Gili Air: sunshine, Bintang and turtles

I’m a ridiculously lucky girl, I know this, there’s no denying it. In the space of just three months this year,  I had two sun-tastic stays on Gili Air, a small Indonesian island between Bali and Lombok. 

Let me explain; In July my parents and sister came to visit me in Singapore (see what we did in the Cameron Highlands). Incase it was their one and only visit, I packed their three weeks with trips to Malaysia and Indonesia. Gili Air was a must-visit location. Then in late August when my buddy Maddy came to visit, we too jetted off to the gem that is Gili Air. It’s a hard life (sorry, not sorry)!

Blissed out on the ferry to Gili Air

Gili Air has a very boho-chilled reggae vibe. Bob Marley blasts out from all the bars, and there is no shortage of magic mushrooms on offer. The main route around the island is a sandy path, lined with bamboo constructed bars, restaurants and bungalows.

Days are spent sunbathing, snorkelling and drinking copious amounts of watermelon juice. A quick rinse and then back to the beach for food and drinks. Because everything’s on the beach, you literally need three items of clothing for the entire stay: bikini, sarong, flip flops – easy!

Blue Skies, blue water, blue boats

Here are a few of my favourite things from my two wonderful holidays on Gili Air:

1. Snorkelling

I love snorkelling! For any beach holiday, quality snorkelling is a must-have. There are plenty of boats to take you into deeper water for snorkelling, but I only did it straight from the beach. Generally, the east of the island is better, with some spots providing easier access at low tide than others.

One word: Turtles! That’s right, you don’t need to be a diver to get some t-action here, just a little patience and leak-proof goggles. The coral was not looking hugely healthy close to the shore, but to see two turtles grazing on sea grass was a beautiful sight.

Relaxing after a successful snorkelling session.

A plea: Don’t get too close to the turtles, and absolutely don’t touch them. It is extremely disturbing for them. I saw one group diving down for touching selfies, blocking the turtles route up for air twice. Not cool.

2. Diving

The allure of getting some proper underwater action was too strong for me and Maddy. We rocked up to Manta Dive and signed up for two dives. Our second dive, to Shark Point, was an absolute dream. It felt like our group of four had the ocean to ourselves.

There were so many turtles we lost count, both green and hawksbill. Some were feeding on the bottom, some going up for air. One huge turtle swam right over our heads – magical.

Vicki & Maddy
The happy faces of people that have dived with turtles!

3. Not getting hassled on the beds

Anyone who has been on a beach holiday knows how annoying it is to feel pressured into buying a drink every 30 minutes, just to keep your perfect spot on the beach. Well, gold star for Gili Air. Whether you take a sun lounger, or opt for a shaded bed, its yours for as long as you want it.

Lime juices and iced coffees kept us hydrated

One drink is enough for hours of beachside fun. (Although for health reasons, please drink plenty!)

4. Bean bag sunsets

As the sun starts to set, you might think it signals time to shower and change for dinner. WRONG! It’s time to stroll to the north west part of the island, and bag yourself a beanbag. Mowies is a super popular spot. Order a large Bintang, sit back and watch in awe as the huge orange sun makes its lazy way behind a volcano in the distance.

I’ve got my seat, now cheers to the sunset

The beanbags actually take a bit of practice, and I never did quite get the knack!

Sunset swing time

5. Cinema on the beach

Back to the beanbags, but this time to nibble on popcorn and watch perfectly suited movies on the beach. On my first stay, me and the family watched The Beach, which is surprisingly 17 years old.

With Maddy, we went on a life journey with Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray Love. Very fitting, as our next stop was Ubud, Bali (as I’m sure was 50% of other watchers, and the other 50% had just come from there). There’s a few spots to choose from on the island.

6. Massages

After a stressful day of sunbathing and snorkelling with turtles, you well deserve a massage. You’re in the perfect place, they are super cheap on Gili Air, so go ahead, treat yourself!


Maddy turned 30 during our holiday, so we pampered ourselves at the Harmony Beach House Spa. As it’s at the north of the island, you can have your full body massage as the sun sets over the horizon.

Top tips:

  • Bring aquashoes – the beaches, whilst beautiful, are covered on coral which is tough on delicate feet. There’s also lots of spiky urchins in between you and that clear warm water. Standing on one of those is not part of the desert island dream.
  • Cash withdrawals on the island are mostly limited to 1.5 million IDR (yes you’ll be a millionaire!) per day. Something to plan for if you’re paying for accommodation with cash.

Tell me, what have I missed?

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