Gili Trawangan Lombok is one of the three Gili Islands of Meno, Trawangan and Air, situated off the East coast of Bali. Famous for their laid-back atmosphere, white sand beaches, crystal clear seas and turtles – lots of them! The islands are surrounded by fringing reef which supports a huge diversity of marine life which means that the diving off Gili Trawangan and snorkelling are year-round activities.
The Gili Islands were first populated by fishermen from Sulawesi and no-one is too sure exactly when they arrived. They first settled onto Gili Air due to it’s larger natural harbour and more fertile soil (being so much closer to Lombok’s Mount Rinjani volcano means they get more rain – hence the name ‘Air’, which means water in Indonesian). Tourism first started in the 1980’s, and mainly came to Trawangan first due to it’s proximity to the better dive sites. Since then, numbers of visitors have increased each year and Gili Meno and Gili Air are slowly catching Gili Trawangan up in terms of infrastructure and the choice of accommodation and restaurants.
Local law on the three Gili Islands prohibits the use of motorized transport. Instead everyone goes by foot, by bicycle or by ‘Cidomo’ (traditional horse and cart). Being a predominantly Muslim island means that we ask our visitors to be respectful of local customs – especially when it comes to clothing. As there are many mosques on the island, you will hear the call to prayer – usually five times a day, but can be more during religious festivals and Ramadan.
Many visitors to the island ask about environmental impact, sustainability, animal welfare and recycling initiatives. These are all very important topics for the island and not enough is published to explain the invaluable work being carried out by the Gili Eco Trust on a daily basis, both on land and in the sea. Click here for further information on the Gili Eco Trust.
Biorock technology is a way of incorporating science, engineering and nature, championed and created by the Gili Eco Trust. These structures attempt to reverse the destruction we notice on our coral reefs. This damage can come from El Nino coral bleaching, storm and wave damage, careless diving practises, boats dropping anchors and even the massive schools of bumphead parrot fish that patrol the reefs feasting on coral and pooping out the fine sand that makes our much desired white sand beaches.
Bale Sampan Bungalows has worked closely with the Gili Eco Trust over the years and as the location for some of the best snorkelling on Gili Trawangan we want to protect our coral reefs as much as possible and create a safe snorkelling area for our guests. In recent years we have submerged 2 main Biorocks in front of Bale Sampan Bungalows. One is in the shape of a “sampan” (a small boat) and the other is an octopuss. These structures are essentially metal cages acting as an anode. Nearby is a titanium cathode fed by an electrical charge from the Bale Sampan Cafe. This small charge creates an electrical field, undetectable by humans or fish, that stimulates the growth of calcium based coral onto the structures. This electrical charge is reported to increase natural growth rates by as much as 5 times.
Healthy coral provides a home for small fish which in turn attracts bigger fish and a thriving underwater environment. This means we can have healthy reefs in a few years instead of decades. This growth can be spotted by the eagle-eyed by the small bubbles that are given off that indicate the structure is working and the coral is growing. As the diving on Gili Trawangan is such an essential part of the character of the island and the people who live here it is important that all the bungalows on Gili Trawangan keep giving back to the island and keeping her beaches beautiful and her reefs healthy.
Activities at Gili Trawangan
Diving the Gili Islands
Diving the Gili Islands is a year-round activity and there are now many reputable dive centers based on Gili Trawangan. Look out for those that are members of GIDA (Gili Islands Dive Association) for the most professional, safe and experienced services.
There are dive sites to suit a range of experience and all sites are based around the Gilis, with the majority closer to Gili Trawangan, which means a maximum boat ride of about 20 minutes. All GIDA dive centers have put a price agreement in place to ensure the best possible levels of service, properly maintained equipment and safe diving practices.
Even though we do not offer diving at Bale Sampan, we do have a strong affiliation with Manta Dive who are a 5 minute walk away. Manta Dive Gili Trawangan have been operating on the Gilis since 1999. Their highly experienced local dive guides and western instructors are of the highest standard on the Gilis and they will not only look after you professionally, but you will have a great laugh with them too.
