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I first visited the Gili Islands in 2001, opting for the chilled out Gili Air over the party island of Gili Twangaer and the mosquito infested Gili Menos. On the first visit we stayed in Bunga bungalows, returning 5 years later  in 2006 to find the bungalows had been a casualty of the Bali bombings and closed.

We instead stayed in the almost identical bungalows next door called Matahari, the huts were idyllically situated right on the beach. The huts where basic, the non flushing toilet and shower out the back had no ceiling,  but all you really need for a relaxing stay is a bed with a mosquito net a porch with a hammock and a view of the sea.

Mata Hari Bungalows, Gili Air, Indonesia

The beach on the west of Gili Air is not the best for swimming, it really needed to be quite high tide for a good swim but when it was it really was beautiful, the water is warm and crystal clear. The beach on the South East is deeper and better for swimming and good  for snorkeling though there is quite a current and you can get tired pretty quickly.

One of the most amazing things about staying on the West beach of Gili Air are the incredible sunsets that without fail unfold before your eyes every evening. As the sun sets behind the volcano on Bali siloetted it becomes silhouetted and the sky lights up with blue  then orange colours.

Gili Air Sunset

Gili Air Sunset

The Mata Hari Bungalows are run by a friendly family consisting of  Mama and her children, we were made to feel really welcome and one night helped the family fish, looking for small fish caught in he coral at low tide, we also got taken to a cricket fight which was fairly odd.

Mama seemed legendary across the island for her cooking  and she really was a great cook. We ate at the bungalows all but one night, we soon learnt that Mama was an incredible cook and that we would best eat at Mata Haris everyday! Selecting our fish for dinner in the morning, on a few occasions we were simply told by Mama what was for dinner. The  traditional Indonesian food that Mama produced was fantastic and I don’t think we’d have found it on many restaurant menus. The highlight of the great food was probably the red Snapper and Ole Ole.

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As we we’re the only people staying at the bungalows we had some extra attention,  time lounging, reading,  swimming and snorkeling, interspersed with activities such

We stayed at Mata Hari for 5 nights, eating breakfast and dinner all but one day. The cost for accommodation was R30.000 a night, all in it cost R474.000, about £20 at the time!

Getting to Gili Air from Bali

Bus to Padang Bai, ferry to Lombok and boat from Bangsal to Gili Air.

Gili Air Photos

Benedict Adam

Trying to travel with the ethos of a backpacker, no matter of budget, whether I'm across the other side of the world or over the road.