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  • Writer's pictureAround the World in Vegan Eats

WE VISITED THE TRAFFIC-FREE ISLAND OF GILI TRAWANGAN!


One place that we were very excited to go to while we were in Indonesia was the paradise island of Gili Trawangan (widely known as Gili T, for ease!) There are a lot of things that are magical about this beautiful island, but one of the most noticeable is that this is an entirely traffic-free island! The only ways to get around here are on foot, by bicycle, or on a horse - so there really is an air of tranquility, away from the fumes of petrol vehicles. The Gili Islands are known as amazing places to snorkel, and get away from it all - so it's no wonder that they are such popular islands to visit all year round.


How did we get to Gili T?

The only way to get to Gili T is by boat, and fast boats operate daily from Bali. We were in Ubud prior to our Gili T excursion, so we headed to their travel desks to find a good price for our journey. We always prefer to buy in person from a travel desk, because the prices are often much better than online - and don't forget, you can barter! We booked a boat trip with a minibus transfer from Ubud, since the jetties are located outside of the main tourist towns.


We were picked up by minibus and, along with eight other travellers, taken to the village that the fast boats operate from. This can be a little confusing, as you're left at the roadside to wait until your boat is collected. We checked in with the boat staff, then grabbed some Pringles to snack on from one of the little shops along the road. When you're taken down to the pier, you will have to pay a small amount of tourist tax before you're allowed onto the boat. This wasn't explained to anyone beforehand - nor the fact that you'll also have to pay on arrival to Gili T - so it's worth making sure that you have some Indonesian Rupiah to hand for these small fees.


When you board the boat, your large luggage will be packed onto the back of the boat, then covered with a tarpaulin; you'll be reunited with it on the dock at Gili T. By this point, if you have any travel sickness tablets with you, I'd recommend taking them! The journey can be pretty choppy, and the fast boat really isn't the smoothest transport. Also, it gets a little sweaty on board. We took the back row, with the thought that if anyone was sick, at least it wouldn't go on us - this was both a blessing and a curse, as we were packed in with all the boat's cleaning products! All in all though, it wasn't a bad journey. Eventually, once the boat is at sea, staff will usually allow you to go out onto the deck... but I would recommend just staying in your seat (you don't want to lose it!) since it is pretty splashy out there! We witnessed way too many people who thought they would be able to go out and sun themselves, coming back into the boat completely drenched! Before you know it, you'll arrive at Gili T!


What did we do in Gili T?

We stayed on the island for three days, which for us (people who don't really like to just lay down and relax) was plenty of time. If you prefer a more chill time, with lots of cocktails and sunbathing, you might prefer more time on the island.


Because it's a relatively small place, it is easy to explore: for a small price, we hired bikes from one of the stalls along the main strip. We held onto these bikes for a couple of days, allowing us to do a few round trips of the island. This was great, because when we found places that we'd like to eat at or visit later, we were able to be there within about a ten minutes' cycle. We were also able to reach some more remote parts of the island, which led us to see a little colony of sand crabs living just off the beaten track. Our accommodation was fairly close to the jetty and the main strip; a short cycle and we were able to reach some of the other hostels, and a cinema on the beach, as well as some arty markets and great places to eat.


But absolutely the best thing we did on Gili T was snorkelling! There are plenty of places to hire snorkels, flippers, masks, and life jackets from in Gili T (as well as places hiring out surfboards and other watersports equipment) and many hostels have their own too. There is a very good reason for this: the waters and reefs around the Gili Islands really are something special. We spent a significant amount of time in the water, and met a wide variety of beautiful, colourful fish. Bright yellow, blue, striped, camouflaged - there were so many different fish here. And turtles too! These waters are a real hotspot for turtles. And though there is no beating our amazing experience meeting a turtle at the Great Barrier Reef this was really incredible too. But there was one final aquatic encounter that will forever stay in our hearts: while I was swimming, in my black and white striped swimming costume, we came across a school of tiny black and white striped fish. They proceeded to follow us for the next hour or so, as we explored the island's coastline. I felt like we really made some friends in these fish, maybe our matching stripes meant they thought I was a giant version of them!


How was Gili T for vegans?

Gili T is a very remote island, with all of their supplies delivered to the jetty every day by boat. This means that there is not the abundance of choice that you might be used to in mainland destinations. Saying this, though, there are plenty of restaurants, cafes, and shops, with plenty of variety in the food and drinks you can get your hands on.


When it comes to vegan food, honestly, Gili T isn't the best. There are no fully vegan places to eat on the island, and though many of the restaurants have vegetarian choices, vegan things aren't so much of a focus here. I have no doubt that this will change over time though! We did manage to find plenty of things to eat, though sometimes this meant searching for 'accidentally vegan' things and adapting vegetarian dishes on the menu. You will absolutely find things that you can eat, but don't expect to have lots of choice. Over our time in Gili T I was able to tuck into a smoothie bowl, a tofu burger, a pasta dish, and plenty of fresh fruit and coconuts! I would advise setting your expectations fairly low, then enjoying some nice surprises!


Be aware, too, that there is quite a bit seafood scene here, with some on display along the main strip at night. The animals we saw here generally seemed to be well loved - I had a lovely chat with a bar owner about his hilarious cat - even when it came to working animals, like horses. You'll generally see horses being used for transportation here, as well as a few for sunset photoshoots on the beach. All of the horses I saw seemed to be well cared for. Overall, this is an amazing place to see wild animals too - from turtles and fish, to crabs and birds, the island's remote, traffic-free nature is perfect for spotting and appreciating some really beautiful wildlife.


What were our lasting impressions of Gili T? Would we go back?

We would absolutely go back to Gili T! It was a real highlight of our trip to Indonesia, and we had some of our favourite experiences here. Generally, we are city break people - Gili T was a lot more of a tranquil place than we are used to, and it made a really nice change to be somewhere with a slower pace of life.


My most beautiful memories of Gili T are of the beautiful, natural landscape, and all of the animals that call it home. Cycling around this peaceful, quiet place, a gentle breeze around us, and the sea lapping the shore, was such an incredible experience. Though it wasn't perfect when it came to food choices, Gili T is full of lovely memories for both of us, and we'd go back in a heartbeat.


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The centre of Vienna with tall, historic buildings all around
There's a lot of amazing life in the waters here!

Where should I stay?

Despite being a very small island, Gili T's main industry is tourism so has plenty of places to stay - regardless of your budget, or the vibe you're looking for. We stayed at the Tipsea Turtle hostel, which has a cool, tropical vibe, and range of dorms and nice ensuite rooms. Or if you'd prefer more of a hotel experience, Padanta Homestay is very close to the sea, and their rooms all include air conditioning, an ensuite, and a garden view terrace.


Tours & Experiences

Just because Gili T is a quiet island, doesn't mean there's not plenty to do! Some of the main sights, though, are in the sea! This glass-bottom boat snorkelling tour allows you to see some of the magnificent coral reefs, underwater sculptures, and of course, the brilliant aquatic life that surrounds the Gili Islands. If that's not for you, why not check out these top-rated Viator tours below?





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