All-natural yet sprinkled with a collection of restaurants and bars that would meet the needs of any passionate cosmopolitan, Gili Trawangan is the road-weary rambler’s lucid fantasy. The biggest and more popular from the carless Gilis, Gili Trawangan earliest blipped on the tourism radar during the ’90s, when Bali rose to worldwide popularity and backpackers descended in search of white sand, warm water, rich reefs and a good party.
Expectations were exceeded across the board. Trawangan’s Indonesian community has benefited from the increase in tourism here, as well. Some of the best new bars and bungalows are locally owned. The water is the aqua blue colour you dream about and the snorkelling is great. Nest here and you’re still just a 20-minute beach walk away from that scrum of dive shops, sushi bars, lounges, reggae joints and beach front dining rooms that are difficult to resist
Boats dock on the island’s eastern shore, which is also home to most of Trawangan’s accommodation, restaurants and facilities. The best stretch of beach is on the stunning northwest corner. Stay here, and you’ll have a longer trek to the action.
Travel via Senggigi; via the public boats that leave from Bangsal (the cheapest route), you can charter your own boat from Bangsal (195,000Rp) or book passage on a private speedboat. Blue Marlin and Manta Dive on Gili Trawangan can arrange transfers (600,000Rp for up to three people). Speedboats use the Teluk Nare harbour south of Bangsal.
Coming by public transport, catch a bus or bemo to Pemenang, from where it’s 1km by cidomo (3000Rp) to Bangsal Harbour. Bangsal is beyond annoying (see boxed text, opposite ). The touts raise blood pressure for a living, and you should sooner ignore than trust them. Boat tickets are sold at the Koperasi harbour office on the beach. Public boats run roughly from 8am to 5pm, but don’t leave until full (about 18 people). One-way fares at the time of research were 8000Rp to Gili Air, 9000Rp to Gili Meno and 10,000Rp to Gili Trawangan. Special charters can also be organised in Bangsal. Boats pull up on the beach when they get to the Gilis. You’ll have to wade ashore with your luggage.
Trawangan is made for divers, with six established scuba schools, including one of the best tech-diving schools in the world, and one newcomer (Diving Buddha).
Big Bubble (Phone 625 020; www.bigbubblediving.com)
Blue Marlin Dive Centre (Phone 632 424, 0813 39930190; www.bluemarlindive.com)
Diving Buddha (Phone 644 179)
Dream Divers (Phone 634 496; www.dreamdivers.com)
Manta Dive (Phone 643 649; www.manta-dive.com)
Trawangan Diving (Phone 649 220, 0813 3770 2332;www.trawangandive.com)
Villa Ombak Diving Academy (Phone 638 531)
There’s exciting snorkelling off the beach north of the jetty. The coral isn’t in the best shape here, but there are tons of fish. The reef is healthier off the northwestern coast, but you may have to scramble over coral to access it at low tide. If the current is quick, you’ll have fun flying above the reef, but will have to walk back to your starting point. Snorkelling gear can be hired for around 25,000Rp per day from shops near the jetty.
Surfing & Kayaking
Trawangan offers a fast right break that can be surfed year-round and can swell overhead. It’s just south of Villa Ombak. Gili Surf Shop (Phone 0812 372 7615) in the pasar seni rents boards.
Karma Kayak (Phone 0818 0559 3710; tours 300,000Rp), a hotel, tapas bar and kayaking school, is set on the northern end of Gili Trawangan, where Astrid, a former champion stunt kayaker (she took silver at the 1991 world championship leads half-day kayaking trips around the Gilis when currents allow.
Walking and Cycling
Trawangan is exciting to explore by walking or with bicycle. You can walk round the entire island in a several of hours - if you finish at the hill on the southwestern part (which has the remains of the old Japanese World war 2 gun placement), you’ll have terrific sunset views of Bali’s Gunung Agung.
Bikes will be the preferred mode of transport and are also easily hired from 25,000Rp per day. Your hotel can arrange rental otherwise you can approach the bicycle stores on the main drag directly.
over a hundred places to stay in Gili Trawangan. They range from simple village huts to mod Zen beach bungalows with outdoor baths to sprawling air-conditioned villas with private pools.
Sirwa Homestay (s/d 40,000/45,000Rp)
Aldi Homestay (Phone 0813 3954 1102; s/d 60,000/100,000Rp)
Lisa Homestay (Phone 0813 3952 3364; r 75,000Rp)
Sandy Beach Cottage (Phone 625 020; d from 100,000Rp)
Edy Homestay (d from 120,000Rp)
Warna Homestay (Phone 623 859; d from 150,000Rp)
Puri Hondje (r 150,000Rp)
Balenta (Phone 0818 0520 3464; d from 180,000Rp)
Pondok Sederhana (Phone 0813 3860 9964; r 200,000Rp)
Trawangan Cottages (Phone 639 282; s/d 200,000/250,000Rp)
Quiet Water (Phone 0819 1753 1652; d from 250,000Rp)
Black Sand Homestay (Phone 0812 372 0353; r from 300,000Rp)
Tir na Nog ( Phone 639 463; email@example.com; r from 300,000Rp)
Rumah Saga ( Phone 648 604, 0818 0571 4315; www.rumahsaga.com; cottages 350,000-500,000Rp)
Pesona (Phone 660 7233; www.pesonaresort.com; r 400,000600,000Rp)
Sama Sama Bungalows ( Phone 0812 376 3650; r with aircon 400,000, deluxe lumbung 650,000Rp)
Beautiful Life Bungalows ( Phone 0818 0376 4102; bungalows 450,000Rp)
Tanah Qita ( Phone 639 159; bungalows 500,000Rp)
Balé Sampan ( Phone 0813 3988 2153, 0813 3774 8469; www.balesampanbungalows.com; bungalows with garden/sea view 500,000/800,000Rp)
Manta (Phone 643 649, 0812 376 4780; www.manta-dive .com; bungalows 550,000Rp)
Karma Kayak (Phone 0818 0559 3710; bungalows550,000Rp)
Trawangan Dive (Phone 649 220, 0813 3770 2332; www.trawangadive.com; bungalows US$60-80)
Kelapa Kecil (Phone 0812 376 6496; bungalows US$70-90)
H Rooms (Phone 639 248; villas from 800,000Rp)
Desa Dunia Beda (Phone 641 575; www.desaduniabeda.com; bungalows US$110-140 plus 21Phone tax)
Gili Exotic (Phone 692 113, 0818 360 019; www.giliexotic .com; villas 1,500,000Rp)
Kelapa Villas (Phone 632 424, 0812 375 6003; www.kelapa villas.com; villas US$150-550 plus 21Phone tax)
Gili Villas (Phone 0812 376 4780; www.gilivillasindonesia .com; villas US$250)