Top tips for Gili Trawangan – The Ibiza of SE Asia

Gili Trawangan's sunsets can be pure, surreal magic

Party, even though it’s massive on Gili Trawangan, was not the purpose of my visit. I came here to attend a course in reef restoration by means of BioRock technology and get some diving under my weight belt.
Of course however, I did take in my fair share of partying too. Though, one must mention the age distribution on Trawangan, which roughly ranges between 18 to 25. Honestly said, it made me feel quite old. Nevertheless, it is a fun crowd as people come from all over the world. You will find a lot of Australians, but also Americans, Chinese, Swedish and other Europeans. But the Aussies sort of transformed the island into their personal SE Asien Ibiza.
But enough said, let’s get started.

#1 Diving – Trawangan Dive Center
As usual, I start with the most important point here on Life&Dive, diving.
The BioRock workshop I took was held at Trawangan Dive Center by Delphine Robbe, a French instructor and marine biologist. The course went over 2 weeks, which provided ample time to look into the routines of the centre.
It’s well organised, the material is decent, the breathing gas perfectly clean, the boats are fast and comfortable and most important, the staff is friendly and helpful. They are conveniently placed directly on the beach along the strip, provide two pools for training, of which one also has a pool bar. Great if you like a decompressing beer straight after diving. 😀
And of course, they provide the full range of diving courses, all the way up to PADI instructor level.

#2 Accommodation – 711 homestay
I spent 17 days on Trawangan, of which I spent 14 nights at 711 homestay. The first three nights I spent in another place with indifferent staff that doesn’t need mentioning here.
711, and no, it’s not a mini market, was completely different. The owning couple, Iin and Jalal, was very hearty and honestly interested in their guests. There is a kitchen that can be used for group cooking and boiling up the obligatory Lombok coffee in the mornings.
If you want to stay with them, you must be lucky, because they have only 6 rooms and only two have air con. They are well worth it and come quite cheap.

As an even cheaper alternative and if you don’t mind the hustle and bustle of dorms (I do mind), I’ve heard only the best about the Broken Compass. This probably provides the additional advantage of getting in touch with other travelers much easier. So certainly the better choice for the party seekers and all-nighters.

#3 Lunch and Breakfast – Warung Nasi Goreng IBU Chindy
Ohhhh, I must admit I fell in love with this place. They already open around 7 am (maybe earlier, but I never tried ;-). At this hour you can have a great second Lombok coffee here. And if you sit in their little beach view pavilion, you can watch the sun rise while carefully sipping your hot brew. In the morning it is also still calm and quiet.
That changes latest around lunch. At times it felt like as if the entire instructor community of Gili Trawangan went here to get their share of Nasi Campur, mixed rice; their best seller. It sells so well, because it’s cheap, comes in huge portions and is just super yummy!!! My personal favourite however, was their chicken curry with lots of fried garlic; an explosion of taste.

#4 Dinner I – Night market
This place opens with sunset and is a magical. A great, grey square during day, suddenly turns into a chaotic assemblage of food stalls with screaming vendors praising their goodies. Chains of fairy lights sparkle above their heads and long, shared eating tables turn foreigners into friends.
However, you will have to visit the market many times over, if you want to try everything on offer. Enjoy!

#5 Dinner II – Roast House
Another great place for dinner is the Roast House, very close to the night market just around the corner in a side street. Their special is roasted chicken served with fries. But they also have gigantic burgers. The Roast House Special, the one I had, is so big that I couldn’t finish it and it was really tasty.

#6 Dinner III – Regina’s Pizzeria
Yet another small miracle on Trawangan is Regina’s Pizzeria. Maybe not quite original Italian style, they still taste great and come out of a real open fire oven. A little pricey, but considering the portions, worth your money.

#7 Dinner IV – Tacos
Okay, this is certainly one of the more expensive places, but man it’s definitely worth visiting. I had a chicken burrito with avocado and lots of other stuff and I cleaned the plate blank. Additionally, it’s a good place if you want to eat in a chilled room. The air con even makes some people feel cold.

If all these suggestions fail your taste buds, don’t forget the alternative, home cooking at 711!!

#8 Drinking II – Sunset Bar(s)
Well, well, this is most probably my favourite place on the entire island. To get there you need to cross over from coast to coast. The walk itself is already very nice. If you’re lazy, take a bike, but if want to fully indulge yourself into this beautiful strip of nature, take your time and walk.
Once arrived, you will find more than just one bar. Essentially, they are all pretty much the same. The only differences are the seating facilities and entertainment activities. “The Exile”, the one on the opening picture, has a surreal structure in the water just in front of it, which provides a setting for amazing pictures. Additionally, they start playing bongos after the sun has set.
Another bar, more to the right of Exile, has a camp fire and nice straw mats with pillows on the beach.

#9 Drinking I – Lava Bar
First off, drinking on Trawangan is expensive. Especially, if you compare it to the cost of accommodation and food. A large Bintang beer, the standard brew of Indonesia, costs an absolute minimum of 30.000 Rupiah, but usually sells around 35k in mini markets. Bars however usually sell them around 45k and way above. Lava Bar on the other hand sells them for 40k during happy hour.
Guess where you will find the entire diving community during happy hour?!!
So in case you want to meet divers… that’s the place you must go!

#10 Drinking III – Sama Sama
This place is actually not only for drinking but starts the party already into the night. They have a skilled live band everyday that plays Bob Marley, U2 and the likes. Rocky and fun.

#11 Party – Jungle Bar
Cool place to drink cheap and with lots of fun people. On the ground floor you’ll find a restaurant and just above your evening amusement.
You might like to try their shots drinking challenge… but be aware, it’s evil!

#12 Party – Full Moon Party
Well, this is more of a warning, rather then a recommendation. Most people that went there (me included), were completely disappointed of the event. I must admit however that I did also see many smiling and laughing faces. So, I guess it’s simply a matter of personal taste… a taste for human mass aggregations certainly helps.

#13 Getting lost
Getting lost on Gili Trawangan can easily be combined with walking towards the sunset bars on the other side of the island. The nature in between the two coasts is still very green, though not untouched. Just before sunset, the sun rays shine through the palm trees drawing very long lanes of light next to dark shadows onto the green grass. It’s quite beautiful. Check it out!

#14 Free diving – Freedive Gili
Honestly, I wasn’t here and didn’t do any courses with them. Nevertheless, their entire setup with a super long practice pool and yoga classes, makes an extremely professional impression. They teach you in SSI Freediving course all the way up to instructor.

#15 Participating in the BioRock workshop
Yeah, of course, the best for last. This course has the capacity to teach you the skills needed to make a real difference. Wherever there are broken reefs, even with almost no live coral left, you can regrow entire reefs with this technique. It doesn’t fall short of being plainly amazing.
Another great aspect is the price to number of dives ratio. In two weeks, you make at least 20 dives and many of them are just for fun.
Minimum requirement: Advanced Open Water Diver.

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