East of Bali, underwater exploration via island hopping

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Boats on Gili Nanggu, among the small islands visited on a Star Clipper sailing in Indonesia.
Boats on Gili Nanggu, among the small islands visited on a Star Clipper sailing in Indonesia. Photo Credit: TW photo by Tom Stieghorst
My Star Clipper cruise in Indonesia started in and returned to Bali, but most of our time was spent near Lombok and other locations eastward in the archipelago, and in particular at various gilis


Gili (pronounced with a soft g) is a term in the local language for small island. Our itinerary listed four gilis in seven days, although two of the four were right across a channel from each other.

Our first anchorage was at Gili Kondo for an afternoon of beachcombing and snorkeling. This was the least interesting of the gilis we would visit, but still pleasant. There was snorkeling right off the beach, although some of the coral was bleached, and the fish were smaller than I was used to in Florida.

One guide said the area is fished by locals illegally, which might have had something to do with it.

Gili Kondo is small, with no structures, and took about 20 minutes to circumnavigate. There was a nice view across the channel to the steep volcano on Lombok.

Later in the cruise, we stopped at a trio of gilis: Gili Air, Gili Trawangan and Gili Meno. Of the three, the best known and most developed is Gili Trawangan, or Gili-T for short. There we found a village with a long front street lined with restaurants, bars, apparel and jewelry stores, hotels, cooking schools and dive shops, many of which seemed to have their own training pool along the road.

Gili-T attracts a lot of young back-packing types. It was about the only place on our itinerary where there was something to buy. We had a simple Indonesian-style meal on plastic tables set up in the sand, bought some textiles and tried to dodge the cidomos, covered carts on jeep tires pulled by small horses. (Cars and other motorized transportation are not allowed on Gili-T.)

Gili Meno is less inhabited. Its highlight is a beach and coral garden with frequent sea turtle sightings. Our ship did not offer a tender to Gili Air.

In between our visits to Gili Kondo and Gili-T, we stopped on Komodo, an island home to the famous Komodo dragons but also to a less famous pink beach, where bits of broken, red-stained coral have turned the sand pale pink.

The snorkeling off the beach was some of the best I'd experienced, with lots of coral and fish.

Another great snorkel off the beach was available at Gili Nanggu, our last stop and my personal favorite for its broad but shaded beach and excellent coral, including some being cultivated on artificial reefs.

We had a beach barbecue brought from the ship, there were (primitive) bathrooms and we had most of a day to relax. For my money, if you only go to one gili, Gili Nanggu is the one to choose.

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