Gili Trawangan was the favourite part of my trip to Bali, even if it’s actually in Lombok, another region of Indonesia. We spent three days in Gili T (that’s what the cool travellers call it!) snorkelling with turtles and cycling around the island. If you want to snorkel with turtles in Bali, you have to add the Gili islands to your itinerary! Find out more about Gili Trawangan, how to get there from Bali, the best beaches and everything you need to know about swimming with turtles in Gili Trawangan.
How to get to the Gili Islands from Bali
From Bali there are regular ferries going from Padang Bay, Serangan Harbour and Sanur Beach. There are a lot of different companies that run the ferries, a good website to get an idea of the times and departure points is Gili Bookings. The information available online isn’t always accurate however, and the best way to make sure you get a ferry ticket is buying it at the harbour. We actually drove to Sanur as it was closer to our hotel, only to be told that the ferries from there weren’t running as it was low season (whilst online it was showing as available). So back in the taxi we get and off to Padang Bay we drive. We took the first ferry of the day, which despite the hour and a half delay still got us to Gili T before lunch. If you want to get to a different Gili island from Bali it’s usually the same ferry. It does first a stop in Gili T and then goes to Gili Meno and Gili Air. When you leave Gili T to go back to Bali it’s the other way around, going via the other islands first. As I was travelling from Bali I don’t have much experience about transport modes from other locations, however there are also ferries available from Lombok.
About Gili Trawangan
Gili Trawangan is the biggest and most visited of the Gili islands. It has a reputation as being the “party island”, whilst Gili Meno is the “honeymoon island” and Gili Air is the “chill island”. If you’re not sure which island is best for you, check out this article to help you decide which Gili island you should visit. As I was travelling with my boyfriend at the time we were a bit wary of going to the party island, and would have preferred going to one of the quieter islands. However we were very tight on time and my ex-boyfriend had issues with sea sicknesses, meaning we wanted to limit the amount of time spent on a ferry. So we decided to visit Gili Trawangan. In our experience it didn’t live up to the party island reputation, which we were very glad about. We were staying at Wilson’s Retreat, which is on the North West side of the island, almost opposite compared to where the ferries stop. This part of the island was very quiet, while still being lively. There are a lot of hotels, bars and restaurants along the beach with a view of the sunset. It was probably also the time of year at which we were visiting, but we never thought it was too rowdy. This probably because the more party area is concentrated around the harbour where the ferries drop you off. Most ferries only operate in the morning, since the sea becomes too rough in the afternoon. This is something you might want to bear in mind when planning your trip and travel to and from the Gili islands.
Gili Trawangan, like all the other Gili islands, is entirely pedestrian. There are no cars or scooters on these islands. The only way to get around the island is either by walking, cycling or horse carriage. Depending on where your accommodation is it’s definitely worth getting a horse carriage to it. For us even if it wasn’t far we had luggage with us that we didn’t want to have to drag along unpaved roads. It cost us about the equivalent of £5, and it was totally worth it. It’s such a picturesque journey, hobbling along the beach and then through a small palm tree forest. Another popular activity and way to get around the island is horse riding, especially for a beautiful sunset ride.
Snorkelling with turtles in Gili Trawangan
When we arrived at Wilsons Retreat they told us that it was one of the best snorkelling spots on Gili T, and they gave us snorkelling gear for free. We dismissed it thinking that since they work there, they kind of had to tell us that. However we were very pleasantly surprised to find that they were right! We took our snorkelling gear and jumped in the sea just outside Wilsons Retreat, swam out maybe 20 metres and not even fifteen minutes later spotted three turtles! It was a fantastic experience, which combined to the beautiful white beaches bumped Gili Trawangan into my list of top 10 best beaches in the world. There are many official “turtle spots” around the island, however you will find that you can spot turtles pretty much anywhere, if you have the dedication to spend some time snorkelling and looking for them.
In the three days we stayed in Gili T we spent most of our time jumping in and out of the water, looking for turtles, which we were lucky enough to see almost at every dive. One thing to bear in mind is that the currents on the West side of the island are quite strong. The turtles were usually in front of Wilsons Retreat, however we found it easier to walk up the beach, and then jump in the sea further up, where we could then let the current drift us towards the turtle spot. This makes it considerably easier and more fun than having to swim frantically against the current to keep up with a turtle. Wilsons Retreat also provided beach shoes, which were really useful for walking out of the sea and along the beach once the tide went down. This side of the island has a very rocky shore, so beach shoes are a must. The Eastern side of the island instead is all white and sandy. There are a lot of dive shops and places that organise snorkelling tours on the island, however since we were seeing so many turtles on our own just next to our hotel we decided not to pay for an organised tour.
Gili T is the ultimate definition of island vibes. After a long day of snorkelling we rented bicycles from Wilsons Retreat for the equivalent of £3 for the whole day, and went out to explore the island. As you cycle along you get to enjoy the beautiful views of Lombok in the distance, and other fellow travellers relaxing at beach bars and restaurants. Everybody is relaxed and the busy traffic and bustling roads of Seminyak are a distant memory. We stopped at a beach restaurant on the west side of the island, where we got to enjoy dinner while watching a beautiful sunset. Gili T is famous for its beach sunsets, with swings and hammocks dotted along the beach where you can get those famous Instagram worthy shots.
Book your Gili Trawangan snorkelling tours here:
Where to stay in Gili Trawangan
As mentioned earlier we were staying at a lovely hotel called Wilson’s Retreat, on the North-West side of the island. We personally really liked it there as it was away from the busier bar and restaurant area on the East side of the island, where the ferries dock. This doesn’t mean that the area was dead, we went on walks along the beach every evening and still found plenty of restaurants to chose from for dinner. If you want to enjoy the beaches and the opportunity to swim with turtles without too much chaos Wilsons Retreat or other hotels in this area of Gili T are for you. If you want to be in the more lively party area then go on the East coast.
I highly recommend visiting Gili Trawangan on your next trip to Bali. We spent a fantastic three days there, and if I were to go back to Bali I would spend more time exploring also the other Gili islands and less in Seminyak or Ubud (even if Ubud has some pretty spectacular terraced rice fields). If like me you love chill island vibes, snorkelling with turtles, and stunning beach sunsets, you’ll love Gili T! Don’t forget to check out the video to see the amazing footage of us swimming with turtles!