Well, at least why you shouldn't visit Gili Air.
The Gili Islands are a group of 3 small islands east of Bali. The first one on the left is Gili Trawangan (AKA "Gili T"), which is the largest of the three. Gili T is known for its wild night life, which includes 24/7 loud music and many drunk tourists. The next one, in the middle, is Gili Meno, rumored to be the most untouched and least "developed" of the three. Supposedly, staying here offers a very relaxing and laid-back experience. The last one, Gili Air, is known for being a good balance between Gili T and Gili Meno—not a crazy over-developed, over-crowded party place, yet not as "dull" as Gili Meno. Gili Air has more options—such as a good range of accommodations, activities and restaurants. Because we like balance, we chose Gili Air for our 4 day, 3 night stay. While this sneaky little island does make a good setting for some awesome photos, we don't believe a few nice photos are worth the trek.
Here is what I feel you should know:
- It is pretty expensive to get there from Bali (about $100, round trip per person). It is also a quite choppy 1.5 hr ride each way. Don't forget to factor in the additional 1-2 hour transportation within Bali to/from the Padang Bai harbor.
- The island stinks, and I mean it in the most literal way possible. It is a tiny island and it appears that they only remove the collected garbage every few days by way of transfer over to Lombok (bigger, main Island), in boats. Until that pick up time comes, huge piles of smelly garbage get piled on shore by the harbor to welcome the arriving tourists. They also constantly use water hoses (judging by the smell, possibly re-used or sewer water) to wet the sand in the pathways throughout the island to make it more solid and therefore easier to walk/ride bicycles on. This doesn't help the odor situation on the island.
- There doesn't seem to be a fresh water source, so I can only assume they outsource their water. The water there (shower/faucets) also stinks. Our hair got really sticky and showers didn't feel as a cleansing as they should. If you do make it to the island, definitely make it a point to only drink/brush with mineral water.
- What is marketed as white sandy beaches is actually razor-sharp broken, dead coral. This makes enjoying the beach a very difficult experience.
- The food there isn't nearly as good as in Bali and it is certainly over-priced in comparison. Same goes for accommodations.
- The locals are a bit "detached" and aren't as nice as what we got used to in Bali.
- There is a lot of construction happening on the island, seems like they are trying to catch up with the influx of tourism. Not too pretty or too convenient.
The above is a pretty gloomy picture but that is the plain reality. Disclaimer: we aren't big divers, which is said to be pretty good in the Gilis. Then again, from what we've heard, the diving highlight is seeing a sea turtle. You can do that in so many other, more beautiful places.