My partner and I have recently returned from 10 wonderful days on Gili Trawangan. I had booked accommodation well in advance - last September - at Bale Sampan Bungalows and paid a 50% deposit by PayPal. When I emailed the owners a few weeks before our trip to see if I could pay the rest by PayPal too, as I thought it would be easier (I had read that there was only one ATM on the island, but there are at least six), they replied that they had double-booked our room. This was apparently a failure in communication among the owners. Miriam was extremely apologetic and said that it was the first time it had happened to them - I believe it, too, judging by their reaction. She had found two other accommodation options for us, both an upgrade from Bale Sampan, and said they would pay the difference. We ended up staying at Villa Unggul, which is currently not listed here, but if I can get it listed I will write a review. It was about 100m north of Bale Sampan. Another of Bale Sampan’s owners, Andy, came to see us shortly after we arrived on Gili Trawangan to apologise again, pay the hotel bill and check that everything was all right. I won’t review Bale Sampan as we didn’t stay there, but judging by the owners’ response to this situation, and by what I saw of the accommodation from the outside, I would absolutely recommend it. Although they made a mistake, their wonderful service and genuine efforts to remedy the situation were really impressive. That said, we loved Villa Unggul and would recommend that too.
I booked our transfer from Ubud, Bali to Gili Trawangan through Gili Cat on their web site for 900 000 rupiah per person return. We were picked up from our hotel on time and transferred in a full minivan to Padang Bai. Here we “checked in” just before 11 for an 11.30 scheduled departure, which we were told would depart “between 11.30 and 12”. We went and had a drink and then proceeded to the pier to wait. The big new Gili Cat boat, the Enterprise, was moored some distance from the pier and luggage and passengers who had come from Gili T were being transferred on a smaller boat to the pier. This took several trips. Meanwhile we waited. While we now understand what was going on, at the time we didn’t. There was no communication or indication of when we might leave. It was hot, there was nowhere comfortable to sit, and we were subject to the attentions of a number of very persistent vendors of food, sarongs, etc. Eventually we were on the Enterprise and set off about 12.20 for Gili T. Once on board communication was good. We were told sea conditions were “moderate” and the trip would take about an hour and a half. We were seated in the back, “Tourist class” area of the boat, as “Premier class” had been booked out already. Almost as soon as we took off, water started dripping, and then running, from the metal beams over our heads. It quickly became very unpleasant and we moved, but most seats had the same problem. It was also very hot, as the plastic screens at the sides of the boat had to be closed to prevent water entering. The crew handed out water bottles, as well as towels for the people who were getting really wet. It was a big boat and I felt safe, but it was not at all a comfortable trip. We arrived at Gili T about 2.10 and then were shuttled from the boat to the pier in another small boat. We had our luggage sometime after 2.30. By this stage we were pretty grumpy.
We then took a cidomo to Villa Unggul, which cost 50 000 rupiah - apparently a set price, or so we were told. We checked in and had something to eat and started to feel a lot more cheerful. Gili Trawangan is a wonderful place. On the first morning I walked all around the island, which took under an hour and a half. Most mornings I went for a walk before breakfast - I really enjoyed having different places to explore, and it was cool enough to walk comfortably. We had breakfast on the beach every morning, spent the morning on the beach reading and snorkelling straight out in front of the hotel, had lunch somewhere along the strip between Villa Unggul and the main village (about 15 minutes walk, with hotels, cafes and restaurants all along the road), spent the afternoon swimming and reading by the pool or on the beach, and then found somewhere else for dinner. We missed a number of all night parties due to lack of interest and not being able to stay up that long, but where we were we couldn’t hear them, so they didn’t disturb us. A couple of times we walked up to the northwest coast to have a drink in the evening and watch the sunset, which was very pleasant. We were really happy with the location of Villa Unggul, as it was quiet but still lively. We had almost chosen to stay on the northern coast of the island, but I’m glad we ended up a bit closer to the “main drag”.
We enjoyed the snorkelling, especially seeing turtles. It is no Barrier Reef, but there are lots of fish to see and some patches of reasonable coral. There are also efforts being made to rejuvenate the coral. On some days there was quite a strong current, and you could just drift along, then walk back up the beach, although I preferred to swim against the current because I needed to earn my lunch! I could swim against it with my mediocre breaststroke, so it wasn’t that strong.
On one day we did a snorkelling trip on a glass bottomed boat that cost 75 000 rupiah pp (including snorkelling gear, but we had our own). We snorkelled in a few spots off Gili Meno and Gili Air. The first had quite a deep wreck and I regretted not having taken my fins. It was quite beautiful. At the next two we swam quite a long way, following a guide, and saw turtles (very much in the distance) and a fairly underwhelming giant clam, but lots more beautiful coral than off Gili T. We had lunch on Gili Air before returning. We thought this trip was really worthwhile and were glad we had done it. I wish we had explored Gili Meno and Gili Air a bit more, but we were too busy being lazy. Next time! We were glad we had decided to stay on Gili T though, just because we enjoyed having such a large number and range of restaurants to choose from. I have written but not yet posted reviews for some of them. Poor service was fairly much ubiquitous but didn’t bother us. We weren’t tempted to partake in any magic mushrooms, although they were offered in many places - on signs, that is: only one waiter suggested my partner have them on his pizza, and he was laughing, obviously recognising we’re not the type.
Our return to Bali on Gili Cat, leaving Gili T at 9.00am, was less frustrating because we knew what to expect. We were also ushered into Premier class, along with many others, when it started “raining” in the back section of the boat again and we couldn’t find a dry seat. That problem must be driving the crew absolutely mad. I think it did stop after a while on the way back, but we were inside, dry and cool in the air conditioning so we were OK anyway. After we reached Padang Bai we were loaded into another full mini van. It took almost exactly two hours to get to Denpasar airport and we arrived about 2.00pm. Next time we go to Gili T, and there will be a next time, if we go by boat again, I will make sure to book early and get Premier class. But I think we will fly.
I don’t know that there’s a lot more to say about our lazy holiday, but I am happy to answer any questions.