Lombok is known as Bali’s little sister, a slightly smaller island filled with quiet beaches and dotted with refined, boutique hotels. A short plane or boat ride away from Denpasar, Bali, Lombok is starting to make a name for itself as the less explored option for those seeking a beachside holiday with luxury experiences and cultural immersion. Beyond the placid surface of Lombok, there’s a wealth of nature and wildlife to explore, including the famous Lombok Gilis.
12 Secret Gilis
‘Gili’ simply translates to small island, and these little slices of paradise are a huge draw for visitors to Lombok. The three most famous Gilis are Gili Meno, Gili Air, and Gili Trawangan. These are on the northern tip of the island and have experienced significant development in the last few years, and crowds have followed. In this article we’ll be talking about the 12 secret Gilis of South Lombok. They are quieter islands, with a wilder edge and more untouched nature, though small hotels and food vendors are starting to pop up.
The Gilis are often grouped together and can be accessed through the island’s larger harbours. We recommend two groups of Gilis, the West Sekotong Gilis accessed through Tembowong Harbour, and the Sekotong Gilis accessed through Tawun Harbour.
North-West Sekotong Gili Island Tour
There are a selection of private tours embarking from Tembowong Harbour, about 2 hours drive from Kuta. They will take you amongst the West Sekotong Gilis as you wish, where you can disembark the boat to explore in the water and on the shores. Another option is the daily Sehat Elona Cruise, which features a hotel pick up and lunch on board. The cruise visits the below islands:
Gili Gede translates to ‘Big Gili’, and that’s exactly what it is. It’s not only the biggest Gili in the South Sekotong area, it’s bigger than Gili Trawangan, the famous northern Gili. Covering 450 hectares of land, this island is the most developed of the islands in this area. It’s known for its pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, stunning coral reefs, colourful fish and sea turtles.
10 minutes boat ride from Gede, Gili Asahan is the second biggest island in Sekotong and the second most developed. It’s known for its vibrant, blue water. Some boatmen will be able to get you to the pier of an abandoned pearl farm, which has a stunning view overlooking the nearby Gili Goleng. From this vantage point you’ll be able to see 3 to 4 different shades of blue on the water.
Gili Asahan is similar to Gede, in that it’s known for its colourful sea life and coral, but you can have some pretty unique experiences on the island such as horseback riding and yoga on the beach, run by local resorts. Book ahead so your trip is seamless. It’s also close to Desert Point, one of the world’s greatest left hand breaks. So, if you’re a surf fanatic, you might want to ask your boat man to plan a stop there.
A short boat trip from Gilis Gede, Asahan and Layar, Gili Rengit is slightly smaller but no less stunning. It’s clear, deep waters are perfect for lovers of watersports, and its shallower areas are just right for hours of snorkelling. The island itself is grassier and wilder than the others, perfect for embracing your inner Bear Grylls. It’s also a frequented local fishing spot, so don’t be surprised if you come across a fleet of dinghies catching fresh food for you to enjoy on the mainland later.
Gili Layar is smaller and quieter than Gede and Asahan. The water is calmer and clearer; you won’t even need a snorkel to spot the schools of energetic fish and forests of colourful coral. It’s also your best chance of seeing a sea turtle. Layar is a beautiful place to round out your private tour and to plan a beach picnic, so you can enjoy the late afternoon sun and tranquil water in peace.
West Sekotong Secret Gili Island Tour
Four more secret islands are accessible through Tawun Harbour, a 1.5 hour drive from Kuta.
A Catamaran charter is the best option for island hopping these secret Gilis. Charters can be easily organised by your concierge or a local travel agency, and they are flexible due to their small size, with a maximum capacity of 10 people. These options will usually visit the below islands:
Gili Nanggu may look like a sleepy island at first, but dip your head under the water and you’ll find a hive of activity. This is one of the most exciting places to snorkel in Lombok, due to its diverse sealife. Ask your guide where you can find the Berugak, a traditional gazebo that has sunken, which has been taken in by the sea and made home to a host of coral and fish. For large, awe-inspiring sections of hard coral, make your way to the Northern tip of the island.
The best things come in small packages, and Gili Kedis is no exception. This is a little sandbar island featuring a swing, some benches, a hut and not much else. This is the place to be at sunset, watching the local boats, floating pearl farms, and mountains rising on the mainland as the light fades. Gili Kedis is also a favourite of photographers, especially for aerial shoots. From above, Kedis has the unique shape of a bird, hence the translation of its name; ‘Sparrow Island’. It’s a short boat ride from the other Gilis in this area, and a perfect place to stop for one last glance from the water.
Gili Sudak is known for its glittering water teeming with sea creatures. The sand here is soft and white, unlike some nearby rocky beaches. Keep your eyes peeled for the starfish, who are known to make a home in the waters of Gili Sudak. There’s a little stall on the island for purchasing snacks, fresh seafood, and cold drinks, and you can take a spot on one of the benches to watch the waves lapping the shore and prepare to hop to your next island.
After a day of island hopping and immersing yourself in the local culture, it’s time for an evening of indulgence. Find fresh cocktails and fine dining at SIWA. With a resident DJ on Fridays and drinks specials every Sunday, reserve your table by the infinity pool for an evening of quality relaxation.