Gili Trawangan is the most famous of [...]
Gili Trawangan is the most famous of the three Gili Islands, situated furthest from the mainland. It is also the largest island, complete with a small hill at its southern end. Gili Trawangan is known as the party island thanks to the many wild parties held at its bars and restaurants.
As with all of the Gili Islands, there is no motorised transport on Gili Trawangan, just cidomo (horse and cart) transport and plenty of bicycles available for rent. The walk around Gili Trawangan takes anything from 90 minutes to all day, depending on your pace. Electricity is generator supplied and fresh water is brought in by boat.
Backpackers are been coming to Gili Trawangan since the late 1980s when the first dive shops were set up. These days, they still flock here to enjoy the gorgeous white sand beaches, cheap accommodation, and the parties, which are held at different locations every night, allowing the merrymakers to groove into the early hours. Over the last few years, however, the scene has changed rapidly on Gili Trawangan. It hasn’t lost its magic but it has begun to move in a more upmarket direction. The backpacker accommodation and reggae hangouts will always be there, but Gili Trawangan also flaunts a glamorous plumage, with some very stylish hotels, villa accommodation and upmarket restaurants that attract the more discerning travelers who opt to spend their days relaxing in the sun or diving. There are also plenty of resorts that cater for families.
Gili Trawangan is the island where you will find the widest range of activities, including some superb spa facilities, a horse riding stables, sea kayaks for rent, and what claims to be the smallest public cinema in the world, where you can laze on floor cushions and watch newly-released movies.
The choice of cuisine at Gili Trawangans many cafes and restaurants ranges from the ubiquitous seafood barbeque through English fish and chips, Japanese, Italian, Mexican and Indian food, to romantic candlelit fine-dining.
There is good snorkeling just off the shore with waters that teem with a still abundant variety of tropical fish species. Strong currents are sometimes a bother, especially in the strait with neighbouring Gili Meno. Further out are vast gardens of coral, regarded as one of the best dive spots in Lombok, particularly Shark Point to the east of the island, which is home to white tip reef sharks, green and hawksbill turtles, eels, hard and soft corals, and a fascinating array of marine life.
The hill in the south of the island is a great lookout from which to enjoy the spectacular sunsets across the ocean to Bali; or in the mornings, the brilliant sunrise over Mt Rinjani on Lombok. On the far south end of the hill are remnants of old WWII Japanese gun emplacements and crumbling bunkers, but the hand-dug tunnels have been blocked up.
The main development on Gili Trawangan is on the east coast where the Bluewater Express docks, and the southeast area known as Sentral. There are also some hotels on the north coast, which offer peaceful alternatives. Gili Trawangan has the best tourism infrastructure, including tour agencies, ATMs, moneychangers and internet cafes. There are also a number of shops on Gili Trawangan, ranging from the simple ones where you can buy all of the holiday essentials such as sun lotion, toiletries, soft drinks, snacks and postcards to some chic new boutiques. The art market opposite the jetty sells a range of knickknacks and cheap clothing such as T shirts and sarongs to wooden handicrafts, masks and paintings. Beach sellers will offer you pearl and shell necklaces, bracelets, rings and ear-rings and other jewellery. There are also some second-hand bookshops on Gili Trawangan where you can trade books.
The Gili Eco Trust was established in 2002 to protect the coral reefs around the Gili Islands from destructive fishing practices, as well as beach cleaning and rubbish management. All dive centers charge their guests a one-time reef tax and the funds are used to pay fisherman to stop using fishing methods, such as bottom trawling, cyanide fishing and dynamite fishing, which will cause damage to the reefs. Line fishing, spear fishing and surface nets, however, are permitted as these methods are not harmful to the eco-system.
The nutrient-rich seawater around Lombok and, in particular, the Gili Islands has spawned a magnificent ecosystem flourishing with thousands of species of life, including two species of turtle, the Green Turtle and the Hawksbill. Sadly, all of these turtles are in danger of extinction due to harvesting for eggs, leather and shells. Additionally, their existence is threatened by the loss of nesting grounds, natural predators, destruction of coral reefs, water pollution, and entrapment in fishing equipment and marine debris, especially plastic bags, which turtles fatally mistake for jellyfish, one of their favourite foods.
The Gili Trawangan Turtle Hatchery project was set up in 1995 to protect and rehabilitate the turtle species around the Gili Islands, by purchasing the turtle eggs that are gathered by the local people before being sold in the markets for consumption. Unfortunately, these eggs have been a traditional food source in Lombok for many generations. While it might be argued that this is increasing the demand and trade in turtle eggs, it is generally acknowledged that the eggs stand little chance of hatching on the tourist beaches where they are laid. Additionally, the premium rate paid by the rescuers for these eggs boosts the meagre income of the local people.
The eggs hatch after two months, and the baby green and hawksbill turtles are tended in special tanks and left to grow until they are big enough to fend for themselves. By the time they are released into the sea, their chances of survival should have increased.
The project still relies purely on donations by locals and tourists and has grown bigger and bigger over the years.
Coral reefs are among the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet, as well as being an important asset to local communities by serving as a source of seafood, and generating income from tourism. Tragically, only six percent of the coral reefs in Indonesia are healthy. Destruction comes mainly from human activity such as dynamite and cyanide fishing, pollution and global warming; the damaged reefs take years to recover naturally.
Much of the coral around Gili Trawangan has been destroyed over recent years, not only by dynamite fishing but also by the effects of el Nio in 2000. In 2004, a project was launched to encourage the re-growth of the coral using a method called Biorock, which applies safe, low voltage electrical currents through seawater, causing dissolved minerals to crystallise on structures, growing into a limestone similar to that of natural coral reefs, forming a base on which corals grow at very rapid rates.
In 2006, after the success of the original project, all of the dive operators on Gili Trawangan came together to construct more Biorock structures, which can be found in the shallower waters (5-8 metres) at different points just in front of each dive shop. Reef fish, schooling fish and many other forms of marine life will gravitate to the reefs, so that each will become a fish nursery as well as a coral nursery, therefore providing excellent snorkeling and diving for visitors.