili Islands baby-friendly?
In our opinion, with a baby as young as our Hugo (8 months at the time of travel), you can make anywhere baby-friendly.
Babies adapt well in most situations if you’re calm and happy. The locals are very friendly and will help you when needed, however…
Here are a few things to note if traveling with a baby in the Gili Islands:
- There are no change tables in the bathrooms so be prepared to get creative with where you change your little one’s nappy. Don’t forget to always pack a change mat or towel.
- All of the restaurants will provide a high chair and will assist in heating up any food you request
- We would strongly recommend packing as many nappies and baby food as you need for your trip to the Gili Islands as there are only mini marts and we didn’t come across nappies or baby food in any of the stores.
- Bring sanitiser and wipes everywhere you go, they’ll become your best friend.
- This may seem obvious but be sure to only use bottled water, even when washing toys or you’re boiling water for bottles.
- If you’re accommodation has a bath, be sure your bub doesn’t drink the water in the bath when playing.
- Some hotels offer nanny and babysitting services although we cannot personally vouch for any.
If there’s just one piece of advice we can give you if you’re traveling with a baby in the Gilis, it’s this: plan your day around your babies feeding and sleeping schedule. By doing so, you’ll have a much more enjoyable holiday with your happy little traveller.
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