Visiting Gili Air with kids was a dream come true. Ever since I visited the Gili Islands during my solo backpacking trip in 2011, they have held a special place in my heart. The unspoilt beaches, the candle-lit yoga, the abundant marine life and the peaceful sounds of the waves lapping at the shoreline are just a few of the things that made me fall in love with this island. So, I was overjoyed to be able to share this special place with my family! And you should too!
In this blog post I will tell you all about Gili Air with kids, what there is to do here and why this is a fantastic addition to a Bali itinerary.
- What and where are the Gili Islands?
- How to get to Gili Air with kids
- Is Gili Air safe for families?
- Gili Air weather
- Transport on the island with kids
- Things to do on Gili Air with kids
- Go on a bike ride
- Walk around the island
- Go on a swing
- Relax at the beach
- Swim with turtles
- Learn to dive
- Go diving
- Go snorkelling
- Try stand up paddle boarding (SUP)
- Go for a ride in a clear sea kayak
- Watch the sunset from Sunset Beach
- Eat dinner (and drink cocktails) on the beach
- Go on a glass bottom boat tour
- Do yoga
- Treat yourself to a spa treatment
- Ride a horse
- Go fishing
- Visit Gili Trawangan or Gili Meno
- Family friendly accommodation on Gili Air
- Things to note when travelling Gili Air with kids
- Gili Air with kids: To conclude
What and where are the Gili Islands?
The Gili islands consist of more than 30 islands around the Lombok area, however the most popular are the three islands of Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno. The three islands are located on the north west coast of Lombok and just South of Bali.
Interesting fact: In Sasak Language Gili means ‘little’ and in Indonesian ‘Air’ means water!
These three Gili Islands each have a strong reputation- Gili Trawangan is known as the ‘party island’. This is the most developed of the three Gilis and is popular with backpackers. Gili Meno is known as the ‘honeymoon island’. It is the quietest, least developed and the smallest island. Gili Air is somewhere in the middle- developed enough to provide you with the amenities and comfort that your family is used to, yet quiet enough that you can relax and enjoy the peaceful island life.
How to get to Gili Air with kids
Flying to Gili Air
If you want to visit a place that doesn’t have too many tourists, is off the beaten path and unspoilt, then this usually comes with a journey to endure. Travelling to Gili Air with kids is absolutely doable, it just isn’t as easy as visiting your average package holiday resort!
The Gili Islands are very close to Lombok. Lombok is a large island that has its own airport. It has several flights each day from Bali and other parts of Asia and they’re really cheap too-we flew from Lombok to Denpasar for only £14! Flight time is only 30 minutes.
However, if you do choose to fly, you will still need to board a boat at some point. Fortunately, Gili Air is the closed island to Lombok though, and the journey on a longboat or speedboat will only take a few minutes. The transfer time from the airport is around 90 minutes, so you need need to factor that in too.
Taking the fast boat to Gili Air
Many people choose to reach Gili Air by fast boat. There are a number of companies that offer fast boat journeys departing from Sanur, Serangan, Padanhg Bai or Nusa Lembongan. Whilst these companies promote fixed schedules, be prepared to wait around- the timings seem to change depending on what happens on the day! The fast bloat companies will pick you up from your accommodation in Bali.
The fast boat is a small speedboat. It takes around 2-3 hours to reach Gili Air. Your journey will likely involve other stops including Lombok and Gili Trawangan. Whilst these stops are not a huge detour, it might take 30 minutes or for passengers to disembark and for their luggage to be taken off the boat and the new passenger’s luggage to be loaded on. Some boats will provide water and a light snack during your journey.
The boats often cannot pull up right onto the sand, so I advise that you wear flip flop. It is likely that you will have to walk through the water to reach the boat. A waterproof bag, like this one, is a good idea too. Especially if you are stuck outside waiting to board when a huge downpour occurs, which is what happened to us!
Passengers usually enter at the rear of the boat, so if they do not reverse in then you may be required to walk along a thin edge that goes around the side of the boat. This was somewhat challenging with the baby! Luckily staff helped with our toddler (my husband had his hands full with the bags) and carried her through the luggage hold!
Our outbound boat trip was very smooth and it was a hot, but enjoyable ride. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for our inbound boat. We were hit by a terrible storm and many people were sick. The captain deemed it too dangerous to continue so we docked at the nearest port in Lombok and took a flight from there. Whilst this was not a very pleasant experience, I can’t fault the captain and I was glad that he made the decision to abort the journey.
My advice is to pack sea sickness tablets or wear sea sickness wrist bands (they worked a charm when I was pregnant!) if you are liable to travel sickness. Or even better, avoid the fast boat altogether and fly!
As the fast boats are small, tickets can sell out fast, particularly in peak seasons. It is recommended that you book your tickets in advance. We paid around £30 each way for each adults. Children are free if they are small enough to sit on your lap.
