Gili Islands are three small islands just offshore of Lombok, and a well deserved beach holiday after a strenuous 3-days trek to Gunung Rinjani.
Getting to Bangsal Harbour
We had a pitstop (1 night) in Senggigi after coming down from Gunung Rinjani. When we tried to get to Gili Islands next morning, we were told that the only shuttle service per day had already departed from Senggigi. Hence it's maybe better to plan and book this service a day in advance. Our only choice left, was then to charter a vehicle to Bangsal harbour. Private car is expensive, so we chartered an Angkot (mini-van) instead. If I remember correctly, we paid 40,000 IDR each. We arrived in Bangsal terminal around 40 minutes later. Here we managed to get past all those con artists, who tried to sell us a chartered (expensive!) boat trip to Gili Islands. Instead we walked over to the public boat terminal and bought two cheap tickets for Trawangan Island (10,000 IDR), which is the most popular of the three islands of Gili.
People screaming and crying in the boat
The boat departs every 30-60 minutes for Trawangan, so we didn't have to wait long. It was not overcrowded inside the boat, maybe 20 people or so. But the rough sea in a fairly small open boat, made the 45 minutes crossing quite scary. The waves just got bigger and bigger when we were halfway. Emily and a few other girls were screaming and crying, they probably thought they were going to die. I'm a navy guy so I was not afraid. Still I tried to prepare myself for the unlikely event that the boat would capsize. I noticed that there was a sufficient number of life-vests for everybody, but what's the purpose, if the movements in the boat are so strong that it's impossible to hand them out and bring them on. Both hands were needed to hold onto your seat, otherwise you would be thrown around inside the boat, or in worst case, thrown overboard. So reaching out for the life-vests was pointless. The captain should have been aware of the rough sea, and he should have distributed the life-vests before we set out.
3 days of relaxing holiday in Trawangan
We eventually arrived Trawangan Island alive. We didn't have any hotel reservations, so we simply walked around to find somewhere to stay. There are plenty of hotels in all kind of price categories. We finally decided on Coconut Dream Bungalows, because we loved the style of this bungalow. I was really surprised that a luxury bungalow like that could be so affordable (290,000 IDR including breakfast).
There are no motorized vehicles on Trawangan and the other Gili Islands. Not even a motorbike!!! People simply get around by foot, bicycle or horse cart. During the 3 days, we spent a lot of time on the beach. We went snorkelling and cycling around the island. We had a plan to do island hopping as well, but the rough sea made Emily worried, so we decided against it. We ate delicious food in the restaurants as well as the cheaper nightmarket. Nowadays there are plenty of ATM's at Trawangan, so don't believe your old Lonely Planet Guide when it tells to bring cash from Senggigi.
The lazy life eventually came to an end. We booked the shuttle-service (boat and van) back to Senggigi and paid 75,000 IDR per person. The boat seemed overloaded, but the sea was calm, so no need to worry. When we arrived Bangsal harbour there was quite much confusion about the shuttle-van. Someone even tried to put us inside a van that we had to pay extra for. Why the hell can't they make it easier for tourists who have bought a combined boat/van ticket. Fortunately a guy from the tour company eventually came to assist us.
We were hanging out in Senggigi for a couple of hours before we took the public DAMRI bus from Senggigi to Lombok Airport (25,000 IDR). We had a flight to Surabaya and was planning to do Gunung Semeru, the highest mountain and volcano in Java, during the next few days.
10,000 IDR = 1 USD (as of July-2013)