Theres no denying that the Gili islands are a tropical paradise with turquoise waters, soft sand and blue skies. Here are a few tips for making the most of the Gili’s with children.
1. What to take
Nappies, baby bath products, sun cream buckets and spades, medicines / plasters, clothing, snacks and fruits are widely available on Gili T at a reasonable price. We unnecessarily packed hundreds of nappies and snacks to take with us! There are also a lot of Australian and European brands available in the Gili Marts if you need a taste of home or are just craving Sour Cream Pringles at 6am. Packing light is definitely possible when visiting the Gilis with children!
We saw lots of people with pushchairs on Gili but the roads and (limited) paths are uneven and covered in sand. We went for the trusty ErgoBaby which was much more practical!
2. Getting there
We booked ferries from Bali in advance through BaliFerry.com which uses the more reputable companies (GiliGili and Scoot) but does charge more than if you booked at the port. With little people in tow, paying a bit more to guarantee our seats was a must! You can also fly into Lombok and book a ferry from there. From our base in Bali we booked Padang Bai – Gili Trawangan – Nusa Lembongan – Sanur. Each Ferry cost around 500,000 IDR per person with under 3’s free and children slightly discounted.
BaliFerry advises against taking under 3’s as the crossing is choppy / bumpy, hot and quite wet. Getting on board is rather precarious too and can involve scaling the side of the boat depending on the tides. This was actually perfectly fine with Little Bear in his ErgoBaby carrier and it turned out there were lots of children on board in the end.
From our experience it definitely helps to bring water and sick bags (nappy bags will do too!). Sitting near the back is less bumpy but is open to sea spray! We also found the journey time was on average half an hour longer than stated on the ticket.
It all sounds a bit ridiculous but it was absolutely fine and we will do it again next time we visit!
2. Where to Stay
There are three Gili islands: Trawangan, Meno and Air. Trawangan (or GiliT) has a reputation for being a party island but we didn’t experience that at all. In fact, there are lots of shops, restaurants and things to do that the other islands don’t have. To keep the little ones entertained and to be near medical facilities etc we stayed on Gili T and explored the other islands on day trips.
On Gili Trawangan the majority of hotels, activities and restaurants are on the East coast. We stayed towards the northern end of the east coast where it is much quieter and more relaxed with lots of other families around and nicer beaches. Towards the southern end of the east coast there are lots of bars and clubs which makes it a noisier and more hectic area to stay.
We chose to stay at Good Heart which is right on the beach, offers a childminding service and has a dive centre (Blue Marine Dive) attached which were our main factors! Our stay was wonderful and the staff always went the extra mile.
Gili Air and Meno have a lot of lovely places to stay that are a little cheaper than GiliT but there’s less to do on those islands. It just depends on what your family prefers .
4. Things to do
There’s so much to do on the Gili islands with the kids or without the kids! The majority of these are found on Gili T which is easily accessible by boat from the other islands. There are canoes all along the beaches available to hire (60,000 IDR / hour for a double) along with paddle boards. There’s horse riding (400,000 IDR / hour) which is particularly lovely at sunset and three-island snorkelling trips (900,000 IDR four-hour private boat). Cycle hire with a baby seat is available for 50,000 IDR per day which is a great way to see the island but avoid the sandy roads in the North! Our favourite was the scuba diving which, unlike many places, involved single tank dives as the dive sites were only 15 mins off-shore. This meant we meant only spending an hour or so away from Little Bear. There’s a price agreement on Gili so all Dive companies charge around 450,000 IDR for a single tank dive.
5. Where (and what) to eat
No trip to Indonesia is complete with trying Nasi / Mie Gorang (fried rice / noodles with chicken or seafood topped with a fried egg). This is available almost everywhere on the Gilis and definitely worth a try! Even our little fussy eater loved it.
Hidden gems of Gili T include Regina’s pizzeria (set back from the East Coast beach near the mosque) and Exile on the south coast beach which hosts a camp fire at sunset and local bands.