Taking the slow boat to Gili Air
When I visited Gili Air back in 2011 I took a 12 hour trip on a cargo boat, as this was the cheapest option and I was a backpack. Now, times have changed, and you can get a seat on the regular slow boat for around £3 each way.
The slow boat departs from Padanhg Bai every 90 minutes or so throughout the day. You turn up, buy your ticket and wait for the boat to be full before it will leave, so it is down to luck whether you have a long wait or not.
These days, the slow boat takes around 4-5 hours to cross the sea, which isn’t really that much longer than the fast boat if you have a lot of stops. However, the slow boat will not drop you directly at Gili Air. You will likely need to take a smaller boat from Gili Trawangan or Lombok.
The slow boat is a bigger boat than the fast boat and therefore is less susceptible to being unstable in bad weather. This means that you are less likely to experience sea sickness and that the boat is safer.
Is Gili Air safe for families?
Yes! Holidaying in Gili Air with kids is perfectly safe with kids! Of course, you should always be vigilant of petty crime and basic hygiene etc, but you can rest assured that Gili Air is a very safe island to travel to with your family.
Here are a few things that you might want to consider to ensure that your trip to Gili Air with kids is as safe as possible:
For me, the biggest concern was lifejackets, especially for our 9 month old baby. Whilst most boats did seem to have lifejackets for children, they didn’t have lifejackets for babies. If you are travelling to Gili Air with kids I recommend buying a lifejacket before you leave home. There are plenty of options, such as this one, available on Amazon.
Whilst Bali is malaria free, there is a small risk of Malaria in Lombok and the Gili Islands according to the UK’s official travel medical website fit for travel. Tourism boards in the area will tell you that there is no risk, however I would suggest taking the relevant precautions as recommended by your nurse (it is a good idea to discuss travel plans with your nurse or local travel clinic before you leave home).
My advise is to try to avoid mosquito bites. It is worth noting that mosquitos are most prevalent inland, near flora and fauna, after rain and during sunrise and sunset. We made the mistake of booking an inland villa with a private pool that was surrounded by greenery. Whilst it looked beautiful, I was covered in at least 19 mosquito bites within minutes of arriving at the property!
There are a few things that you can buy to keep the mosquitos at bay. Mosquito sprays that contain DEET are the best deterrent. I swear by this mosquito spray by Lifesystems– we were given it when I was working as Cabin Crew and we would fly to Malaria areas and I didn’t get a single bite in the Amazon jungle!
However, DEET is not recommended for children. We have tried natural mosquito repellent sprays, but haven’t found them to be very effective. But we LOVE mosquitos mosquito patches. Neither of our kids have had a single bite when we stick a couple of these on their clothes, and they smell great too! You can buy them on Amazon here.
We also take one of these mosquito plugs with us when we travel. We don’t always use them, but if we feel that there are lots of mosquitos then we simply plug it in and it does the trick.
When visiting Gili Air with kids you will find that many accommodations will have mosquito nets. If you are travelling with a baby who will be sleeping in a cot then I recommend you also take a mosquito net for the cot. You can buy these here.
OK, so your in Gili Air with kids, which is not technically Bali, however the risk of Bali belly is just as great! Remember that Indonesia is a developing country and that food and hygiene standards are not always as high as we are used to in Western countries.
Be cautious with the food that you eat and don’t eat chicken that looks undercooked or foods that haven’t been washed.
It is common for travellers to suffer with sickness and diarrhoea in Indonesia, so it is worth packing some rehydration sachets in the event that a member of your family feels ill. My daughter suffered severe dehydration after being violently sick in Bali and ended up in hospital… so you definitely want to avoid that!
Gili Air weather
The weather in Gili Air is hot all year round, making it a great beach holiday destination at any time of the year. However, after our horrific boat journey and unexpected trip to Lombok as a result of heavy rains, I would recommend that you visit Gili Air with kids outside of the rainy season.
The reason season in Bali and the Gili Islands lasts from November-February. This is generally low season for tourism, with the exception of Christmas and New Year (which is when we chose to visit).
Gili Air is beautiful in any weather, but it is definitely better when the sun is out! The sea is clearer when the weather is fine, meaning that you have better visibility when snorkelling or diving. It also means that boat journeys/trips are safer and more enjoyable as the sea is calmer.
If I visit Gili Air with kids again, it will NOT be during the wet season!
Transport on the island with kids
One of the best things about travelling to Gili Air with kids is that there is no motorised transport on the island. Everybody gets around by foot, by bicycle or by horse and cart.
You can walk around the entire island in about two hours. It’s a lovely walk, but the kids might have other ideas… a ride in a horse and cart is fun for the children and it is a great idea when you are arriving and departing from the island and you have your luggage in tow.
