Gili Air is the closest to Lombok of the three Gili islands. In size, it lies between Meno and Trawangan, and has the largest "normal" community.
Unlike Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan, Gili Air actually does have its own water source and you'll notice immediately how much greener and overgrown it is compared to the other two far more arid islands. Much of the interior is given over to coconut cultivation, though tourists are proving themselves a more lucrative crop and slowly the palm plantations are either making way for places to stay or at least shading bungalows beneath.
The island is ringed by a very pretty beach with some quite respectable snorkelling offshore. We didn't have time to snorkel the entire island, but off the southwest coast there are some good intricate banks of coral, while the west coast (high tide only) can be a good spot for spotting turtles. We didn't snorkel the east coast, but we saw lots of others who did, so there must be something out there! All around the island there is evidence of beach being swept away, and again the west coast tended to be the less affected.
Bicycles are easily hired and there is a quite good (albeit confusing) network of sealed paths around and throughout the island, making it far easier to explore than Gili Meno.
As with the other islands, the majority of the population here is Muslim and there is a large mosque towards the south-central part of the island. Unlike on Gili Trawangan, there are few guesthouses close by so you're unlikely to hear the call to prayer.
Most of the accommodation is clustered at the southwest and west coast of the island, though there is a smattering of places the entire way around it. The northeast (sunset) area is the most isolated -- and in our opinion -- the best.
As of August 2011, Gili Air had no ATM but the papers, we were told, had been signed and one is coming soon. Outside of doing an ATM run to Gili Trawangan, there are agents that will do a cash advance for a commission.
The east coast has an internet cafe and 7 Seas Backpackers sells internet coupons that will give you WiFi access in the southern part of Gili Air. 3G coverage is patchy.
There is a very basic clinic on Gili Air, but for anything serious you'd be wanting to get to at least Mataram if not Bali.
Snorkelling gear is widely available for rent and you shouldn't need to bring your own unless you have specialised needs.
Crime on Gili Air is very rare, but in the evening exercise care along the north and northwest coast of the island where there are long stretches of deserted areas with no lighting. Attacks, while rare, have happened and drinking to excess or munching on mushrooms then walking home alone in a diminished state in this area is a bit silly.
By Adam Poskitt