travel, food, events, etc.

Gili Air: A Funny Fairytale Island

After three weeks in Bali, I move to the tiny island of Gili Air and find myself in Neverland, taking up with the Lost Boys, turning into a mermaid, and watching dragons fight.

The Gili’s are three islands in Indonesia off the coast of Lombok. Rachel, my travel buddy, and I take a speed boat to Gili Air, about an hour and a half from Bali. True to fairytale form, a dolphin impressively jumps clear out of the water as if to greet us, everyone on the boat cheering.

Upon arrival, I can tell Gili Air is much different from the rest of the places I’ve been so far in Bali. It’s obviously small; the circumference can be walked around in about an hour and a half. The “port” is nothing more than the beach, so disembarking the boat means hopping into shallow water and the crew passing our luggage onto the sand. There are no cars, scooters, or dogs, rather, miniature horse-drawn carriages, bicycles, and cats (everywhere).


A cat joins us for sunset

Rachel and I find a place to stay right by the ocean, and we quickly discover we’ve landed in Neverland. Our spot is run by Indonesian guys, all in their early-to-mid-twenties, always laughing, joking, showing us tricks and playing loud music. The Lost Boys. When I ask one of them, Suparman (his name is real; I checked his ID), if he likes living on Gili Air, he responds “If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here.” And, yes, it seems most of the locals here are very happy. The sarong salesman comes up to us everyday, despite already having purchased from him, and when we say we don’t need any more sarongs, he just smiles widely, sing-songingly-saying, “Okay, don’t worry be happy!”


Suparman smiling as usual

It’s definitely a paradise here, and a little rough around the edges. Our bungalow is sweet-looking with big princess-like, mosquito-net-canopied beds, yet when we settle in we find the too-small sheets ripped and stained and later discover bed bugs! We are quickly moved to another room and they do all of our laundry for us, yet, my skin is crawling from psychological paranoia. The bathroom is—shall we say—rustic with fragile plumbing, so we must scoop water from a nearby basin into the toilet to flush. And somehow the floor is always wet and becomes muddy from our sandy feet. I guess when you ask for remote island life, you get everything that comes with it!

And, yet, it turns out island life does not, however, include fast or reliable wifi. Despite having declared wanting to totally disconnect from technology, I desperately spend hours trying to unlock my iPhone so I can use a local SIM card with its own, faster wifi. I hit a technical glitch in my attempts, rendering my phone totally unusable, as if the island is telling me—even forcing me—to stop. I must be addicted. I even contemplate leaving the island to find better internet back in Bali but catch a nasty cold suddenly, as if the island is—again—telling me to cut. it. out. So I rest. And read. And drink ginger tea prescribed by the boys and sweetly delivered to my room.


Our bungalow

I also dive. As much as I love the water, I’m somewhat terrified of it (i.e. sharks), so I force myself to do it. The Gili’s are known for incredible diving with clear water and beautiful reef. I do a beginner lesson and then we go out to Secret Garden—there can’t possibly be sharks in a place with that name…right?!—where we see huge turtles, colorful fish (we find Nemo), and no sharks. So I make friends with the fish, yet still feel like a fish out of water—or, rather, a human in water—finding my usual yogic nose breathing absolutely useless for scuba diving and mouth breathing totally awkward.


Komodo Dragons wrestling, photo captured by Rachel!

And we explore. One day we return to a pond known for its Komodo Dragon inhabitants. We are delighted to see several dragons prowling the area and move closer, as the local man tells us they’re friendly, although he also tells us to be careful and carries a large stick, so I’m not sure what the limit of friendliness is. We soon see two Komodo Dragons begin to wrestle, and we, obviously, move closer to about ten feet away, watching them fight for 10-15 minutes before one gets tired and gives up, running away. We ask the local if they were fighting over a lady dragon, and he says, “No, they’re just really hungry.” Turns out even Komodo Dragons get grumpy with low blood sugar. It’s probably one of the coolest things I’ve witnessed, and, now I’m convinced I’m living in a fairytale.


The island keeps reminding me everything is okay (relax!)

I start to get the hang of this place, finding the best, cheapest warungs and the Lost Boys feeling like family now. I realize I’m not ready to leave Indonesia, so I must extend my visa. I do have to leave Gili Air to do this, however, and a couple of the boys take me in their fishing boat to Lombok where I can visit Immigration and the adventures are to be continued…

Gili Air: A Funny Fairytale Island

Related Posts


Join the conversation
  • Adel Kassouri - March 24, 2015 reply

    Hi Carly
    What you are describing in your fairy tale sounds exactly like my researched dream paradise
    I do look for the simplest places in Indonesia, whee can relax and work online, you know, any marketer’s dream lol

    Found you by researching paradisaical island around bali and here am.
    I’m really enjoying reading your posts about Indonesia, as I call t My 4th home lol

    I do not know if you’ve been in sumatra, samusir sland in lake toba is something simlar to what you are describing, (an island inside a lake (biggest volcanic one in the world) inside an island, inside the sumatra island) been there 7 months and soon, I may come to your dream land.

    Just a couple of question: anyway to get n touch with those lost boys? what about the pricing?

    Thanks and best of wishes
    ps: for the visa, just do exist and come back

    Dine by Design - July 20, 2015 reply

    Thanks Adel! I’m not in Indonesia any longer but I can only imagine there are so many other paradises there that I didn’t see!
    I’m honestly not sure how to get in touch with the guys, except for going there and seeing them. The price was around 200,000 IDR per night (low season), which is around $15 USD.

  • Mughis Aulia - June 24, 2015 reply

    Interesting posts. I really liked the information about Gili. and it looks like I will plan to take a vacation at the venue this year. I want to know, what is most unique about Gili Islands, in addition to the exotic location and beautiful beaches? certainly very interesting if it could have more information in and can explore them. nice post. thanks for the share.

    Dine by Design - July 20, 2015 reply

    You’ll love it! I thought it pretty unique how small the island was, yet they have transportation (the horse push-carts) and plenty of restaurants, hotels, etc. It’s a good place to go to live the island life without leaving all the world behind. And the scuba diving is superb.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *