Want to do a bit of island hopping, but off the beaten track? A trip to the Gili Islands is very popular whilst holidaying in Bali, but how about exploring a paradise island where you might be the only tourists there?
If you are looking to do some paradise island hopping, stop right there! We all know Bali is a paradise island, with its gorgeous sand beaches, rich culture, beautiful weather and breathtaking landscapes. And just a short boat ride away, you will find the Gili Islands with even more picture-perfect paradise islands. These three clusters of islands off the coast of Bali are a popular getaway whilst holidaying on the island of love. Pristine white sands merge with crystal clear water, its various blue hues twinkling in the scorching sunshine. Synchronise swim with turtles, gorge on fresh Mahi Mahi, and relax with an ice cold Bintang as the sky turns into a marble cake of blues, oranges and pinks as the sun goes down.
Over time, tourism has taken its toll on Gili Trawagon, Gili Air and Gili Meno, and in some ways, the three islands have started to lose that wow factor. Yes, they still boast many paradise qualities, but a stretch of plush hotel resorts, fancy restaurants and a strip of bars serving three-hour-long happy hours have taken away the ‘deserted’ island vibe that so many people are after. For some, the hustle and bustle and party vibe is just what the holiday Doctor ordered, but if you want to hear the water gently lapping at the shore without being interrupted by the monotonous sounds of Calvin Harris playing in the background, then you need to go to Gili Ashan – one of Indonesia’s many hidden paradise islands, just south of Lombok.
First impressions count, and the boat ride is something a little different to the crowded ferry that gets you to Gili Trawagon, Air and Meno. You pay nearly double the price, but quite justifiably so, as you are likely to be the only ones going in that direction that day – making it, most likely, a private transfer, in which case the boat ride becomes rather enjoyable. Stretch out on the seats, feel the sea breeze on your face as you take in the sights of the sparkling Indian ocean and the lush greenery of the islands that you whizz past, and keep your eyes peeled for dolphins!
When you arrive on Gili Ashan, the first thing you notice is the sound… of nothing! This was quite clearly the place of utter tranquillity. On this tiny island [you can walk around the entire thing in an hour; that’s how tiny we’re talking!], you will find one local village and two hotels, Pearl Beach Resort and Gili Ashan Eco Lodge, the latter being a fave for us as it has been lovingly designed and built using wood and bamboo, setting off the island ambience perfectly.
The impressive architecture of the ‘resort’ consists of a tipi-style building that makes up the main restaurant, a couple of bamboo bungalows, and a number of bales with a communal bathroom. Everything is sat on the pristine beachfront where the sand is as white as snow, and so soft it feels like you’re walking on cotton wool. The water is calm, clear with different shades of blue that sparkled in the scorching Bali sunshine, and as the tide goes out, you can hear a faint shimmer as the gentle waves hit the sand and bring a handful of coral back along the sand bed with it. This truly is paradise.
And did we mention the food? The Italian roots of the Gili Ashan Eco Lodge & Restaurant owners can be seen from the superb Italian food served daily at the main restaurant. What’s a fresh fish homemade ravioli without a glass of red? Lucky Gili Ashan Eco Lodge & Restaurant sells its own Italian home brewed wine then, isn’t it! Friday nights don’t get much better than that. The menu was substantial enough to make different choices every day, with Indonesian dishes on offer as well as Italian classics like Caprese Salad and Spaghetti.
The little touches are what make this resort so spectacular. Kayaks, traditional double boats and snorkelling equipment are provided for guests free of charge, so you can go out and explore the magical island. A games cupboard filled with treasures to keep you occupied on the quiet evenings [we got seriously addicted to chess!]; a sarong in your room to drape over yourself after a shower for the ultimate comfort; Aloe Vera plants in your private garden to soak into your sun-kissed skin; the option of changing the pasta to gluten-free, for those with food intolerances; the view point that has been specially built up the mountain so that you can go up and watch the sunset or sunrise from above [simply stunning by the way, definitely recommended]. We could go on forever.
So how do you spend your days on Gili Asahan? It is a place to come and totally relax and leave the hustle and bustle of the real world behind. So honestly? Sleep, eat, sunbathe, kayak, snorkel, discover Starfish Island [there are blue, orange and red ones to find!], read, take a stroll around the island. Leave laptops at home, turn mobile phones off [wifi is limited anyway] and totally switch off from the real world, and immerse yourself into utter relaxation. Now, this is what we call paradise!
For more information, contact Gili Ashan Eco Lodge & Restaurant, p. +62 (0)813 3960 4779.
Image Credits: Dave Whitehead and Gili Ashan Eco Lodge & Restaurant