Gili Air, Gili Meno, Gili Trawangan – three small islands lying North of Lombok. Known for its laid back atmosphere, small population and an absence of any motor vehicles. The islands have been popular among backpackers for years, but in the recent years they got attention from more upscale travellers, which resulted in the rapid development and price spikes making Bali look like a budget destination. Geography wise Trawangan has a small hill in the centre of the island, Meno boasts a salt lake with mangrove trees and Air has nothing. All the three islands are surrounded by coral reefs, which make swimming challenging especially during the low tide.
The islands are very close to each other. The shortest distance between the islands is some 600 meters, but swimming is not possible due strong unpredictable and potentially fatal currents. In fact when we were there, three people died (two of which were Finnish) when attempted to swim across. Interestingly enough one of the locals advised us to swim from Meno to Trawangan instead of taking a boat and was genuinely surprised, when heard about the deaths. That confirmed once again that locals can be clueless beyond belief.
Air was the most pleasant of the three. We spent six days there and could easily spend more. There is not much to do apart from diving and snorkelling, but that is totally ok. Time flies differently there and having nothing to do feels as an advantage. Why do anything indeed, when you can get by without resorting to any activities just fine? Breakfast in the morning, lunch in the afternoon and dinner in the evening. Swimming, walking and chilling out in between. Why bother with anything else? Slow life at its best, even if the time flies fast.
Trawangan was the whole different matter. We arrived there on a Saturday morning and it immediately turned us off. Full of local day trippers from Lombok, galloping horse carts and douchebag party vibe all around was enough to not spend more than one night there. Walking away from all this madness into the more secluded parts of the island redeemed things a bit. Stopping for an ice coffee in a posh, but eerily deserted beach bar with no customers other than us was in particular pleasant. Not a waste of time after all, but I see no reason to go there again.
Meno is the most deserted of the trio. We arrived to the island with a boat full of people, who disappeared mysteriously after the landing and were not seen again. A lot of mosquitoes though. “Finish” and “no have” were heard here more than the usual with some local restaurants had basic ingredients missing like fruits. There is a fair share of abandoned resorts, which contribute to the desert island atmosphere. There is something majestic in seeing the remnants of the former glory. Despite all this Meno made a good impression. The beaches there are the nicest and the most accessible of the bunch. This deserted atmosphere and the beaches call for staying on the island for a couple of days before moving to Air. Trawangan can be left out of the equation, unless one feels adventurous.