An Eco-Friendly Stay in the Gili Islands

When visiting Bali and Lombok, it’s helpful to be conscious of the demand tourists place on resources like energy and water, and the amount of waste the tourism industry produces.

In particular, the Gili Islands, three tiny islands off the northwest coast of Lombok, have limited supplies, fresh water, and rubbish removal. Mass tourism puts a huge strain on the little islands’ resources. Here are a few eco-friendly tips to help make your stay sustainable:

skip the straw, save a turtle sign
A sign on Gili Trawangan, one of the Gili Islands. Photo © Luis Vieira | Dreamstime

Wear reef-safe sunscreen:

Ingredients like oxybenzone, commonly used in sunscreen, can damage coral reefs. Instead, wear a rashguard and leggings with UPF 50 sun protection. Sunscreens with a non-nano base made from titanium oxide and zinc oxide are safest for reefs.

Cut down on single-use plastic:

Bring a water sterilizer like LifeStraw to drink from the tap. Pack a reusable bottle and check the app Refill My Bottle to find free or cheap water-refill stations. Instead of ordering bottles of soda, stop at a warung for a fresh juice. Speaking of beverages, skip the straw as well. When you throw something into a trash can, assume that it could end up in a nearby river or on a beach.

Participate in a cleanup:

Make friends while keeping the Gili Islands pristine. Many dive shops host weekly beach cleanups and underwater scuba dive cleanups, and Trash Hero Gili Air (tel. 87865358017; usually run in the evenings; free) runs regular beach cleanups where you can make friends and keep Gili Air’s beaches pristine. The cleanup schedule is found on their Facebook page (@trashherogiliair), and all volunteers receive a free small beer following the cleanup. Check out Trash Hero Indonesia for more beach cleanups outside of the Gilis.

Look, don’t touch:

Some snorkelers find it really tempting to touch the sea turtles who live around the Gili Islands. Do not swim above a sea turtle when it is coming up to breathe, and ensure that you’re giving them their fair share of space. This also goes for touching corals and other underwater wildlife.

Skip the long showers:

The Gili Islands struggle when it comes to maintaining enough fresh water to host everyone. Embrace the island life with quick showers—you’re going to be sweaty, salty, or wet again soon enough anyway. (Keep in mind that outside of the Gilis, the Bukit Peninsula and Southern Lombok often have water shortages, too.)

More tips for eco-friendly travel in Bali & Lombok

Here are a few ways to travel more sustainably throughout the islands:

Eat local:

Bali and Lombok have a surplus of fresh produce and many restaurants are truly farm-to-table. Opt for local dishes over those made from imported ingredients.

Be energy conscious:

Turn off your air-conditioning when you leave your hotel room. Air dry your towels rather than requesting a fresh one after every swim.

Reward those who go green:

Where money flows, trends follow. Support businesses taking eco-friendly initiatives over large polluters.

Start planning your adventure today: