The Nusa Islands are a tropical trio (Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida, and Nusa Ceningan) less than 30 minutes by boat from mainland Bali. The islands are still considered part of Bali, but you will feel worlds away from the rapid pace and buzz of Kuta and Seminyak. The Gili Islands are a group of three small islands (Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air) located off the north-western shore of Bali’s neighbour, Lombok and are further away. Highly popular among divers, the waters around them boast rich tropical marine biodiversity and offer good visibility all year round.
Top things to do in the Gili- and Nusa Islands
Diving and snorkeling
A thing not to miss is to swim and snorkel with the playful Manta Rays at Manta Point, but the whole area around the islands is full with beautiful corall reefs and stunning water creatures so a diving trip is an absolute must. The blue depths of Blue Lagoon are also worth exploring, since it is a well-protected dive site that suits snorkellers and beginner divers to macro-photographers. When you are not diving, in Nusa Penida diving spots like Toyapakeh Wall, Crystal bay are very enjoyable also during a snorkling safari. Gili is the best place if you want to encounter sea turtles. Visit the Turtle Conservation Center or just go diving or snorkeling around the islands.
Surfing and water fun
Nusa Lembongan has slowly grown as a tourist destination thanks to its good surf. There are several amazing spots like Dreamland Beach with decent shore break waves, or Jungut Batu Beach where the swell is a bit more away from the beach, but its an amazing spot for sunsets. Go with a local surf guide who can show you the best spots suited for you. If you are not into surfing but up for some action on the beaches you can also enjoy other water-sport activities, like sea walking, snorkeling, banana boating or water sliding.
Epic nature
Amazing scenic sceneries await you on each island. Visit Devil’s Tears in Nusa Lembongan, where the outcrop sucks the water in before it explodes out with a boom, creating the tears of the devil. Explore the cliffs which form the shape of a Tyrannosaurus Rex at Kelingking Secret Point Beach in Nusa Lembongan, or marvel at the sight at Angel’s Billabong, where crystal clear tide pool cascades into the ocean on the east coast of Nusa Penida. If you are up for some culture combine your Gili trip with a short visit to Lombok and visit the tradidtional Rambitan village.
Our insider tips
Ben’s recommendation
Diving in Indonesia is one of the best experiences due to the clear and warm water and the rich tropical marine biodiversity. Around Nusa Penida there are amazing diving spots where you can swim with manta rays and sun fishes but for me the most amazing sea creatures are the majestic sea turtles. To dive and swim with these cute, clever creatures who move with such a grace underwater was one of my best experiences.
Lucy’s recommendation
Nusa Lembongan is one of my fav spots for surfing with world-class waves. The epic nature and the serene beaches make it a very special experience. The island has surfable waves all year round and has three main breaks that can be enjoyed by the beginner to the more experienced surfer. All breaks are dependent on tides with best conditions on mid to high tides so make sure to go with a local surf guide who can show you the best spots at the right time and best suited for your level.
Adam’s recommendation
I couldn’t imagine how many wonders there are underwater. A snorkeling trip to Nusa Penida took my breath away. The panoramas and the beaches of the island are already stunning, but the coral reefs and the amazing diversity of fishes at Toyapakeh Wall, Crystal bay were stunning. Although nothing could compare to the amazing experience when I could swim with the huge manta rays.
Good to know

Beach safety

Tides can be very strong and unpredictable. If you want to learn to surf book in with a professional licensed surf school, who can ensure you’re learning in a safe environment. Some beaches are marked by flags or signs as being especially dangerous, so as with all warnings, pay attention and steer clear! Most beaches in Bali aren’t staffed by lifeguards. Reef cuts need proper medical attention, so don’t leave them and risk infection. See a doctor as soon as possible.

Fast boat safety

If you are not going on a pre-booked tour make sure to use a trusted, legitimate provider. If you have legitimate concerns about either the vessel being used, the operator, overloading, or the prevailing weather conditions then do not board the boat, immediately seek a refund of your fare and make alternative arrangements. During periods of extreme weather the boats will not operate, this only happens once or twice a year.

Nightlife

Gili Trawangan has a multitude of dining and partying hotspots at restaurants and lively bars on the south. No matter the paradise scenery a few things you should always keep in mind: always leave your valuables locked in your hotel safe if you don’t need them with you and know how to get back to your accommodation. Better never leave your drink unattended when you’re out, and never accept any food or drink from a stranger, unless you can see the barman pouring it or the waiter serving it.

Psychedelics

Magic mushrooms are widely available and openly advertised, particularly on Gili Trawangan. Their psychological effects may be heavy for some individuals. Various other drugs and intoxicants are readily available and sometimes flaunted (as is the case of mushrooms and 'power drinks' at parties), and you can expect to be offered everything from marijuana to methamphetamine. Keep in mind you are still in Indonesia, where drug usage and distribution penalties are extraordinarily harsh ranging from 20 years in a dilapidated prison to the death penalty.