Take a boat across to the Gilli Islands for lunch or some snorkelling Lombok’s most popular tourist destination, the Gili Islands (or just the Gilis) came to the attention of the wider world as a backpacker mecca in the 1980s and 1990s. This is still true to some extent, and the islands are still a fixture on the Banana Pancake Trail. But the times they are a changing, and there is now a rash of glamour options on the islands, especially so on Gili Trawangan. The islands are very relaxed and laid-back, with countless little beachside cafes still playing reggae and serving up questionable “energy” drinks, but also at the other end of the scale, elaborate seafood buffets, fresh salads and good quality western and Asian food. Best of all, there are no cars or motorbikes to disturb the peace.
There are increasing numbers of westerners living on the Gilis, and operating businesses ranging from dive companies to resorts. There is a strong environmental focus here as the reefs have been very damaged in the past. While once people came to dive, snorkel and party, a more upmarket tourist is showing up now. It is still all about the beach, there are many more options to wine and dine or hang out and meet new friends.
Strictly speaking, the name “Gili Islands” is rather redundant as gili simply means “small island” in Sasak, but the name has stuck and is universally used and understood in Lombok.