lima, peru
Gili Island Hopping
October 24, 2015

The Gili Islands are an archipelago of three small Indonesian islands, Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan, that are located between Bali and Lombok. They are famous for their white-sand beaches and palm trees, and there isn’t any motorised transport which adds to their unique appeal.

Happy horse. No motorised transport on the Gilis
Happy horse. No motorised transport on the Gilis

I somehow figured that the Gilis were to become a highlight of my RTW trip with the only remaining question being: which one of the Gili islands should I go to?

I decided to find out for myself and visited all three of them.

Turquoise water all around the Gili Islands
Turquoise water all around the Gili Islands

It was the beginning of October when I arrived on Gili Trawangan, also known as “Gili Tralala” for being the Gili party island. Low season had started and most bars remained quiet which gave the island a rather strange vibe.

This didn´t go for the night market. Fresh fish, infinite types of veggies,… I couldn’t think of a better place to have dinner on Gili Trawangan.

Food market, the busiest place at night on Gili Trawangan
Night market on Gili Trawangan

Soon I discovered the other Gili meeting point: the underwater world 🙂

I wasn´t planning on taking my advanced Open Water course until Komodo, but there were plenty of nice snorkeling spots around Gili Trawangan that just waited to be explored. It only took one deep breath.

Hello turtle. Snorkeling around Gili Trawangan
Hello turtle. Snorkeling around Gili Trawangan

Second island, Gili Meno, which is situated between Gili Trawangan and Gili Air. I learned it was easy to hop around the three islands as long as I stuck to the public ferry schedule.

Tranquil Island life on Gili
Tranquil island life on Gili Meno

There are hardly any travel agencies, restaurants or bars on Gili Meno. It is is known for being the quietest one of the three islands and mainly caters to happy couples.

White-sand beaches on Gili Meno
Gili Meno´s white-sand beaches

Well, as much as I enjoy a beautiful sunset on my own… I figured one day on Gili Meno was enough to gain energy for what was going to be the toughest trek in 7 months world traveling, but that’s a different story 😉

Of course, I didn´t leave the island without another visit of the underwater world.

Turtles all around the Gili Islands
I love turtles. If only we could spend more time together :/

I hadn´t taken a shower in 3 days and was covered in black ash when I first set foot on my third Gili island. My body was aching from hiking up the Rinjani volcano, and there was no way I was going to leave my accommodation any time soon.

It wasn´t until my second day on Gili Air that I eventually got myself to walk the 20 minutes to the sunset side of the island.

Sunset on Gili Air
Local fishermen at low tide. Sunset on Gili Air

By the third day I had regained the energy I had lost behind on the Rinjani volcano. Fully recovered, I was ready to explore the island. Even though Gili Air maintained its local charm and felt like the most authentic Gili island, the countless yoga, meditation, salsa and watersport advertisements everywhere around the island made it clear that I would not get bored there.

I still don’t know what happened to me nor how. Rinjani reminding me to get back in shape to make the sunrise on my next volcano trek? Weighing myself at the pharmacy while a friend got tested for Malaria and realizing I still hadn´t gotten rid of the extra kilos I had gained in Africa? Or simply the magical energy of the island itself?

I suddenly felt more active than I had felt in a long time. And I went right along with it.

Ayo, Gili Air!!!

Meditation at sunrise
Meditation at sunrise
Yoga in the afternoon
Yoga in the afternoon

Running at sunset

2 days. 1 breath. 20 meters. I had heard of freediving before. All the way down to 20 meters after a 2-day freediver course? The Apnea Total Gili advertising in front of the Blue Marine dive center sounded promising. But I was surely not an athlete after my 3-day-island workout. And I could barely capture a turtle feeding on my GoPro without running out of breath.

Down to 20 meters without air tanks? Was freediving actually safe

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone (no better moment for my favorite Neale Donald Walsch quote)

Beautiful Gili Air
Had I found a way to become part of the underwater world?

Freediving day #1. There were only two other students in my group, Dan and Patricia, and we started the day with a theory session. Our eloquent instructor Jacqui gave us some background information on freediving and talked us through different breathing and movement techniques. It sound like it was really all about learning how to breathe.

In order to get started we mainly had to follow these instructions:

  • Optimize the air intake by using a breathe up
  • Perform a duck-dive to penetrate the surface of the water
  • Keep a streamlined position and move slowly to save oxygen
  • Equalize constantly during the descent
  • Stay calm – which should prove to be the most difficult part for me!

Great, let´s freedive!

Freedive instructor Jacqui in action
Freedive instructor Jacqui in action (Foto: Apnea Total Gili)

The maximum depth we would dive to on the first day was 12 meters. I felt very comfortable knowing that Jacqui watched me at every kick and provided me with feedback after every dive.

Freediving to 12 meters
Freediving on Gili Air (Foto: Apnea Total Gili)

Freediving day #2. We spent most of the classroom session practicing our breathe up as well as a few new yogic breathing techniques like the square breath. Afterwards Jacqui measured how long we could hold our breath and Dan set the class record with 2:30 minutes.

Woohooo, ready to dive to 20 meters today?!

Dan diving in free immersion style to 20 meters

Me freediving using the constant weight technique

Yay!!! On my last dive I reached the 20 meter mark. Loved it 😀

Fun dive around Gili Air
No air tank needed 🙂

But the fun wasn´t over yet! The three of us still got to go on a fun freedive around Hans Reef where we made friends with the turtles.

Turtle chilling around Hans Reef
Turtle chilling around Gili Air

Looking back, I enjoyed exploring all three Gili islands. Each island is amazing in its own way. Gili Air was the one I fell in love with and where 2 days magically turned into 9. The one that boosted my energy. The one where I picked up new activities that will become part of my travel routine during the next months of my RTW trip. The one where I learned how to breathe.

Who knows if I had actually been able to escape the magic of Gili Air had I not been adviced that I could always return to the turtle capital of the world?

1 comment

  1. […] to be really sore for days afterwards.” Victor, an Australian musician & DJ I met chilling in Gili Air Take two steps forwards, slide one down again “Absolutely wonderful. Really […]

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