Many accommodations will provide free bicycles for guests. It is also very easy and cheap to hire a bike when on the island. Many bikes have child seats and there are smaller bikes available for children. If you have smaller children, you can also use a baby carrier. We cycled around the island with our two kids- I had the baby in our Tula Free To Grow and my husband had our toddler in our Tula Toddler. The kids felt safe and secure and comfortable. And we all had a great time!
Things to do on Gili Air with kids
For a small island, there is a lot to do on Gili Air with kids! From bike riding to snorkelling to building sun castles whilst watching the sunset, there is plenty to keep the children entertained for a few days on the island.
Go on a bike ride
Riding a bike around Gili Air with kids is a lot of fun!
You can easily rent bikes from the bike shops or from your accommodation provider. There are some bikes with kids seats and small bikes for kids old enough to ride by themselves. Or you can ride with the kids on your back, like we did using our Tula Toddler carriers, which go up to age 6.
Walk around the island
The island is super peaceful and going for a walk is an enjoyable activity. Walking around Gili Air with kids is perfect too, because there is no motorised transport or roads to cross.
Go on a swing
Want that perfect Insta shot? You have to get a swing photo whilst in Gili Air with kids!
Relax at the beach
The beaches on Gili Air are some of my favourite in the world. The sand is soft and they are peaceful and not crowded. The kids will love to make sand castles and play in the water.
Swim with turtles
How many kids can say that they have been swimming with turtles? Gili Air is the perfect place to get up close and personal with these beautiful creatures.
Learn to dive
There are several diving schools on Gili Air. When visiting Gili Air with kids you could take a family dive course, or get a babysitter to watch the kids while the grown ups dive- some hotels have babysitting facilities.
If you already have your PADI certificate then you are good to go! Diving in the waters around Gili Air offers some of the best underwater opportunities in the world!
A trip to Gili Air with kids provides the perfect opportunity to teach them to snorkel. There are so many tropical fish here, the kids will love it! There are lots of daytrips that you take you to the best spots too, such as this one.
Try stand up paddle boarding (SUP)
Want to test your balance on the water? Then heading out on an SUP can be a lot of fun!
Go for a ride in a clear sea kayak
The water around Gili Air is simply spectacular and taking a kayak out that is made from clear plastic allows you to truly appreciate the nature beneath you.
Watch the sunset from Sunset Beach
Sunset Beach was my favourite evening spot. The evening sky here was simply stunning!
Eat dinner (and drink cocktails) on the beach
Most of the restaurants on Gili Air are located on the beach. In fact, this is one of the things that I loved most about staying on Gili Air with kids- I could relax with a glass of wine listening to the waves whilst the kids would entertain themselves building sand castles!
Go on a glass bottom boat tour
There are lots of glass bottom boat tours that circumnavigate the Gili Islands. This is a great opportunity for educational tourism, because the staff onboard will teach you all about the marine life in the area.
The H2O yoga and meditation centre offers the perfect environment for absolute relaxation. The sunset yoga is especially good!
Treat yourself to a spa treatment
There are several spas on Gili Air too- go ahead and treat yourself, being a parent is hard work!
Ride a horse
Most people get around the island using horse and cart, meaning that horses are an important part of everyday island life. You can go for a ride as a family or jump on the back and head off alone.
There are plenty of fish here, so if fishing is your thing, then this is available to you. Just ask for some rods and nets from your accommodation provider.
Visit Gili Trawangan or Gili Meno
The final thing that I recommend doing on your visit to Gili Air with kids is to visit the other two islands- Gili Trawanangan and Gili Meno. Both of these islands have something unique to offer and are worth exploring.
Family friendly accommodation on Gili Air
When staying in Gili Air with kids you are spoilt for choice when it comes to accommodation. Gone are the days of simple wooden huts, now there are a range of unique hotels to suit every families needs. Some accommodation options are extremely affordable here too!
Here are a few that I recommend:
Things to note when travelling Gili Air with kids
-Whilst tourism has grown a lot in recent years and some even argue that Gili Air is beginning to suffer form over tourism, remember that these islands are still developing. As such, don’t expect the same luxuries that you might get if you were travelling to a family resort on mainland Bali.
-There are sometimes power outages on the island. Make sure you have a torch or torch on your phone.
-The roads will flood after heavy rains. Bear this in mind if you are travelling during the rainy season.
-The boat crossing can be rough if the weather is bad. Our captain abandoned the cruise and we ended up having an unexpected trip to Lombok. Other traveller’s boats did not depart. You may wish to factor this possibility into your travel itinerary.
-Most boats will not have lifejackets for infants. I recommend you take your own. You can easily buy lifejackets for infants on Amazon.
-There are ATMs on Gili Air, but they don’t always work. My husband tried every ATM on the island before bing able to withdraw a maximum of £100.
Gili Air with kids: To conclude
As you can see, we absolutely loved our time in Gili Air with kids which is the perfect add on to a family trip to Bali. This is such a spectacular island with so much to do! If you want to know more or have any questions, feel free to check out my stories or send me a message on Instagram.
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