Gilli Air – A tiny tropical paradise

Catching a “fast boat” from Bali to Gilli Air was easy. At the cost of only $25(USD) per ticket – which included the taxi to the small port town of Padangbai – we were sorted. We even managed to purchase tickets from our AirBnB host, saving us the hassle of having to ‘shop around’. 

We departed Denpasar early (waking around 6am) and made it to Padangbai within 2 hours – a wee maritime town which in itself was a pretty cute little spot, with a small selection of food and coffee vendors and the crow of roosters filling the early morning air. And having arrived early, we sat beneath a tree for an hour or so with some snacks (sweet potato chips, peanut flavoured biscuits, fresh bananas) that we purchased from a cheeky little old lady called Mama San and watched the port come alive around us. 

And soon there were tourists crowding the pier-side as our boat pulled in. So we were shuffled along with the crowd, lugged our bags through the tiny doorway of a reasonably sized speed boat and leapt into seats at the hurried instruction of crew members still awaking from a morning haze. And from the outset it was clear that these crew members, despite rushing all of the oncoming guests to seats, were super friendly and up-beat. And they even treated us to un-improvised song and dance as they threw the larger bags about the boat. Bringing immediate colour and flare into our day. 

A smooth ride and less than an hour later we pulled into Gilli T – the largest and most touristic of the Gilli Islands. Which I’m proud to say was not our stop. Some guests jumped off, some guest jumped on, and then we continued on to Gilli Air. And here, we did disembark. To our little island paradise for the next 2 days. 

It is possible, we found out, to walk from one side of Gilli A to the other in about 30 minutes. All the while along sand and gravel roads, to the sound of the ringing carriage bells of the horse drawn transport there. 

We spent our first day meandering about beneath tropical fauna, indulging in a quick snorkeling dip, lying at a beach-front bar with beer and milkshakes and beautiful food. Relaxing. Chatting with the oh-so-friendly island locals. Sussing out a snorkeling trip for tomorrow. Dozing. 

Gilli Air is beautiful. The locals are some of the loveliest people you will ever meet. And despite its small size and general lack of activities, I am so, so glad we stayed there. 

But on our second day we did pick up the pace a little – we headed out for a day long snorkeling trip. Awaking at our leisure we ate a light breakfast and then met the long boat which would take us snorkeling on the beach front at around 10am. We were supplied with snorkels and masks and fins (which we all later rejected) and sailed off into the open ocean. 

For only 100,000 Rupiah (about $10AUD) we were taken to four different snorkeling spots around the Gilli Islands – starting just off the beach of Gilli T and spending most of the day closer to Gilli M. And we decided that Gilli M (Gilli Meno) had the best waters – gracing us with turtles, hoards of fish and even some multi-coloured coral. The latter of which was sadly omitted from the oceans surrounding the Gilli Islands due to chronic bleaching.. A fact which deeply depressed and also fascinated me during our swims. To find so much life and also so much death coexisting in these waters set mixed emotions swirling in my mind. I know too little about the death and bleaching of coral in international waters. But what I do know is devastating. And to think too long about it, as with any great issue facing humanity today (because there are so many), would have been to ruin an otherwise brilliant day.. So I swam on.. Noting in my mind another injustice done by the human species to the very earth that allows us life.. aware so starkly of how my physical motion of swimming past the destruction so matter of factly metaphored rather perfectly humanities continued negligence towards the earth.. 

Why is it that the world over I find tragedy?

… None the less.. the snorkeling trip was great. Definitely I would recommend it to any visitors to the Gilli Islands. The sheer variety and number of fish life found in the clear waters here was dazzling. Every colour of the rainbow could be found, if not in the coral, then in the multitude of alien fish forms hiding beneath the surface of the sea. 

And by the time our long day was over and our short two days in the tropical Gilli Islands were done, we were taken. Collectively in love with the slow pace and gentle nature of the place. As always it was with reluctance that we departed. Heading onwards, again by boat, to the much larger neighbouring island of Lombok. 

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