Snorkelling and Glass Bottom Boat Tours
For those of you that don’t fancy the diving but still want to see the turtles, there are daily glass bottom boat tours around the Gilis. Most leave at about 10am each day and visit the best snorkelling sites on Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, then stop for lunch on Gili Air, returning back to the island about 3.30pm.
Alternatively, you can just jump into the water directly in front of Bale Sampan Bungalows as we are lucky enough to be located right opposite one of the best snorkelling spots on Gili Trawangan.
At Bale Sampan we can help you to arrange joining a snorkelling tour, or help you to charter your own private boat so that you can avoid the crowds. The staff will help you to arrange equipment rental for you as well.
You can book a horse-riding adventure for any time of the day, although the favourite and coolest time is for either sunrise or sunset. You are taken out on fit and healthy horses by local guides. It’s a great way to explore the island and for the more experienced rider let the wind blow through your hair whilst cantering up the stunning white sandy beaches. Stud Horse Riding Adventures cater for all levels from Beginners to Advanced levels and even have ponies suitable for children. You can book at reception or click here.
Mount Rinjani Trekking
Trekking Mount Rinjani is not for the faint hearted or unfit! This is a demanding 2-4 day trek, but climbers are rewarded with some of the most amazing views, as well as the prowess of climbing the second highest volcano (3,726 meters) in Indonesia.
Here at Bale Sampan, we often welcome weary climbers down from the mountain for a bit of beach relaxation, massages and quiet time, whilst we do your laundry to get rid of all those stinky clothes!
Freediving is becoming very popular on the Gilis – not least because the only freediving center, which is based on Gili Trawangan, is owned and managed by British National Record holder, Mike Board. Learn to Freedive on Gili Trawangan with Freedive Gili. For enquiries please visit www.freedivegili.com.
Yoga has always been popular on the Gili Islands, but even more so now that there is a professional and highly experience yoga center on the island – Gili Yoga is located 5 minute walk from Bale Sampan and shares its office with Freedive Gili. Daily drop-in classes are run each morning and evening for all levels of experience, as well as a variety of Yoga and Meditation workshops. For more information please visit www.giliyoga.com.
Bike Rides and Bike Rental
Bale Sampan hires bikes on a daily basis. The rates are comparable to other rental shops around the Gilis, so please ask at reception should you require one.
Hiring a bike is a fun way to explore the island, which is only 3km long by 2km wide – and you can’t really get lost! There is one main road that hugs the beach all the way around Gili Trawangan, but be aware it can be a bit sandy in parts so you may have to get off and push. For the more adventurous, there are many tracks leading into the interior of the island, where it is easy to lose your bearings in amongst the coconut groves – but rest assured, you will eventually pop out on the beach somewhere, where you can follow the beach road back to Bale Sampan.
Surfing and Stand-Up-Paddle Boarding on the Gili Islands
The Gili Islands are unfortunately not renowned for their surf. In saying that, given the right conditions, some surfers have said that it can be amazing – sadly, it’s just not consistent and very dependent on swell. There is a fast right hander on the South-East corner of Gili Trawangan, but be aware it is definitely not for beginners as it is a sharp, very shallow reef break.
Stand-Up Paddle Boarding is a recent addition to the Gili Islands. There are many companies offering SUP rentals within a short work from Bale Sampan Bungalows, and this is a great way to explore the waters around Gili Trawangan.
There are many Spas on Gili Trawangan – offering everything from a hot stone massage to pedicures and facials. There are some that are better than others, but that very much depends on personal taste. It is our firm belief that some of the best traditional masseuses are those that are self-taught and have been doing it for years.
Please ask at reception and we can help to arrange a massage for you at Azure Spa. They can either come to Bale Sampan or you can visit their Spa which is a 10 minute walk away. Click here for their treatments.