The Nightmarish Boat Trip To A Popular Excursion That Tons Of Bali Tourists Say To Avoid

Tourism in Bali, Indonesia, has come a long way in the last century. Once a far-flung and well-kept secret frequented by hippies and beach lovers in the '60s and '70s, the Indonesian island has risen to the status of one of the world's most popular tourist destinations. In 2023, Tripadvisor ranked the tropical paradise second only to Dubai in their Traveler's Choice Awards for top places to visit. Yet mass tourism can also mean big crowds, and it is only natural that some visitors seek out more remote parts. That's why the Gili Islands are so attractive, but what the brochures and websites don't tell you is that getting there can be a nightmare if you pick the wrong transport option.

In March 2023, Tiktok user @aoife_maria_  posted a warning on her account regarding a specific fast boat company. The clip compiles a series of scary-looking moments in rough seas with passengers receiving a log flume experience as waves crash in through the craft's front section and batter in windows. In the commentary, the user claims the crew was pulling out wires and trying to fix the boat as they were going along. Many comments on the video are split between people who have had a similar experience, some who have had no issues with the same company, and others who dismiss it as simply something that happens in bad weather at sea. So are the Gili fast boats something to avoid?

Fast boat vs slow boat

The Gili Islands are a tiny archipelago off the coast of Lombok that is becoming known as an underrated destination in Asia to add to your bucket list. The islands are an attractive lesser-known tropical destination for visitors seeking unspoiled island culture and a way to escape the hustle and bustle of Bali's more heavily touristed hotspots. Yet getting off the beaten path comes with the added logistical challenge of actually reaching the place, and fast boats have become a popular option for island-hopping thanks to short travel times and gorgeous ocean views. A fast boat from Bali can take you to the Gili Islands in as little as 90 minutes, depending on which port you take and which island you're visiting.

That's pretty speedy compared to the cheaper option of hopping on the public ferry, which can take up to six hours just to reach Lombok, known for its incredible active volcano. The short travel time is a big selling point for fast boat operators, but one benefit of the ferry is how it fares in poor weather conditions. Ferries are significantly larger than fast boats, which means they can ride out those waves better than smaller craft. Some tour companies warn that the ride can be rough and bumpy in stormy seas. Therefore, if your sea legs aren't all that strong and you're worried about a rough passage, perhaps the slow boat is the better option for you.

Choosing a fast boat company

There are several fast boat services to choose from departing from Bali's four main ports: Padang Bai, Sanur, Serangan, and Amed. Some fast boats are larger and more modern than others, with the newer ones offering a wider range of amenities. The scary Tiktok clip we mentioned before specifies that the bad experience was with Semaya One Fast Cruise, one of the cheapest options available. 

Tripadvisor reviews suggest that this isn't the best fast boat company, receiving only a 1.5 rating on average. Photos reveal that the craft is rather run-down with peeling walls and ceilings. Several one-star reviews list rude staff, hot and cramped conditions, theft, and unreliability as major issues alongside safety concerns including a lack of life vests.

Out of the companies available, Eka Jaya Fast Boat receives positive recommendations, including many in the comment section of the TikTok. It's a more expensive option, but it is a larger and more modern craft with creature comforts like air conditioning. While the company still only has a 2.5 rating on Tripadvisor, it's a better choice for people who suffer from seasickness or nerves. Eka Jaya has the biggest boats available, which will make your crossing calmer even in bad weather.