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Exploring the Gili Islands: The Turtle Capital of the World

by Contributor

Nov 14, 2017

Gábor Kovács | Dreamstime

Adult Children

By Julie Haupin

The Gili Islands are an off-the-beaten-path destination in Indonesia that attract families from all over the world looking to experience a remote, fun and beautiful destination right off the northwest tip of Lombok. The three small islands consist of Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan. All are only a short boat ride apart. It is best to visit the islands with older children due to the extravagant party scene and endless amounts of backpackers. However, you will still find a variety of families with younger children, toddlers and even honeymooners taking advantage of all that Gili offers. You should make an effort to stop by all three of the islands to make the most of your stay, but with these 10 tips and activities, your adventure on Gili Trawangan should be a breeze!

Lionfish in Coral Reef of Gili Island, Indonesia

Photo: Fenkie Sumolang | Dreamstime

Take diving lessons. 
Gili is known as the stomping ground for backpackers who want to get scuba diving licenses for a fraction of the typical cost as there are more than 25 dive sites around the islands. There are loads of diving schools on every corner that offer lessons for every experience level. Before you choose a company, it is important to research which is the safest and most reliable. After all, you will want the best education when you are swimming among the sharks, sea turtles and rare species inhabiting Gili’s reefs.


Rent a bike, not a horse. Take a break from reality and immerse yourself in Gili’s belief against having any cars and motorbikes on the island. Tourists and locals either get around by foot or by bike. There are horse carriages, but there are rumors of animal abuse so they should be avoided. A lot of bicycle vendors will provide you with a lock that should be used at all times. Be smart. Locals may take advantage of tourists and steal an unlocked bike to make money. Be sure to keep your guard up.


Bargain. Half the fun of shopping not only on the islands, but in all of Southeast Asia is the bargaining. Almost every item can be negotiated down by price, and the vendors are expecting you to bargain. That being said, a lot of the vendors and artisans rely on the money and upcharge in order to make a substantial profit from the tourists. That $1 could make a huge difference for a family on the island.


Guard your passports and cell phones. This is an important tip whenever you are traveling internationally, but especially in some of the poorer parts of Southeast Asia. If you are traveling with a group, it should not be a surprise if something is stolen, as some of the locals are basically professional pickpockets. Keep your valuables with you at all times, and create a hiding place in your backpack or bag to keep things safe. Purchase a money belt, lock your backpacks, zipper and lock your purse and always use a cross-body bag.

sunset over the ocean on Gili Trawangan Island, Indonesia

Photo: ValeryBocman | Dreamstime


Take your picture on a hammock and swing in the ocean. The islands are known for gorgeous sunsets and atmosphere, so be sure to snap a picture of your family overlooking the ocean. That being said, only give your cellphone to someone you trust. There are a lot of different swings and hammocks all around the island, making this snapshot a popular Instagram and staple tourist picture while visiting the island.


Witness a traditional stick fight. Stick fighting, otherwise known as Presean, is a traditional martial art reenacted on the islands. There are popular and entertaining shows in the markets and open areas that always draw a crowd.


Stay together. Keep your family together at all times. Do not let the children run off by themselves, and if they are old enough, make sure they are not alone. This is especially important after sunset and when the nightlife begins. Always monitor your drinking, and do not go overboard. Feel free to have fun, but always be careful to avoid testing your limits.


Pay attention to nightlife trends. Whether you are trying to take part in the wild nightlife or trying to avoid it, it is always important to pay attention to the trends and hot spots of the night. Only certain bars are popular earlier in the week, while other clubs and bars are more active on different nights. Ask other tourists and locals where you should expect the party to be during the day and night so you come prepared.


Don’t explore at night. It is not recommended to explore outside of the main streets and trails at night, especially not by yourself. Unfortunately, people are waiting for someone to get lost while drunkenly confused and meander off the beaten path. Stay in well-lit areas near the coast and keep your valuables locked up.


Detox with a yoga lesson. Although partying and the nightlife are popular on the islands, so are yoga, meditation, nature and healthy lifestyles. Detox after a night out with yoga on the beach or finding your zen in one of the therapeutic spas and retreats surrounding the islands.


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