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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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!
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 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 😀
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.
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?